Customer expectations continue to elevate. Across every industry, digital connectivity is empowering greater market knowledge. In manufacturing, products must now be developed and delivered more rapidly than ever before with an increasingly personalized and complex specifications. The days of doing “one-off” production processes are gone.
Fortunately, IT systems have come a long way to help address this complexity. Both design and execution systems must be top-notch if manufacturers want to remain competitive. While it is well recognized that investment in these systems is needed to keep up with the pace of today’s global marketplace, the challenge is to figure out the best course of action – and how to best justify such an investment. Here is where there is no one, clear answer. How does one best evaluate a system that can simultaneously maintain high levels of throughput, quality and customer service?
The first challenge is that seldom can one system be everything to every manufacturer. The second challenge is that most manufacturers are already working with a collection of systems – so starting with a blank slate is seldom an option (note this type of scenario has its own set of challenges … there is no “easy” ride).
On the topic of quality, it does no good to design a product with great quality specs if it can’t be built accordingly. Quality must be planned and executed with the greatest of precision. And, it must do so in an environment where specifications, designs and product options are frequently quite dynamic.
One approach I have seen that makes sense is to pick one system as the “foundation” or “core” of your IT strategy. It makes most sense if this system is central to your manufacturing operations management – and is ideal if it all shares a set of common business processes and data model. For the purpose of this blog post, I will make the assumption that you use either a Manufacturing Execution System
(MES) or a Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) solution as your “core” system, which then can help you guide your way through the decision process of what other applications should be used to help achieve your overall production goals.
To that end, an MES/MOM can actually have a significant impact on the quality level that your products and processes are designed and executed. So, if you are considering implementation of an MES/MOM, here are three factors to consider that will result in higher quality across your enterprise operations. For those considering upgrading their MES/MOM, be sure to consider these criteria as part of your Return on Investment evaluation.
1. Avoid designs getting lost in translation
The manufacturing businesses that use intelligent IT systems tied to their MES/MOM can harness, evaluate, and manage that data far more effectively, with many rewards to follow. The combination of in-depth data analytics across operations coupled with an end-to-end view of product and process traceability equips employees with the tools they need to react faster to order changes and process improvement, resulting in an increase in quality.
New products with complicated specifications and designs are regularly introduced, requiring quick changes to materials and management. An MES/MOM can act as an accelerator, speeding up response times automatically, without manual intervention. This is especially important in highly regulated industries such as aerospace, defense or life sciences where high levels of compliance and quality are essential. Manufacturers need to be aligned between plants, departments, and machines – and to the customer. Without clear channels of communication and an efficient use of IT, designs run the risk of being lost in translation and consequently, falling short of design and end user expectations.
2. Make flexibility a priority
Manufacturing products to personalized specifications tend to be a work in progress. Products are not always perfect on the first run. In reality, plans become outdated very quickly. Alterations and new ideas are frequently filtered down from the design team to the plant floor. As a result, manufacturing processes must be flexible to engineering change orders, and be able to be adapted efficiently, without excessive wastage. By allowing teams to build quality and design activities directly into production processes and material management flows, quality control is optimized at every step.
3. Be ready for anything!
As manufacturing becomes increasingly globalized and impacted by an ever-expanding number of external factors (think the Fourth Industrial Revolution), internal processes and management direction must be able to respond and adjust, seemingly at any moment. Businesses require complete transparency of their manufacturing processes in order to guarantee traceability of products throughout the lifecycle. A unified, end-to-end approach allows issues or recalls to be handled quickly and with minimum disruption to the customer and end consumer. But, more than simply monitoring what is going on during processes, they must be well understood so that if a future change is needed, the ramifications of such change can be readily understood quickly, to avoid fixing one problem in exchange for another.
Sophisticated IT systems like an MES/MOM can allow manufacturers to fix most of these issues for the lowest possible cost, and at virtually any point of the process. This unified or “core” strategy is invaluable, and can help you to improve your process and products while eliminating needless errors along the way.
In an environment where the customer is king and manufacturers are competing to keep up with growing expectations and tighter timeframes, the investment in an IT system has wide implications and an increasingly larger share of the responsibility. Businesses must find a way to optimize their working processes and use tools like MES/MOM to drive efficiency and quality on a global level. If manufacturers want to exceed customer expectations for quality, whilst maintaining top levels of throughput, the right MES/MOM could be the answer they are all looking for.
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