Jul 08 2014

3 Operations Habits of Highly Successful Manufacturing Companies


As activity in the global manufacturing sector continues to grow post the financial crisis of 2007-08, successful in-house operations rest on a few basic factors: keeping costs low, morale high and productivity up. The latest research shows that smart executives build a culture of communication, innovation and respect at their facilities. Learn what experts say you should be doing to help your manufacturing outfit prosper:

1. Embrace Innovation and Open Communication

Pennsylvania State University conducted a study entitled, “Review of Innovation Practices in Small Manufacturing Companies.” One of the key findings researchers Anthony Warren and Gerald Susman discovered for successful manufacturing firms was an open flow of communication between management and employees, along with interdepartmental cooperation.

PBR Pty., an automotive components manufacturer that participated in the study, is a company that excels in a highly competitive industry. Management knew that existing technology and resources may not put them in the best position to maximize profits. The company developed partnerships with other firms to handle issues that would otherwise need a dedicated development team and months of planning to accomplish in-house.

Leverage continuous process improvement and streamline as many processes as possible by establishing relationships with specialty firms. Maintenance on assembly lines is a near-daily occurrence, and it shouldn’t stall production any longer than absolutely necessary. Your parts supplier, for instance, should be able to provide parts in a matter of hours. O-ring manufacturer Apple Rubber calls this “maximizing your advantage.”

Furthermore, consider cloud-based computing solutions to facilitate data storage and security and other functions that would require IT personnel.

2. Offer Fair Wages and Benefits

Employee retention was second only to cost control as top concerns for manufacturing companies, according to a survey by MetLife. Nearly all workers said they’d be interested in more benefits as further incentive to stay on the job.

Your product will only be as good as the workers you have to produce them, and happy workers are productive and content ones. Find out the median and average wages of workers both in your region and industry. You can also find information on what benefits similar companies offer employees and how to make said options available to your employees.

A great benefits package is instantly negated if employees don’t know how to access it. The MetLife survey also found that 70 percent of employees who said HR effectively communicated benefits to them are satisfied with their packages. Contrarily, only seven percent were satisfied when communication was lacking.

3. Respect

The industrial manufacturing firm Armstrong International has not laid off one single employee in its 109-year history. David Armstrong, the company CEO, told Manufacturing.net that his company even prospered during those rough recession years of 2008 and 2009 while many other closed their doors. He credited one simple, yet often overlooked aspect of his company culture for its sustained success: respect.

Recognize individuals for their hard work and accomplishments. These accolades can then be repeated during company meetings and social activities to reinforce a culture of mutual respect. Provide workers with clean bathrooms, dining areas and adequate parking spaces. These little things boost morale and help workers develop pride in what you’re trying to accomplish.


In the end, the expression “the more things change, the more they stay the same” comes to mind. Despite all the technological advances and productivity improvement applications that are now prevalent, organizations are still run by people. If you want to improve your operational efficiency, then a good place to start is how you treat your people. Those with respect, trust, and a sense of belonging will pay considerable rewards to how your organization operates in the future.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2014/07/3-operations-habits-of-highly-successful-manufacturing-companies/

Jun 27 2014

Working at Scale: Which Production Method is Right for Your Business?

batch_process_flow_manufacturingWhen it comes to manufacturing, there are a number of production methods, with each offering a range of benefits depending on product type and market size. All businesses operate differently so it’s important to know the differences between the various production methods to ensure that you are choosing the most suitable and most cost-effective solution. More importantly, it is important to realize that while one production process might work best today, a different one might be better tomorrow. Successful manufacturers understand the need for flexibility with how their operating processes are designed, as well as how easily their IT systems can adapt to potential future changes.

One-off, or Job Production?

Most manufacturing operations for new products begin with a one-off production prototype. This is the most labor intensive process as the product will be unique and untried. They are often produced by hand or with minimal use of machinery and each product is usually finished before the next one is started. Most manufacturers will only use this as a test to ensure that the product works before beginning to produce them in larger numbers.

However, there are companies where each product is different and therefore must continue to be produced this way. For example, blast and paint manufacturer Airblast AFC produces custom blast rooms based on each client’s requirements, meaning each room has to be built differently. This is also true of personalized items like wedding cake figurines and made-to-measure items like designer clothes.

Digital manufacturing strategies provide new ways to improve efficiency within this prototyping stage. Sophisticated modeling capabilities of these types of programs can simulate material properties, how well parts will fit together as well as what processes are involved by the workers to complete the production process. While this type of process can have significant cost savings for large production runs, it can also add value for truly one-off products if waste can be reduced and fewer materials are consumed.

Batch Production

Batch production involves the manufacture of a group of products at the same time. This type of production method is useful for small companies as it can reduce the initial capital outlay. This means that if the batch is unsuccessful then the manufacturer can cease production without incurring large losses. It also offers the manufacturer the ability to produce several products in different variations.

For example, a production process could be used to make a batch of 500 white t-shirts and then reconfigured to make a batch of 500 blue t-shirts. However, this also has its drawbacks as the production line must be stopped and reconfigured between each batch.

