The Top 7 Manufacturing Pains Today And How To Remedy Them

The Top 7 Manufacturing Pains Today And How To Remedy Them

By Anthony Borges, Marketing Manager, PINpoint Information Systems

There are many common challenges manufacturers face on their assembly lines which must be overcome to produce quality products in the most efficient way. It is after-all the assembly line where products are born, from physical actions, or process steps performed by both line workers and machines. Regardless of the part or the product being built, the goal is to achieve the perfect balance of maximizing the number of process steps they complete to build that product (without defect) within the fastest time.

Step one is identifying the problem, and as the adage states correctly “…you do not know what you do not know.” The means to identify and act upon manufacturing problems is afforded by the Manufacturing Execution System (MES) or Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) software that both monitors and controls all process steps on your assembly line and provides vital manufacturing data as a result in easy to understand reports.

With over twenty years (20) experience in the error-proofing of complex or safety critical components and products we identified seven (7) manufacturing assembly line pains that still impact manufacturers today:

 

1.    Pains Due To Not Knowing What Is Happening On The Assembly Line:

How can you optimize your manufacturing if you do not know what to optimize?

MES/MOM software is a tool you can use to consolidate all manufacturing process step data into a single point of access from a website in the cloud. Plant floor communications are also handled by the built in andon system software which can be integrated initially or separately, as an entry-level towards the development of a longer-term MES/MOM monitoring and process control solution. The software is flexible and scalable to an unlimited number of users, work stations, process steps, and assembly lines regardless of location.

 

2.    Pains Due To Timing And Availability:

Are all needed materials or parts always available on time on the assembly line? Are assembly line workers ‘logged in’ and available to perform process steps on the available product?

Figure 1 is an example MES/MOM screen shot showing the status of manufacturing operations in real-time. The user can hone in on the specific information for a work station (Station View) as shown, or an overview of the assembly line or the plant performance is available. The preconfigured goal of products to be built is simply shown as the ‘PLANNED’ production, and with the ‘ACTUAL’ production data shown below it and updated as it happens.

Each number increment indicates the planned timing of when the line worker or work station should have the process steps assigned to that work station completed, before the product indexes to the next station. As the clock runs the performance timing of the operation is illustrated in terms of ACTUAL cycle time, and Over-all Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) performance metrics. Products are given a status based on a five (5) bucket model that identifies products being worked on as either Waiting (red), Available (orange), Suspended (yellow), Working (blue), or Complete (green).

Figure 1: Real-time MES/MOM manufacturing performance dashboard

As the product being built has process steps completed on it by the line workers and machines, e.g. parts are attached, bolts are fastened, and products advance on the assembly line; every single action is confirmed by the human’s interaction with the MES/MOM user-interface screen, and by the signals received from the devices and machines that are monitored/controlled by the MES/MOM (as inputs/outputs turned on/off at a specific time). The screen or dashboard refreshes automatically as progress is made and shows how many products were built and in how much time.

The ACTUAL sawtooth graph illustrates which products were built within cycle time or not, and the reason why as indicated by the color legend and line transition point for each product; with zero (0) seconds being the counted down goal, and with any data shown below zero indicating an over-cycle time event. For example, if cycle time is exceeded one can determine why the delay happened, such as delays caused by waiting for the line worker, for materials, or for waiting for a product to arrive in the work station so it can be worked on. The individual work station’s created data populates the Over-all Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) calculator accordingly for the work station, line view and plant view. The OEE reporting tool enables the manufacturer to accurately gauge their performance on the go, based on product availability, performance timing, and the product quality resulting.

 

3.    Pains From Relying On Third-party Companies To Solve Problems They Are Not Qualified To:

Are consultants, integrators or programmable logic controller (PLC) programmers the most knowledgeable of your process to solve your problem?

Who knows your assembly line processes better than your manufacturing management team or manufacturing engineer? Third-party consultants and integrators are typically not directly involved in the day-to-day operations on the plant floor and the hundreds and possibly thousands of process steps needed to assemble a quality product. Additionally, Information Technology (IT) and upper management teams are not as qualified as the manufacturing engineers who create and configure the assembly line directly; but they do however play an integral role in the successful implementation of the MES/MOM software.

Efficient problem solving should lead you to a solution in the least amount of time, in the most cost-effective way, with a resolution to the problem that is flexible and scalable well into the future. Having your engineering, IT and upper management team work directly with a MES/MOM software development company that knows how to monitor and control assembly line workers and device processes is paramount to maximize error-proofing. Regardless of the finished product type, it is the individual process steps performed by human and machine “in a certain way” that ultimately yields a quality or shippable product.

 

4.    Pains Due To Complex PLC Logic:

How much time, and for what expense does PLC programming contribute to your problem?

