Introduction to Manufacturing Ops
In simple words, a manufacturing operation is a process in which materials are changed, converted, or transformed onto a new state or form. Manufacturing Ops deals with the smooth functioning of such processes.
In today’s fiercely competitive space, where supply outstrips demand for a lot of products, an enterprise’s manufacturing segment can prove to be a significant differentiating factor. Ensuring that you have effective processes in place across the manufacturing operations can enhance your organization’s ability to satisfy consumer demand, release products into the market, and your ability to improve your manufacturing operations. But how can we do that? Let’s find out.
Stages of Manufacturing Ops
Manufacturing operations can be segmented into the following:
- Production planning
Production planning works closely with the procurement and material management functions. It ensures that the raw materials and other perquisites are prepared for the production runs. Flow charts can be used to dictate efficient communication protocols among the functional teams.
- Manufacturing engineering
The manufacturing engineering phase consists of designing the systems and processes necessary to complete high-quality production runs. Flow charts and workflows are necessary to help design the assembly processes properly.
- Manufacturing & Assembly
The manufacturing & assembly stage involves setting up the facility for production runs and putting the materials through to completion. Creating flow charts of the production run will help you measure the KPIs (e.g., defects before assembly, product mixing time, etc.) for the specific yet critical steps in the assembly process.
- Quality Assurance
The quality assurance function is related to the inspection of finished goods after production. Checklists and flow charts are necessary to standardize finished goods inspection and ensure that all defects can be detected and then mitigated in the future.
- Facility management
Maintaining equipment, safety, and overall environment of the manufacturing facilities need specific protocols for PM, temperature, space usage, etc. Flow charts can help ensure consistency among the facility management tasks and promote transparency as the employees need to know the facility maintenance schedules and processes.
What Are the Problems Associated with Manual Processes?
Due to natural reasons, manual processes are fraught with flaws. With a lot of variables affecting the performance and accuracy of manual workers, the processes lack standardization and effectiveness. Some problems associated with manual processes are:
Traceability can be understood as the ability to track every part throughout the manufacturing process, from the entry of raw materials to when the finished products are shipped. This complex process of tracking each product down the production line cannot be accomplished manually.
- Manual errors
Due to the inherent nature of manual work, errors are bound to happen. Human accuracy and efficiency can vary significantly from time to time, leaving room for operational inefficiency and manual errors.
- Data Security
There has been wide adoption of technologies enabling better planning and execution in the manufacturing segment. For example, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software helps create and manage basic plant schedules, including production, material use, shipping, etc. Another one is Manufacturing Execution System (MES), which helps manage and report plant activities in real-time.
However, there are sub-processes in manufacturing & assembly and QA that are still manually done on paper. This might put sensitive and even confidential data under security threats.
Why Digitization is Gaining Popularity in the Manufacturing Segment
Gone are the days of 2D schematics, paper drawings, and punch cards. Processes can be automated and digitized now. All the data can be easily recorded and stored digitally. Even designs are being prepared in 3D CADE files. Tersely, disruption has become the key driver for digitization.
So, digitization is not the same as digitalization. Put simply; it is the process of converting non-digital formats of data into digital formats. So, how does digitization in manufacturing help?
- Data in digital formats
Digitization makes it much easier to record and store data digitally automatically. The required data can be easily recovered and shared across different teams. Since no manual document work is needed, time is saved. Also, everybody gets access to the same data in real-time.
- Improved decision making
By analyzing data from different data points across the production line, you can identify the weak points and perform root-cause analysis. You can also better monitor the inventories and overall material flow. By flattening data silos and enabling data to be accessed in real-time anywhere, enterprises can better act on innovation trends, customer demands and market opportunities.
Examples of Digital Transformation in the Manufacturing Industry
Firstly, what is digital transformation in the manufacturing industry? So, data transformation in manufacturing can be defined as the adoption of digital solutions to replace non-digital or legacy manufacturing processes. Some data transformation examples in manufacturing are:
- Enhanced tracking & traceability
Modern tools can help automate the complex process of production tracking and traceability. Each part and product can be automatically monitored along the production line, and all the relevant data will be recorded. One way of accomplishing this is by using barcodes and scanners. Furthermore, IoT-connected devices can help organizations easily keep track of inventories and tool locations.
- Predictive maintenance
Predictive maintenance is a condition-based technology that monitors the performance of industrial assets via sensors and IoT devices. It aims to minimize the frequency of maintenance tasks, reduce unprecedented breakdowns and eliminate unnecessary preventive maintenance. In fact, using IoT capabilities, Tetra Pak was able to utilize real-time data to predict the maintenance time accurately.
- Improved throughput
A California-based fruit supplier was able to increase his production by 50% without hiring even a single employee. Part of the organization’s solution was an automation system that included history analysis, alarm notification, and other data reporting capabilities.
In this blog post, we first discussed why having effective manufacturing processes is crucial for any enterprise. Then, we understood the different stages/phases of manufacturing operations. Next, we understood the issues resulting from manual processes and how digitization and digital transformation can help address those. Lastly, we discussed some digital transformation examples in the manufacturing industry.