Flow Production

Flow or mass production eliminates the problem of downtime associated with batch manufacturing. However, this method is only cost effective when producing large quantities of identical items, so is often beyond the reach of new businesses or those operating in niche markets. The concepts of mass production are applied to various kinds of products, from fluids and particulates handled in bulk (such as food, fuel, chemicals, and mined minerals) to discrete solid parts (such as fasteners) to assemblies of such parts (such as household appliances and automobiles).

Flow production is often largely automated, requiring only a few staff to monitor the process. Producing such large quantities means that the price of each unit will be exponentially reduced. But because the process is mostly automated, it is difficult to make changes once it has been set up and is therefore only suitable for thoroughly tried and tested products. Herein lies one of the greatest challenges to manufacturers today – how do you ramp up quickly to high flow production while still being capable of responding quickly to change? The answer lies within what systems are in place to accommodate change.

A famous example of this scenario is that of the Ford Model T, which was made very affordable thanks to mass production. But, Ford couldn’t respond to customer demand for variety, meaning that they ultimately lost market share to General Motors who were more flexible.


Each of these production methods offers a number of advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the right method can make the difference between success or failure. The savings offered by flow production may be tempting, but if the market is not large enough or you are not agile enough, then you will just end up with huge stockpiles.

Likewise, you may try to be cautious and choose to only make a small batch and end up having to inflate the retail price to cover costs, making it too expensive for the market. The best advice I can give is to research each process thoroughly and to make sure that the production method you choose is proportional to the nature of the product and the size of the market.


Ella Mason can be found on Google+.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2014/06/working-at-scale-which-production-method-is-right-for-your-business/

Jun 24 2014

Apply a Profit Imperative to Traceability Regulations

profit_imperitive_traceabilityWhat follows is a transcript of a podcast recently recorded [hear the podcast recording].

Today we will be talking about The Profit Imperative of New Approaches to Traceability Regulations. I am Debra Gray, and would like to introduce Rick Gallisa, Industry Director for DELMIA Apriso and Julie Fraser, Principal at Iyno Advisors. So, let’s get started. I’ll kick it off with a question to Rick.


Debra: Regulated industries have always had to provide traceability and genealogy. Why is this issue pressing now?

Rick: You’re absolutely right Debra; it always has been a pressing issue. The reason it’s becoming a more pressing issue today is with regards to mandates coming out of regulatory agencies. If you look at the Life Sciences industry, you have the ePedigree initiative around Pharmaceutical and Biotech. You have the Unique Device Identifier initiatives in Medical Device manufacturing. And, oh by the way, both of those have many counterparts in many parts of the world with different governments. In Food & Beverage, you have the Food Modernization Act that was put into law in 2011. And, even in Aerospace & Defense there’s been a spike of counterfeits that have been found in highly sophisticated defense and intelligence systems. All of these things have recently escalated and heightened the sensitivity to counterfeits and the need for higher level of traceability for consumer protection and defense. Those are really the reasons why it’s taking off now.

Julie: Yes, governments have sprung into action with many new regulations, and the thing that you hinted at is that each government takes its own action, so may have a slightly different mandate. Companies need to comply with each of these and “oh by the way,” they need to do it for every product or every variance of a product, so it’s an exponentially more complicated than if you think about just one product or one regulation. So, what’s really what’s been going on is that companies are complying with a lot of regulations for every single product.

Debra: No wonder companies are complaining about all these new regulations. Sounds like it will cost them a lot of money to comply.  How can companies understand that impact?

Julie: I recently wrote a paper explaining that traditional approaches to traceability can make you compliant but they are very, very inefficient. We advise people to consider not only the costs of these traditional ways of doing it, but also some of the soft costs and to go beyond looking at the really obvious costs and include some of the more hidden costs – there are a lot of them to managing quality and traceability and the soft cost of traceability failures are another thing to consider – they’re difficult to calculate but they are very real and really the failures in quality are the impetus behind the regulations.

Rick: At DELMIA Apriso, we saw this coming across these industries we’ve been discussing for the past several years and have developed some very robust solutions that help our customers with better traceability and genealogy tracking. Not just within their four walls of a given manufacturing site, but across their entire global manufacturing operations. And, increasingly more and more with their collaborative partners that these manufacturers are embracing to help with expanding their reach into new markets while lowering their costs. The supply chains are becoming increasingly more complex, which really adds to the challenge.

Julie: It is a huge challenge. Really, every company has a unique information technology landscape. So, companies need to do due-diligence. You really need to identify your systems of record and ask a realistic question: “Are they capable of handling traceability and containment as an end-to-end process?” In many cases, we suspect the answer won’t be “yes,” but you have to realize that profitability is going to be impacted both by the processes to comply with these mandates, and any failures that might result from a lack of traceability and containment.

Debra: Thanks Rick and Julie for sharing your views on why this issue is critical now.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2014/06/apply-a-profit-imperative-to-traceability-regulations/

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/

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