Manufacturers have long embraced the concept of continuous improvement and innovation. In that spirit, what better way to kick off the year than by looking to see what the 2019 has in store.
Over the past few years, it has been impossible to escape headlines about the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)/Industry 4.0. New models for technology-enabled manufacturing have already moved into the implementation phase at many of the world’s top manufacturers.
One of the symbols of smart, connected manufacturing is uplifting the role of humans in decision-making processes, and allowing machines to make more decisions in cases where machines are faster and sometimes more capable. Machine decisions are enabled by analyzing data from an ever-increasing array of sensors and production data
Integrating data and analytics from production equipment with design, engineering and continuous improvement in manufacturing leads to faster optimization of production and new product design. We learn what works, what breaks, what customers love and loathe, and when products need to be repaired or retired. Better feedback loops result in better products and production processes, enabling us to better serve customers.
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Sounds like the ingredients for some solid New Year’s resolutions:
- Collect data everywhere.
- Learn things from it.
- Design better products.
- Produce them more intelligently.
- Rinse and repeat — and do it even smarter this time.
Here are a few New Year’s Resolutions to consider as you lay out priorities and plans for the year ahead.
Resolution #1: Access & analytics with real time data demonstrates its worth to the enterprise
Data transparency helps manufacturers improve quality and customer satisfaction. Streamlining audit and regulatory burdens, enhancing the accuracy and accessibility of track and trace data, and ensuring quality from raw materials to packaging – all of these critical benefits come from collecting and integrating data in real time, at scale.
Another aspect is delivery data. Today, when you buy products on Amazon, you go online, order a product and receive an expected delivery date. If there’s any delay, they let you know of the change. They even alert you as soon as the product arrives. Retail shoppers worldwide have grown to love tracking their packages online. Unfortunately, it doesn’t usually work that way in manufacturing. The ability to see where the product is in the line and when it’s going to ship would be huge.
Over the past five years, new IIoT technology and the cloud have led to the development of a modern Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) that can track and consolidate critical manufacturing data in real time, delivering new levels of visibility across the global supply chain.
With a cloud-based MES platform, data generated throughout the manufacturing and testing process is converted into a virtual representation of the factory and production. This provides supply chain managers and operations executives with access to a digital factory floor via laptop, with a real-time view into status at product, workstation, production floor, plant, regional, and global levels. The system can monitor yield, throughput, work-in-progress (WIP), labor efficiency and productivity against pre-defined targets. More and more companies have implemented this technology in production over the last few years.
This real-time visibility not only empowers executives with a clear understanding of what’s happening in their factories, it also instills a greater sense of accountability among workers to address developing conditions before they are automatically escalated to factory management.
This technology can also be extended beyond a manufacturer’s own operations to third party suppliers that agree to use it, providing insight into the status of their operations and component availability.
Resolution #2: Regulatory Scrutiny Will Drive Deployment of Technology to Advance Quality in the Factory
Automotive and medical devices have become highly sophisticated in both functionality and manufacturing complexity. They must meet strict compliance requirements, with manufacturers having to track every component, piece of manufacturing equipment, and operator action for every device serial number, throughout the manufacturing process.
Emerging developments in manufacturing systems, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and the cloud are helping to efficiently “mistake proof” complex production processes, preventing some of the most common causes of manufacturing errors. And, should a manufacturing issue be uncovered later, these new systems can quickly and effectively isolate products that must be recalled.