Originally Published in Made In PA Magazine on 8/10/2017.

Today’s manufacturers face some of the greatest challenges since the advent of the Industrial Revolution.

Demands for higher productivity at lower costs are pushing companies to become leaner and more efficient or face lost business and reduced market share.

All of this is happening while much of manufacturing is moving away from a make-to-stock approach, which is focused mostly on capacity and efficiency, to a make-to-order model, with an emphasis on production capability, flexibility, and responsiveness.

The resulting pressures can seem overwhelming, but manufacturers have a solution to these challenges at their disposal. Many are leveraging real-time process visibility and business intelligence to optimize their manufacturing performance.

Here are three ways manufacturers are doing it:

Living Lean

Companies that follow lean principles operate more efficiently—whether it’s by building to customer demand rather than forecasts, or bringing material to the plant only when needed, as opposed to keeping stockpiles on hand.

Every point in the supply chain can potentially harbor inefficiencies. Conversely, every visible asset or event can potentially be improved, optimized, planned or staged for maximum responsiveness, efficiency and flexibility.

This is far easier with visibility into all of your assets and individual processes. Manufacturers can achieve this by tracking and monitoring of every point in the supply chain and be deploying real-time data and analytical tools to provide a complete picture across their operations.

Shifting from Capacity to Capability

Many customers now demand greater production flexibility and
responsiveness, as well as product customization. This requires a shift away from a capacity focus and toward manufacturing capability. To make this transition, manufacturers need to be agile and reactive, and to do this is by empowering plant staff to be knowledge workers as opposed to operators.

When workers have analytical and decision-making skills, coupled with access to business intelligence and data from key processes and machinery, they can make decisions in real-time to support the most efficient means of producing and delivering the right products to meet customer needs.

Moving to Real-Time Data

Much of the information in a manufacturing enterprise sits in disjointed data silos. Systems are usually implemented at various points in the supply chain, and integrated with a central ERP system. However, while some of this data may be accessible centrally, the devices that track each asset or process often lack real-time connectivity. This limits business intelligence to a historical view rather than a current, real-time perspective.

By capturing data in real-time and turning it into actionable information, manufacturers can gain full visibility into their supply chain and any asset or process, at any given moment. This makes it far easier to react in real-time to changing customer demands or requirements, streamline and optimize processes on the fly, and evolve toward optimal production capability. It allows manufacturers to know exactly what’s happening at every stage in the supply chain and orchestrate production to deliver to order, maximize efficiency, and ensure the highest possible quality.

Ultimately, knowing the real-time status of every machine, component and finished good, and having the ability to manage and optimize mission-critical processes, will be the difference between best-in-class manufacturers and those who struggle to compete and survive.

To become a factory of the future, manufacturers will need to invest in the mobile technologies, automated data collection, connectivity, and business applications to make it all possible.

In our experience at Avalon Integration, implementing these technologies has been the best investment our clients have made. It’s made easier by emerging innovations in affordable and effective technologies for manufacturing automation and visibility, including solutions from our partners at Zebra Technologies.

To download Avalon’s white paper on the warehouse of the future, go to https://avalonintegration.com/news-and-resources/.

Contact us today for information.