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The Challenge of Implementing New Technology

Steve George Business Intelligence Manager SME
By Steve George Business Intelligence Manager, SME

Many organizations struggle with applying new technology in their manufacturing operations. SME conducted the Manufacturing Technology Harmonization Study to understand how companies approach this challenge of integrating smart manufacturing, big data, and both new and old capital equipment in a cost-effective and practical implementation.

Standardized Technology Implementation

More than half of respondents (59 percent) indicated their organization has a standardized process for implementing new technology on the production floor. Large organizations with more than $5 million in annual revenue are significantly more likely to have a standard process compared with smaller companies (70 vs. 33 percent). On average, organizations are implementing three to four new technologies at any given time, with half implementing two to five at a time.

Software is not updated frequently on machines on the production floor. Slightly less than one-quarter (22 percent) of respondents disclosed that their software is updated every few years, while another 18 percent said software is updated yearly. One-fifth indicated that software on their production floor is almost never updated, and this figure jumps to one-third among fabricated metal products organizations.

Vendor and In-House Analysis

Organizations are most likely to have both the vendor and in-house staff complete a full analysis prior to integration to ensure compatibility between the old and new software and equipment. Slightly less than half of respondents indicated that their organizations use a joint effort when introducing new software and just over half when introducing new equipment. Less than a fifth ensure this compatibility strictly in-house and even fewer rely solely on the vendor.

During new software and equipment installations, less than half of respondents reported tailoring their training programs prior to the integration on the production floor. Of those organizations that do have a training program in place, employees are required to complete multiple types of training. The most common requirement for employees to complete is to provide work instructions or internal process documentations.

Larger organizations are more likely to have a training program and are also more likely to require employees to complete most of these training tasks compared with smaller companies.

Whether implementing new software or equipment on the shop floor, organizations were consistent in how they measure the effectiveness of employee training on these new technologies. The top methods of measuring effectiveness are determining if there are fewer defective parts/waste, followed by increased output, and a reduction in rework time necessary on parts. Although mentioned far less, 18 percent measure the training for new software by needing fewer employees on the shop floor and 27 percent measure the training for new equipment in this manner.

Three to Four Training Programs

On average, organizations have three to four training programs that are required for production floor employees.

Safety training (89 percent), new employee orientation (83 percent), validated standard work instructions (62 percent), and compliance training (57 percent) were most frequently mentioned. Certifications (38 percent) and off-floor learning labs (19 percent) were mentioned less often. Organizations with more than $5 million in annual revenue are significantly more likely to offer all these training programs compared with smaller organizations.

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