Jun 17 2014

7 Ways Manufacturers can Improve Responsiveness to a Natural Disaster

natural_disasters_manufacturingRecently, the Southern California region was struck with a series of devastating wildfires. For business owners in the region, this presented some serious challenges in safety as well as productivity and security throughout the week, and gave many an occasion to test their preparedness and emergency plans.

Here are some broad guidelines to improve your preparedness should you face a natural disaster:


  1. Have different plans prepared for different types of emergencies: Different disruptions will present different levels of impact on your surrounding community, other businesses, and emergency response teams, so be sure you plan accordingly.
  2. Know your evacuation plan: Of course, the safety of your employees is of utmost importance. Before disaster strikes, have an emergency evacuation plan prepared, know safety precautions for exiting the building, evaluate how to get messages on the status of the emergency to employees, and identify a location of a common safe place.
  3. Be prepared in advance with a plan to ensure the safety of vital documents and materials: Before an emergency hits, ensure that your system has real-time redundancy and that the rebuild or restoration of all computers and laptops will be quick and easy – leverage cloud-based offsite storage options to help with this transition. Prepare a list of which materials or machines, if any, should be evacuated (if possible), and ensure that your managers know those priorities as well.
  4. Know your insurance policy: You should ensure that, in addition to the employees and buildings themselves, that you have insurance for your machinery, equipment, and any other large expenses housed in your building.
  5. Be prepared with alternative back-up locations for operations: In the event that you lose a building during an emergency, you should be prepared with alternative locations for your operations – and the corresponding processes to make it happen. If necessary, be prepared with selected temp agencies that might be able to help you fill vacancies should any of your employees have difficulty making it to your new or temporary location. Establish the capability to enable employees to work remotely before disaster strikes to make this option viable in time of emergency.
  6. Be prepared with an emergency budget: The bigger your safety net, the less likely you are to face major setbacks following an emergency. If you have sufficient emergency savings and insurance, you may be able to afford a backup location, new equipment, accommodations for employees, and temporary extra help without too much of a delay.
  7. Maintain open communications with your customers: It is important to have open communications at all times with everyone in your supply chain until your operations can resume. If possible, leave yourself wiggle room in your supply chain so that you might have time to get your operations up and running again without too much of a setback in your deliveries.


Remember that a natural disaster can impact you not only if your facilities or employees should be at risk, but if any of your supplier production or distribution locations are impacted. While there is no way to avoid these disruptions, their impact can certainly be minimized with appropriate advanced planning.


Rachel Greenberg writes for Automation GT, a manufacturer of custom automated machinery in Carlsbad, California

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2014/06/7-ways-manufacturers-can-improve-responsiveness-to-a-natural-disaster/

Jun 10 2014

Digital’s Role in Collaboration across Manufacturing

The importance of sharing is a philosophy that has been ingrained into our lives all the way from our early childhood. The famous poem “All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” has this advice as its first line. As a grown up, this philosophy still holds true, including how we work. Sharing best practices and working together to solve common problems are just two examples.

Today’s digital transformation has had an interesting impact on how we share and work together – distance is no longer a criterion of collaboration effectiveness. When working in a paper-based world, however, you pretty much have to be in the same room. Given today’s global supply chains and distributed engineering teams, this type of scenario simply isn’t viable anymore. Just look at the Dragon V2 spacecraft that Space-X just launched. Given all the new technology and innovative design, it would be very difficult to assemble all your engineers – both internally and from your supply chain – to sit together in the same room for a few years!

Digital Manufacturing is a field focused on simulating how workers can best assemble and perform production processes – before a single conveyor belt, fixture or bolt is tightened. By leveraging digital designs that can be readily shared as digital files with managers, executives and those who will actually be performing the processes, it is possible to greatly improve the collaboration necessary to build the infrastructure for a new product line right, the first time. 3D images can be readily shared to visualize what will be built, to save having to guess on decisions such as how close to establish work stations, or how much repetitive motion can be tolerated without causing fatigue. These capabilities are considerably more difficult and more prone to error in a paper-based world.

Manufacturing operations management is now “catching up” to what the design, engineering and digital manufacturing world has known for decades – digital collaboration is more effective as it can expand the scope of how you can communicate and can help you come to resolution and solve problems faster.

