You’re doing well, but you can always do better—especially if you’re a manufacturer. There’s never a shortage of business processes to optimize.
As you set your goals for 2019, don’t get distracted by buzzwords and fads. Stick with the tried and true. Aim to make improvements that will deliver ROI year after year. Here are three suggestions.
1. Move from manual, paper-based processes and disparate systems to one version of the truth.
Manufacturing is complex. It can be tough to keep up with all the moving parts. Attempting to do so through manual, paper-based processes is a recipe for human error, which inevitably drags down product quality.
But if you’re looking for ways to upgrade your technology in 2019, don’t settle for point solutions that simply digitize and automate your manual processes. Sure, you’ll save time, but you won’t do much to increase control over, and insight into, your production processes.
Instead, strive to establish a single version of the truth across your organization. By using a manufacturing ERP with a single, common database, you can store all your business objects in one place for a more complete view of each process and every customer. You’ll also dramatically improve the accuracy of your reporting because there will be no need to re-enter, convert, or translate data across multiple sources.
All of this digitization helps you achieve better product quality. For example, you can use software to impose inspections at designated intervals, virtually automating compliance. And by collecting quality data through the system—rather than on paper—you’ll have the real-time view you need to eliminate waste and reduce errors throughout your production operations.
2. Connect your entire business to the cloud.
Having all your data in a single database is just one aspect of enhancing your operations and boosting product quality. When you use a cloud manufacturing ERP or manufacturing execution system (MES), you can let your people connect to your processes, machines, systems, and applications from any web-enabled device.
Achieving this kind of connectivity can be a boon to your company as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) continues to gain importance. By collecting massive amounts of data from your shop floor machines and equipment and making it available to your decision-makers, you can take a major step towards becoming a data-driven business.
As you seek to get the most out of cloud technology, focus on:
- Shop floor automation. When your systems and equipment can talk to each other and integrate with your supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) layer, you can capture activity in real time and make more decisions at the manufacturing moment.
- Connecting your shop floor to your top floor. Rather than implementing separate ERP and MES systems, try adopting one unified system that gives you visibility across all your facilities.
- Supply chain connectivity. The cloud can also help you put more information at the fingertips of your customers, suppliers, and employees. Customers can get shipping updates and share projected demand information with your staff. Suppliers can do everything from review your forecasts to collaborate with you on product design.
- Protecting your previous IT investments. A cloud-based manufacturing platform can communicate with your other applications through APIs. You can even use an enterprise identity and access management (IAM) system to enable a single sign-on across applications.
3. Leverage your visibility and control—which your competitors envy.
If you’re really serious about lean manufacturing, consider how you can increase your visibility and control in ways that enable continuous improvements in key areas. For example:
- Reducing scrap. Use a manufacturing system that automatically records complete information about scrapped units. Your operators will then be able to intervene if they see harmful trends emerging—and your business will be able to keep a running tally of the dollar value of your scrap.
- Managing inventory. Record all your materials movement and operations with a barcode scanner. Your ERP or MES system will then have a continuously updated record of how much inventory you have in raw, work-in-progress, or finished good status—and where it is right now. This leaves little chance that your inventory will ever be out of balance.
- Capturing data. When you digitize your processes and record them automatically at the manufacturing moment, you give your whole enterprise a clearer view of production quality. Having real-time operational data helps you expose previously hidden pockets of waste in even your most efficient operations.
How to Stay Focused Throughout 2019
Need a visual reminder of what you should be aiming for in 2019? Download this handy infographic: The System of Record for Leading Manufacturers