Do you feel most days you come into work there are problems in your manufacturing plant? Some of these problems may be minor, but even the smaller problems can build up to larger issues down the line. Examples of issues that you may experience on a daily or weekly basis include:
- Unscheduled downtime
- Maintenance issues
- Resource scheduling conflicts
- Lack of visibility into your plant operations
- Poor communication
- Excessive rework or scrap
- Workforce recruitment and retainment
If you experience any of these, you’re not alone. According to a variety of studies:
- Manufacturers may experience up to 800 hours (about one month) of downtime per year1
- Downtime costs most plants between 5% and 20% of their production capacity2
- 25% of the manufacturing workforce is 55 years or older3
- Up to 20% of total sales may be dedicated to fixing quality issues4
- Approximately 75% of manufacturing delays occur because employees are unable to communicate with their coworkers or supervisors5
We all know that large manufacturers are equipped to solve their problems, but what about small- and mid-sized manufacturers that are already stretched too thin?
Sean Madhavaraman, GaMEP Industry 4.0 expert, says the solution here is simple: Leverage technology. More specifically, a manufacturing execution system (MES), which is a solution that many small- and medium-sized manufacturers aren’t familiar with. An MES triggers workflows based on preset conditions, such as a production event, quality event, downtime event, and more to help route jobs end-to-end while keeping track of productivity, performance, quality, and traceability. The customizable and modular software gathers information on the shop floor to create real-time visibility to drive accountability and improve productivity.
However, manufacturers may tend to shy away from new technology implementation because they may not know about the right solution, they’re worried about implementation cost and return on investment, or they’re concerned about lack of implementation support and resources to sustain the system in the long run.
To address those hesitations that companies face, Sean says manufacturers should:
Identify data collection points within your current process to create visibility. It’s important to understand how you’re currently doing things. Are you collecting any data? If so, what data? How is that data being collected, how is it being tracked and measured (on whiteboards or spreadsheets), and how often (at the end of each shift, each day, or each week)? Who is collecting the data within your facility? What are you doing with that data once it’s collected? Is that data being used to turn into insights that can help make informed timely decisions and change behaviors?
Start small. Identify the issue that can have the most positive impact. Many manufacturers start with an MES module that helps capture downtime because that can have the greatest impact. It can also get the most team members on board and start to shift the mindset of the organization.
Be open to shifting skill sets. Manufacturers have multiple open positions they can’t fill. By implementing the right technology, these open positions may not need to be filled and instead, current team members can be more focused and have more information at their fingertips, creating more informed decisions and spending less time in firefighting mode.
Educate yourself on the different technology solutions. If you don’t have time to do the research yourself, take the time to find a partner that you trust to help guide you through the process. That partner should be unbiased, understand the manufacturing industry, and be able to look at your people, processes, and resources from a holistic viewpoint and provide guidance that is custom to your company.
Look at the added benefits. More companies are offering affordable MES solutions that are tailored to small- and medium-sized manufacturers and are offering MES-type solutions as add-ons to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, making the entire package more affordable. However, when evaluating the return on investment of these systems, don’t just look at the direct cost. Many of the benefits include reducing your current costs or increasing capacity, including:
- Reduced rework and scrap
- Quicker setup times
- Accurate capture and resources allocation
- Increased uptime
- Inventory reduction
- Increased quality
- Improved customer satisfaction
In a recent study, 71% of frontline workers say updated communication tools increase their productivity.5 In that same study, the younger generation coming into jobs expect new technologies and communication. By implementing an MES system, you’re creating transparency that’s vital in fostering trust between employers and employees, attracting younger workers and improving employee satisfaction by having team members work on exciting new technologies.
GaMEP can help you determine the right resource for your technology needs!