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Tech Harmonization Study Targets Software, Training

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

In the April 2020 Research Focus column, we discussed results from the first year of the SME Media Manufacturing Technology Harmonization Study. Now in its second year, the study continues to further our understanding of the processes used when new technology is inserted into manufacturing operations.

Software continues to not be updated frequently on production machines, with less than one-in-five respondents indicating that their software is updated yearly and another one-in-five saying they update every few years (15 and 16 percent, respectively). However, year-over-year, 28 percent fewer respondents indicated that their software is updated every few years, which means more companies are waiting longer to upgrade. Organizations with annual revenue under $5 million are significantly more likely to update their software daily than organizations with larger revenues (11 vs 3 percent, respectively).

Recommendations for new software most frequently come from management, followed by manufacturing engineers, shop floor production managers, operations managers and plant managers. On average, 3.3 individuals from an organization are involved when recommending new software, comparable to last year.

The process of introducing new software on the production floor is typically a joint effort between the vendor and in-house staff. Organizations with $5 million or more in revenue, between the two years, noted a significant drop in respondents indicating their company used a joint effort approach and appear to be moving toward new software introductions being either handled completely by the vendor or in-house.

In both the 2019 and 2020 studies, respondents said their 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 new and old software.

During new software integrations, less than half have tailored training programs prior to integration on the production floor. At organizations with a training program, employees are required to complete multiple types of training, primarily reviewing work instructions or process documents.

Recommendations for new equipment most frequently come from management, followed by manufacturing engineers, then by plant managers, shop floor production managers and operations managers. Respondents noted a 20 percent increase in the involvement of management as recommenders for new equipment from the 2019 to 2020 study, up from 61 to 73 percent. On average, 3.9 individuals from an organization are involved when recommending new equipment, comparable to last year.

Organizations with $5 million or more in annual revenue are significantly more likely than the study average to jointly use vendors and in-house staff. However, compared to last year’s study, organizations with less than $5 million in revenue are significantly more likely to introduce new equipment onto the production floor through a joint effort between the vendor and in-house staff. Fifty-two percent of respondents indicated that their companies are most likely to have both the vendor and in-house staff perform a complete analysis prior to the integration of new and old equipment.

Slightly less than half of respondents said their company had a tailored training program prior to integrating new production equipment.

Funding continues to be the main obstacle in adopting new technology, followed by receptiveness/openness of the organization. Year-over-year, funding and receptiveness/openness of the organization increased by 26 and 52 percent, respectively, as major influences on their organization’s ability to adopt and harmonize new technology on the production floor.

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