Customized Manufacturing Solutions: How to Organize and Automate the Shop Floor
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Divertica has significant experience in complex high volume, broad product mix manufacturing environments. We consistently see a broad range of systems solutions that effectively address Material Resource Planning (MRP). However, we find very few solutions which excel at the individual worker level in environments that are not full mass production.
One of the largest trends in manufacturing is onshoring. With the trade and tariff likely to continue to be uncertain, many companies are looking to move some manufacturing back to the US. This poses significant challenges – particularly for situations which are not full mass production. Some of the challenges of manufacturing in the US include:
- Shortages of Key Skills – robot operators and welders are just some of the skills that are difficult to find given the ongoing reduction of manufacturing the US
- Turnover – for most manufacturers turnover is major issue – particularly relative to Southeast Asia and Europe
- Integration of Automation – understanding how to integrate automation can be a challenge
The challenge with high mix environments is that a broad range of material flow must be managed simultaneously and work is not repetitive. This combined with the challenges above can make manufacturing in US very challenging.
Most manufacturing systems are adept at ERP/MRP but there remains a significant gap in really organizing the factory floor in high mix environments. We have spent time looking at some of the major players shown including: Epicor, Sage, E2, and Oracle. All of these systems provide value in terms of organizing information from quote to shipment. However, the unique details of to drive the shop floor are often not nearly as well addressed including:
- Work Instructions for Complex Process Steps
- Scheduling with high staffing and product variability
- Rework management
- Integration of video and pictures for QC at individual process steps
Divertica believes that for many companies a customized solution which leverages all the tools available in modern cloud environments is the best option for the actual shop floor. We believe the following are critical elements to a customized solution:
- Work Instructions Software – one of the biggest challenges in any manufacturing environment is relying on tribal knowledge. Once a manufacturing environment becomes dependent on tribal knowledge, it becomes dependent on a limited group of workers, has very long training time for new employees, and has a VERY difficult time changing and improving processes. Typically, tribal knowledge develops around complex and artisan processes. For example, in the work done with a steel fabricator, we found that a welding procedure for 18 gauge sheet metal was challenging because the supplier tolerances meant that 18 gauge was not necessarily 18 gauge. It was 17, 18, or 19 gauge. To execute the process, the worker had to KNOW to take the gauge measurement and then select the right program.By utilizing work instructions, companies can capture process intricacies and create process repeatability. In this case mentioned above, training time for new workers was reduced from 6 months to 2 weeks as all the knowledge of odd edge cases such as the 18 gauge material went from being trained by the department manager to being captured in the work instruction software.
- Easy Workflow Creation – in a high mix environment, the systems it must be easy to create and modify workflows for different products including special orders.
- Support for Expedited Orders – the ability to expedite within manufacturing leads to incremental revenue and/or higher pricing. In some businesses, it can be the difference between profitability and losses.
- Scheduling Optimization – as product mix increases, the complexity of scheduling grows quickly. The AI/Machine Learning tools available from the major cloud providers are invaluable in driving optimization in scheduling.
- Mobile Enablement – it is essential to make the system easy to use for shop workers. Our experience is that tablets and cell phones are widely accepted by most workers. In addition, the use of mobile allows for tremendous efficiency improvements in some cases for in process inspections. By having a production worker take a picture at completion of a process step, the quality can be reviewed remotely by QC or leadership.
- Barcode/IoT – part tracking is essential. This can be done with passive solutions such as barcode or active solutions. Divertica believes that the cost of active solutions is and will continue to fall dramatically due to the growth of Bluetooth Beacon technology which is superior to legacy Active RFID solutions.
- Worker Productivity Assessment – one of the tools to combat turnover is to be able to reward workers for their productivity. Without this, companies run the risk of being cherrypicked out of their best workers.
- Integration with ERP/MRP – it is essential to be able to get orders from existing systems and fully understand material availability in order to organize and schedule the factory floor.
- Quality Management – managing ISO 9000 compliance and continuing to improve quality is essential for most manufacturing organizations. It is important to be able to ensure detailed procedures are followed and that data is captured to allow for proper root cause assessment when quality issues occur.
With our expertise in manufacturing and deep knowledge of cloud software, we have the ability to rapidly develop solutions that integrate with your existing ERP/MRP systems. We believe that a significant percentage of the work in developing a powerful manufacturing system is in the upfront architecture in terms of:
- Defining requirements to capture current and future business operations approach
- Selecting the right of the shelf software tools
- Minimizing the amount of custom code that must be developed
Divertica is NOT an integrator for existing ERP/MRP manufacturing systems. We provide an unique approach to custom development leveraging our own proprietary tooling a broad range of third party tools – particularly major cloud providers.
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