Many of the strongest shops are challenging the convention that manufacturing is a conservative sector when it comes to new technology, Changes in how software is built and consumed, along with the need for speed and flexibility in supply chains, have mandated new approaches that deviate from the limitations of paper trails, spreadsheets and walkie-talkies.
Most manufacturing software systems were forged decades ago, and could not foresee the world we live in today. Case in point: The ERP system is the lifeblood of material and revenue flow. Yet is rarely looked to for providing any data-oriented advantage. It is a backwards-looking repository that requires significant manpower to extract value and answers, and is something that people prefer not to break rather than try to expand. This is precisely the definition of status quo and the primary source of frustration for leadership teams who demand data in support of today’s decisions.
To survive, dramatic rather than incremental changes are needed. Many manufacturers look to recently developed, focused solutions that consider their data challenges and pain points as problems worthy of being evaluated from scratch, rather than within the constraints of legacy ERP or MES systems.
If done correctly, these solutions focus on giving you time back, not taking it away, and becoming an integral part of your culture—from casual discussions about the current job to higher level customer satisfaction and profitability insights.
The number of businesses now running with this advantage is expanding rapidly. They are positioning themselves to win higher value jobs from customers who require minimized risk.
Visibility: Converting everything that has been on paper into digital formats streamlines information flow and lowers costs, inefficiencies and production times. Instead of fumbling through reams of paper or running the floor for answers to determine how a production run is flowing, foremen open a page on their smartphone and see not only what is happening now but also how it impacts the rest of the run. This is not just about whether your machine is running or not. It should include job-specific context that lets you know whether today is a boom or a bust.
Directed insight: Digital factories are always-on data collection systems. These systems can shed light on everything from overall factory capacity and planning issues to job statistics and areas needing improvement. This data will identify comparisons, hot spots and bottlenecks that can be remediated by applying some innovation around how work is done and machines operate optimally. If you can’t see it, you can’t fix it.
Increased work-group cohesion and output: Everyone in a connected work cell sees a real-time picture of exactly what their machines are producing along with all of the accompanying data in the event they want more. The chance that someone stumbles upon an issue with the production run is eliminated if the correct intelligence is being supplied to the group. The system becomes the rallying point for holistic improvement across the facility, and the language by which performance is discussed and evaluated.
J&W Swiss Machine recently incorporated new software onto its production floor. With a strong focus on cycle times, job performance and shop-floor communication, the firm has boosted not only on-time delivery but also morale and overall output.
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