Beating the Competition: The Top 3 Things that Matter

So many things matter in life. Enjoying family and friends. Being a good person. Standing up for what you believe in. Eating ice cream (may be a personal one of mine, not sure this applies to everyone). At work, beating the competition matters. The competition is trying to steal your job. They’re trying to take food off your plate and take money away from your family. This may sound harsh, but think about it, it’s true.

shutterstock_133893887So, how do you ensure you beat the competition? Manufacturing has been around forever, how can you make a positive impact? Manufacturing is all about continuous improvement. How do you get better? Reduce waste, reduce downtime, improve overall operating efficiency, stop recalls before they ship, etc. Incremental change is good. Step change improvements are better. Often a 1% improvement can make a huge impact.

There are many ways to make positive improvements. Process changes, cultural transformations, and leveraging manufacturing technology can all expose inefficiencies and drive step change improvements. However, manufacturing technology has also become a battleground, and implementing the right manufacturing solution really matters.

Generally the CIO has invested massive, huge, tremendously large amounts of budget, time and sweat in deploying an ERP. He or she wants to extend that footprint to the plant floor. The person responsible for the plant and its overall performance doesn’t want the ERP on the plant floor.  Why? Because it just won’t make the positive improvements that matter and will result in hundreds of bolt-on solutions (e.g., Excel® spreadsheets, homegrown apps, Access databases, etc.) to fill the gaps of what the ERP won’t do. The plant manager wants to beat the competition, not deploy something his or her people won’t use. Manufacturing software needs to be compatible and coexist with the ERPs (no silos), but it also needs to make a positive impact on production.

So, from a manufacturing solutions perspective, what technology does the Plant Manager or the VP of Manufacturing or the business savvy CIO want to use? Every industry is different, but here are three things that typically matter.

1) User Interface matters. The user interface (UI) must be easy to use, push the data to the user at the right time, and be available in a variety of forms (HMI screens, web, mobile devices, etc.). ERPs have a UI that is designed for finance, not the plant floor. The UI needs to make it easier for people to do their job, not harder. User experience matters.

2) Deep digital genealogy/traceability matters. This is becoming a mission-critical functionality regardless of industry. In order to avoid a food recall, you need to know everything about that packaged salad before it’s on the truck. There are thousands of parts in an aircraft engine. Make sure you know things like what every supplier did and know every non-conformance associated to each part. The key to true genealogy is not just to capture the basics about your product, but you also need to know the details, such as capturing all quality measurements and validating that each part was in spec at the point of capture; capturing all the work instructions used, and capturing all the process equipment used along with key process variables with the genealogy and traceability. Knowing everything about the products you manufacture matters.

3) Route management matters. Especially in complex discrete industries, this is key. You need the ability to manage routes and have this be dynamic, so that the routes change intelligently based on what you are manufacturing. Route management is the lifeblood of many discrete industries. Again, the devil is in the details. Route management reduces inefficiencies and also drives real value around a reduction in WIP through real-time WIP visibility (imagine displaying all your real-time WIP information on large, self-updating plant floor displays, iPad® devices, etc.). Managing your routes and providing WIP visibility matters.

Beating the competition matters. Make the choices that will allow you to beat the competition. And eat some ice cream along the way. Enjoying your success matters too.