The Manufacturing Leadership Council just released new research that takes a closer look at the current state of digital collaboration across the shop floor. The report examines the role of Enterprise Social Networking applications, what factors are most important for success, and where the greatest gaps exist between perceived importance and actual mastery. For example, this chart is quite telling:collaborative_and_social_networking_challenges


Clearly manufacturers see the importance of collaboration, but they also recognize that work needs to be done to achieve the vision that most see as the future of improving communication across the shop floor. (Download a free copy of the complete report here.)

Has your organization embraced enterprise social networking as a tool to improve how you work together? Has this collaboration “pool” extended to beyond your organization and out to the supply chain? Do you have any best practices worth sharing?


Gordon can be found on Google+ .

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2014/06/digitals-role-in-collaboration-across-manufacturing/

Jun 05 2014

Learnings from the Manufacturing Analytics Innovation Summit

manufacturing_analytics_summitOne of the challenges we all face is how to continue to hone our craft. How do you get better at what you do, stay current with new industry best practices, or the latest innovation? A good first step is to get out of your normal routine, leave the office, plant floor or wherever you work, and surround yourself with new people that you can learn from. This can occur at a conference, a course, or simply visiting another site within your own company.

I had the opportunity to attend the IE. network’s first Manufacturing Analytics Innovation Summit in Chicago a couple weeks ago. During this event I heard 20+ speakers explain how they are using various forms of data to extract intelligence for process improvement, accelerated innovation and improved efficiency. One thing for certain, there are some very exciting projects being implemented in an incredible variety of environments to accomplish an amazing diversity of manufacturing needs across the world. As a substitute for those unable to attend, I thought I would share some of the top concepts and best practices I heard, to give you the “Cliff Notes” version of the presentations, which in actuality lasted for two days.

  • Several speakers commented on not falling into the Pareto “trap” (which is easy to do). Here is a scenario: you are tasked with identifying a root-cause analysis and have identified contributing factors that account for 80% of your out-of-tolerance event. You continue to dig down, continuing to explore those factors contributing to the bulk of the variance, until after digging down several layers, you can’t see any “smoking guns” or reason why the performance issue exists. Unfortunately, there are often no shortcuts, and the smallest factors at one level can become huge factors and a driving force of why the issue exists. An example was provided of an oil & gas refiner that was having certain batches ruined by one small, very minor process stage. Failure at this stage led to 100% failure three steps later. In aggregate, however, the initial culprit was a very minor portion of the total process.
  • Big Data is not the same as analytics. Data is a start, but if no one at your organization has any trust in the accuracy of the data, then no one will follow your recommendations or conclusions drawn from the analytics performed on the data. Get the power users on your side, gain their trust, and together you can be much more effective at performing the necessary work to actually improve efficiency
  • Supply chain visibility is difficult. According to D&B speaker Sue Sheehey, 54% of US manufacturing executives admit that their firms do not have visibility beyond Tier 1 supplier, and almost 40% of reported supply chain disruptions originate with Tier 2 or 3 suppliers. Do the math, and it is easy to see why supply chain disruptions still plague the industry. D&B’s suggestion was to instead focus on supply chain risk – what disruptions will cause you the greatest pain, disruption or production delay? Then, take a closer look at being more proactive with managing those suppliers and investing the time for more frequent interactions to ensure the production flow is optimized; predictive analytics can be helpful here.
  • Customer tastes are a big driver of NPI. Demonstrating the challenge with New Product Introduction, HP presented that 420 new products were introduced in 2012, and 310 in 2013. Wow. By their own words, HP has become almost a fashion house, based on customer demands and expectations based more on aesthetics rather that new technologies … if this is the case for HP, then it is likely the case for many other High Tech manufacturers
  • Builders need to be Lean too! As the most innovative manufacturer at the event, Balfour Beatty Construction is ahead of the curve. They are a home builder, yet are talking about Lean manufacturing, Takt times, and logistics planning. This manufacturer is trying to be proactive to see what constraints are out there to avoid; the value they bring their clients is in planning and alignment – hammer time is the smallest part of their project!
  • Digital manufacturing is worth the investment. According to Rajeev Kalamdani at Ford Powertrain, virtual manufacturing has been a key enabler to improving responsiveness, new product introduction and operational efficiency. As a result, forecasting has become a way to predict the physical behavior of objects and systems. In a virtual world, no need to run forecasting scenarios – just change it! His recommendation: A process-based approach is recommended rather than a project-based approach to manufacturing.