It is very time consuming to re-code PLCs and programming is error prone. MES/MOM technology allows for the PLC to do the absolute minimum needed to accomplish its’ main function, i.e. its basic function of turning devices on and off and signalling to the MES/MOM software that it accomplished the requested input or function.

By monitoring PLC inputs and outputs, the MES/MOM software ensures process steps are completed within tolerance, and controls assembly line devices (turned off) when they are not. By halting any process step that yields a mistake performed by a human or machine not meeting the pre-specified tolerance or outcome the issue can be dealt with right-away (to either fix the problem, or re-route the product to a repair work station so production can keep going). The data acquired from the MES/MOM affords the manufacturer instant knowledge of the problem to resolve quality issues on-the-fly.    

 

5.    Pains Due To Wasted Time And Money Incurred Due To Reactionary Measures That Do Not Solve The Broader Issues.

Are you tired of investing in ‘band aid’ or short-term fixes that are not scalable, need frequent maintenance, and upgrading?

At times reactionary measures are unavoidable, decisions need to be made in order to keep production going. Traditionally, these reactionary measures solve the problem for the short-term, but remain a pain because it is known production will again be impacted negatively when the problem arises again.

MES/MOM software affords the manufacturer a solution that is inherently flexible, and scalable indefinitely. MES/MOM software products like PINpoint V5 MES are designed as a long-term solution to address manufacturers daily problems. Visibility is key, and by simply opening a website browser on any computer or device the manufacturer can see at-a-glance how their assembly line is performing, or they can configure and make changes that impact the assembly line instantly from the cloud.

 

6.    Pains Due To Manufacturing Poor Quality Products:

Have you lost customers and market share due to product quality issues?

Especially pertaining to the quality of a “safety critical” product, any defect could be as catastrophic and costly as the loss of life as a result (mistakes cannot be afforded). A means to error-proof production is a must, which MES/MOM software provides as an absolute protection to assure defective products do not leave the factory.

With MES/MOM systems’ live tracking capabilities the manufacturer can verify the status of any product, serial number or work order from a website on any computer or mobile device. Products that have quality problems, and are in repair work stations can be easily tracked physically on the assembly line, and verified to ensure the defect was resolved.

 

 

7.   Pains Due To An Unmotivated Manufacturing Team:

Is employee morale low? Are you benefiting from the full-potential of your people?

Pursuing quality and efficiency is commonplace, but embracing the culture of accountability required to achieve it along with deploying the tools necessary to support that culture is not. MES/MOM software makes committing to a culture of manufacturing excellence practical. By setting your manufacturing goals, and by leveraging real-time data you become accountable to those goals. As you progress and gain more knowledge you can make further adjustments, and measure the effectiveness of those decisions.

Line workers, line supervisors, engineers and executive stakeholders all have a vested interest in the accomplishment of the goal, and therefore all contributing to the goal have their part to play, and their own sense of ownership and accountability in achieving their tasks successfully on time. The manufacturing intelligence metrics output in turn provide verification by way of easy to understand reports.

These common manufacturing pains can all be remedied by the MES/MOM software’s capability to manage your workforce, to configure assembly line tools and devices, and by its capability to inform you. The information recorded and output as reports for analysis allows your manufacturing team to work from a position of knowledge to positively impact future decisions and actions.

To be competitive manufacturers are forever trying to find ways to save time and save money, i.e. to eliminate the waste caused by repeating the same mistakes, and only addressing problems short-term. The data visibility afforded by the MES/MOM software becomes indispensable once you commit to rely on that accurate data to inform and garner effective decisions backed up by measurable actions.

A culture of accountability is in-turn created when all manufacturing stakeholders clearly understand the goal, and what their personal contribution must be to reach it. The MES/MOM software empowers line workers and supervisors with knowledge by giving them an at-a-glance display of their work in progress; and by informing management of how their over-all operations are performing at any given time. Only by knowing where problems occur on the assembly line can you effectively optimize cycle time or Takt to improve product quality and maximize your plant OEE.


MES/MOM SYSTEM SOFTWARE

PINpoint Information System’s manufacturing execution system (MES) / manufacturing operations management (MOM) software is designed and tested to ‘Information Technology Infrastructure Library’ (ITIL) standards before any official version release. Their MES/MOM and Andon communications products have been developed since 1997 and continue to be evolved and pushed-forward by their customers.

 

About the Author

Anthony offers over a decade of manufacturing optimization knowledge, with an aptitude for solving problems which increase manufacturing efficiency. He has successfully provided solutions to various multinational manufacturers involving the latest technology in sensors, laser (detection, measurement, welding, cutting, and marking systems), PLC, machine vision, digital microscope, and software solutions.  

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