Protocols to Streamline Manufacturing Operations

The current supply chain crisis has most manufacturing companies scrambling. In an effort to preserve revenue, companies are trying to make up for the delays by finding new areas in which to improve efficiency. For many, cutting waste and streamlining production will be a difficult process.

Fortunately, technology can help. Many manufacturing companies are currently running a confusing mix of digital and physical operations, which are often at odds with each other. The key to finding greater efficiencies lies in merging the best of the physical and digital realms into a seamless whole.

Unfortunately, one major impediment to change often comes from line managers, struggling to recognize weaknesses because of their own subjective views on how operations should work. To address this, manufacturing companies should empower management with technology that can demonstrate that there’s a better way to operate, one that will not only make the managers’ lives easier, but also contribute to the greater profitability of the company in general.

Empower Staff

Manufacturers are currently between a rock and a hard place. Consumer demand post-pandemic is high, but the supply chain crisis continues to confound companies’ efforts to meet that demand. One key to addressing this conundrum is by setting realistic production goals, and this means involving and getting input from all the various stakeholders.

Yes, this includes frontline staff in addition to management. Initiating conversations around production expectations and how to meet those goals will have an empowering effect on line workers, who will in turn take more responsibility for the production process. Meetings and forums that discuss production demands, performance indicators, and efficiency solutions will prove enlightening for both employees and employers.

Giving everyone a voice, and making them feel heard, will reduce idle times and encourage more cooperative work among employees and managers. An empowered workforce can turn a clunky and siloed manufacturing process into an integrated and efficient system.

Get Your Tech on

Improving communication is a great way to get started, but what’s really going to transform your manufacturing systems is technology. There are a variety of different technologies that manufacturers can turn to for improved efficiency and safety.

One particularly helpful technology is the use of  indoor tracking systems to help managers keep track of both human and physical assets. Location based Services powered by Real-time location systems (RTLS) offer manufacturers a big-picture perspective on indoor operations, such as inventory levels, location of materials, and employee health and safety.

RTLS systems are an extension of what is known as the Internet of Things (IoT), which involves physical devices, like heat sensors and positioning tags, that transmit data through the internet to some kind of database and ultimately to management for analysis.

Other technologies include manufacturing execution systems (MES), which track and document the process of turning raw materials into finished products. MES works in real time and provides manufacturers with control over the various parts of the process, including inventory, personnel, machinery, and support systems. Think of MES as an intermediary between an enterprise resource planning system (ERP) and process control.

Lean Manufacturing

Creating a more controlled workflow, with employees and equipment working in harmony, is an important step to improving manufacturing operations. Once a company has invested in technology adoption and organizational efficiency, manufacturers can also take a hard look at products that are underperforming. Whatever the reason—external market forces, inefficient  supply, or insufficient demand—some products may simply need to be dropped altogether. It’s possible that in trying to be all things to all comers, you’re spreading your operations too thin.

Another place to find efficiency might lie in determining which parts of your process would be better to outsource to another vendor. A lot of manufacturing inefficiency comes from when companies overestimate their production abilities, or are too far from raw materials, or simply don’t have the right expertise.

Just as great managers are the ones who know which responsibilities to delegate to which employees, great manufacturing companies are the ones who know what they should be outsourcing and what they should be doing themselves. The key to greater productivity could simply lie in deciding what it is that you don’t need to do.

By empowering staff, bringing in the right technology, and figuring out what not to do themselves, manufacturers can unlock the improved productivity that they seek. Exactly what you’ll discover in the process depends on a number of factors, including your industry, your talent base, and the access that you have to the best technology. But the most important step is to take a step back and look at your entire operation with an eye toward improvement.

By Tom Ruth

Tom Ruth is the Vice President of Quuppa Americas. He brings over 25 years of marketing disruptive technologies and managing smart growth within high performance organizations.

This article was originally published here

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Quuppa is the leading RTLS platform for indoor positioning

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