I hope you find these “nuggets” interesting. If you have any comments to add, or were there at the event and have other knowledge to share, please feel free to comment below.


Gordon can be found on Google+ .

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2014/06/learnings-from-the-manufacturing-analytics-innovation-summit/

Jun 03 2014

People, Processes and Problems. Where It Starts. How It Stops.

people-processes-perfectionOne glance at international headlines on any given day and you’ll, no doubt, be delivered a dose of disturbing news within the manufacturing industry. A fire in a refinery, a chemical spill, an evacuation after a gas leak, workers injured or killed. In manufacturing, especially in chemical, oil & gas and energy-based process industries, the smallest abnormal situation can trigger a string of events that can ultimately lead to disaster if not contained.

In the discrete arena the danger is not as explosive, but hiding under the hood of an automotive recall is a potential component failure that could cause a serious accident—an issue that automakers are dealing with currently.

As a result, the manufacturing industry as a whole is on a safety-driven mission.

During a recent conversation with an instrumentation and controls manager at an energy company, the question was asked: “Will we ever see a day when there are no explosions in the plant?” The goal, of course, he said, is to reach zero incidents. And work is being done to ensure quality and safety are engineered into production.  But there are some uncontrollable aspects of any process. People.

The conversation shifted to the airline industry, as an example. It is a regulated industry, but progress is driven by the need for safety with a focus on product quality in an effort to curtail the amount of plane crashes. Over the years, by increasing aircraft reliability, there have been fewer accidents than just a few years ago. In 2009, there were 23 commercial airline incidents compared to 12 in 2013.

A step in the right direction. But back to the question: “Will we ever see a day when there are no explosions in the plant? Or faulty ignitions in cars? Or plane crashes?”

Unfortunately, there really is no guaranteed answer because what’s left is the reliability of the people behind the process—be it an airline pilot, a control system operator, or a mechanic in the field.

Now, we need to find ways to help people make the best decisions in the moment. It starts, ironically, by enlisting the help of the people on the front line (the pilots, the control system operator, the mechanic). Too often, an engineer is sitting in the backroom creating plant floor programs that are perfect from a process perspective, but are not practical when it comes to real-world situations.

New innovations in HMI (human machine interface) are underway, using simple graphics and carefully placed colors to provide pattern recognition to control operators. But in order to portray accurate information, it must be first created within the process.

So gather everyone—not just the engineers—and huddle around the business process management (BPM) models to identify what is the most important information to be acknowledge in the event of an abnormal situation, as well as how and to whom it should be delivered. The point is to streamline the right information to the right person. Not overwhelm individuals with innocuous alarms.

People, when armed with the right information, will make the right decisions. But we need to use technology strategically to create a synergistic balance between machine and man. When that happens, we will be that much closer to zero incidents in any manufacturing environment.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2014/06/people-processes-and-problems-where-it-starts-how-it-stops/

May 30 2014

Q&A: The Benefits of Integrating Maintenance Management with Quality Intelligence

integrated_maintenance_management_quality_intelligence_screenRecently, Adam Bluemner, Project Specialist Manager at FindAccountingSoftware.com had a discussion with Milosz Majta, DELMIA Apriso Quality & Maintenance Product Manager at Dassault Systèmes. The theme for their discussion was the benefits of tying Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) with quality and manufacturing intelligence to create a predictive intelligence scenario whereby machines can be kept running at or closer to optimal performance as a way to increase quality and reduce downtime. The best way to do so is to approach equipment maintenance management on more of a holistic perspective, as an integral part of manufacturing operations management. Ideally, the best results occur when your manufacturing operations systems can seamlessly connects to your ERP systems so all reporting and tracking requirements can be met, adjusted and improved over time.

Adam Bluemner provided the questions, and Milosz Majta provided the answers, as listed below.

Questions & Answers:

What is leading the pronounced increase in activity and investments in manufacturing software over the past several years?

