Increasing Manufacturing Information Efficiency

Increasing Manufacturing Information Efficiency
Increasing Manufacturing Information Efficiency

Industrial digitalization advances are providing new, cost-effective tools to significantly improve timely and accurate information flows and WIP (Work In Process) tracking, which improves manufacturing efficiency, quality and profits. In the past, only large companies could afford the cost and time to implement major system solutions like ERP and MES to improve timely and accurate information flows, but new tools available at lower cost that are easier to deploy provide opportunities for all size manufacturers. 

No-code enabler

No-code is an approach to designing and using applications that doesn't require any coding or knowledge of programming languages, which is part of the self-service movement that empowers users to create, manipulate and employ data-driven applications. Many of the common applications on smartphones and tablets that people use in everyday life to update Facebook are basic example of no-code programming. 

No-code platforms turn existing employees into “citizen developers” who systematize procedures and workflows, as well as systemizing tribal knowledge that is important as workers retire. The growing number of No-Code applications are enabling plant people to build applications to increase manufacturing information capture, sharing and automation to increase efficiency without programming.  According to Harvard Business Review, low-code/no-code platforms have evolved from just facilitating function-specific tools to making it possible for a broader range of business employees to truly own their automation and build new software applications with no coding while increasing organizational capacity.  The first no code application that had huge impact on industry was the spreadsheet, which allowed nonprogrammers to build solutions directly. The new wave of no code software is a much more powerful enabler empowering plant people to building applications. 

Paper conversion to digital

A great example of high-value digitalization is converting paper-based methods including inventory, production tracking and quality information. When digitalized, this information, which has typically been siloed and locked in disparate systems, is easily shared and used to broadly communicate, empowering every part of the organization to share and leverage data. The inefficiency of using paper forms contributes to low worker productivity and a significant probability of inaccurate information. Paper-based methods can now be digitized cost-effectively to increase productivity using no-code platforms without programmers. The new platforms using high performance and low cost of tablet computers and smartphones coupled with no-code application development software puts digital systems in frontline workers hands. This is analogous to how spreadsheets became a huge enabler providing nonprogrammers with the ability to leverage the power of computing.

Empowering frontline workers

The integration of smart phones and tablet computers is empowering front-line employees extending systems to the point of use, and providing workforce with meaningful manufacturing information at the point of use.  

This allows the people that know the process best to truly become knowledge workers, improving manufacturing efficiency and profits. The new tools also provide a way to capture and systemize important aging workforce tribal knowledge.

“The Toyota style is not to create results by working hard. It is a system that says there is no limit to people's creativity. People don't go to Toyota to 'work' they go there to 'think,'" said Taiichi Ohno, father of the Toyota Production System. Empowering frontline workers with real-time information and tools improves timely informed decision making without complicated procedures and extensive training required by traditional systems.

Guided processes

New apps are delivering information to plant people including operators, maintenance, supervisors and engineers directly to their smart phones and tablets. This puts the right information, such as step-by-step procedures and reference information, directly in the hands of the frontline people. The frontline people then provide feedback directly to other systems, coworkers and managers. This fosters direct collaboration to quickly solve problems and develop continuous manufacturing improvements.

Cloud expands options

The additional availability of these solutions as Cloud-based SaaS (System as a Service) provides any size manufacturer with an efficient way to achieve integrated digitalization of all functions, including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Manufacturing Execution System (MES), Quality Management System (QMS), Analytics and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Supply Chain Management (SCM). A major advantage of Cloud-based SaaS (System as a Service) is inherent reliability because the user does not have to worry about software maintenance and system updates.

Manufacturing success

The success factors in manufacturing are changing, making it imperative that all size companies deploy automation and business digitalization as a strategic tool to compete achieving\e competitive costs, increased productivity and quality. A company can successfully compete only if it outperforms rivals by delivering greater value to customers, creating comparable value at a lower cost or both. Automation and business digitalization is the best way to achieve this goal over the long term by improving sustainable operational effectiveness.   Waiting until competitors make these investments manufacturers make themselves vulnerable, keeping them in catch up mode.

Lower cost responsive solutions create an important opportunity for companies to be more efficient and deal with increasing manufacturing labor shortages worldwide. This includes traditionally lower cost regions of the world all being impacted by changing demographics. Examples of products in this category include: Tulip Software, PLEX Systems, Alpha Software, SymphonyAI and EPICOR.

About The Author

Bill Lydon brings more than 10 years of writing and editing expertise to, plus more than 25 years of experience designing and applying technology in the automation and controls industry. Lydon started his career as a designer of computer-based machine tool controls; in other positions, he applied programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and process control technology. Working at a large company, Lydon served a two-year stint as part of a five-person task group, that designed a new generation building automation system including controllers, networking, and supervisory & control software. He also designed software for chiller and boiler plant optimization. Bill was product manager for a multimillion-dollar controls and automation product line and later cofounder and president of an industrial control software company.

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