Milosz: A massive “digitization” is occurring across manufacturing, which began with the product design departments, as evidenced by the profound advances now possible within CAD, CAM and Product Lifecycle Management applications. This growing digital world of design is now making its way down to the shop floor – bringing with it a host of new operations management systems to convert all these digital designs into real products. The recent price drop of 3D printers is just one example of how production processes are being significantly impacted by this transformation.

Why should manufacturers care about how well integrated their CMMS and QMS software systems are?

Milosz: Given all the investment in new applications and IT systems to better integrate shop floor operations with product design, it makes sense that each of the other activities done on the shop floor, such as inventory management, quality monitoring and improvement and equipment maintenance must now keep up, or else those vendor applications will soon go the way of the abacus. Part of this transition to a digital world means interconnectivity is a given. In a digital world, no machine, application or employee can reasonably function in a “silo”. Instead, they must work seamlessly together, so as to enable adaptive operations that can change quickly to meet new opportunities, or, to quickly stop out-of-spec production to minimize the potential cost of recalls or poor quality. An example here would be an SPC alert automatically triggering a calibration order based on the process trending out-of-spec.

How does this new level of integration between shop floor applications such as CMMS and QMS impact the process of managing data originating from ERP, CRM or other business systems responsible for financial or transactional records?

Milosz: As they say, you can’t measure what you can’t track. ERP plays an important role in being the system of record. This means that every transaction must be recorded and preserved in this system to ensure corporate records are reflected accurately and with appropriate transparency to meet audit, regulatory and investor requirements. Shop floor systems, however, are completely different in that they must operate with the highest speed and effectiveness in an environment that is often running 24/7. Given this level of stress on these IT systems, an appropriate architecture must be deployed that simultaneously ensures immediate integration to operations processes, an ability to quickly change these processes, as well as an ability to effectively extract reporting data from the activities to then provide intelligence to the management team for continuous process improvement. Batch-style data uploading is an effective approach to ensuring the systems of record are in alignment with the systems of operations. This alignment can be optimized and best managed when each of your operations systems are seamlessly orchestrated – such as run from a single platform or foundation. This type of layout implies a common data model whereby records and programming logic is shared across functions – as well as different locations – such that all of your manufacturing operations can be run seamlessly as if operating on a single, global plant floor.

Would you agree with the following statement?  “Equipment maintenance and quality management are similar in that they become more effective as work within each management discipline transfers from being reactive to proactive.”

Milosz: We always want to be proactive vs. reactive. No one wants to find out that a machine required lubrication after it stopped. In fact, many maintenance organizations are measured by the ratio between reactive and proactive maintenance. Likewise, you don’t want to find out about a quality issue after you have already shipped 100,000 unites to your most important customer! How do you become more proactive? Well, often that is accomplished with intelligence that can be captured while a machine is running. Operators have enough knowledge about their machines to know if a particular performance specification starts to trend out-of-bounds of its normal operating range. Such activity could be indicative of a future issue. What if this intelligence could be instantly captured, processed and then used to alert these operators whenever any such “indicative” behavior begins? That could go a long way towards increasing equipment uptime, or improving quality. This type of scenario is now possible. And, as more systems and equipment is connected together, the more powerful and beneficial such advance notifications can become.

How do you achieve a reliable level of predictive intelligence to ensure that machines can be kept running close to optimal performance as a way to increase quality?  What’s the most important data to monitor?

Milosz: There isn’t really one answer to this question. Predictive intelligence is based on building the right models from historical data and predicting future performance, so the more comprehensive and relevant data you are able to use to build the model the more reliable the model will be. It also depends on what you are making and what the process is that is involved. But, what I can tell you is that whatever your process is, you can always get better. And, after a few years of honing your craft, understanding the intelligence that is available and actively using it for performance improvement, you can then turn this knowledge into a significant competitive advantage – an advantage that can not be easily copied or replicated without going through the same learning curve you went through. IN the end, your competitors might never catch up, provided you continue to move forward with your performance improvement journey!


Parts of this interview were reprinted from FindAccounting Software.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2014/05/qa-the-benefits-of-integrating-maintenance-management-with-quality-intelligence/

Older posts «

» Newer posts