Creating a Transparent Manufacturing Experience for Your Clients
By Don Rahrig, CEO at Rain Engineering.
What is Transparency?
In the data-driven digital era of client expectations, people are bringing their personal expectations with them to work. Businesses are run by people, and those individuals are shaped by preferences and experiences developed outside of work. They expect to know where their order is at all times regardless of a company's capabilities. If they are not able to trace their order at every step, they are not able to plan accordingly, and it lowers their overall experience. Given the importance of client experience, and other online directory reviews, not providing data in a consistent predictable way risks the company's potential future purchases.
Creating a transparent experience for your clients requires the constant updates and data communication across every aspect of your operations. That means not only being able to glean data whenever and however you need it, but also being able to use that data to forecast, resolve, and prevent potential issues that could break the promises you’ve made to your clients. We understand how challenging it can be to find time to find time to implement more changes. Below, we have outlined the most efficient way to adapt to the new client expectations based on our experience with previous implementations. Through properly connecting your machines, your business will improve planning, scheduling, and enhance communication, thus creating a great client experience.
The first step in achieving production transparency is collecting the necessary data from your shopfloor’s machinery. Many facilities have yet to achieve this step. The good news is that once connected, machines are usually able to provide this information `in real-time'. The challenge lies in retrieving the data in a ready to use format. There are options for connecting most legacy equipment to today’s advanced systems. Connecting to your machines enables a lot of advanced software and technology tools, including performance management, WIP tracking, first pass and in-process quality. Operation management is also enhanced as data insights are more available.
Whether it’s people, machinery, or materials, critical resources are finite. Prioritizing your production across them is pivotal to any successful operation. Throw in a late purchase order for raw materials or an operator’s resignation to that process and you’re looking at a potential mess that ripples throughout your entire operation. Those ripples can lead to missed deadlines, confusion, and broken promises. Creating transparency in your production planning requires an advanced planning and scheduling (APS) software that is capable of allocating your available resources. Today’s solutions enable managers build out rules that are then used to plan production based on resource allocation and prioritization. These solutions are also able to reactively adjust when a product arises, shifting resources in the most optimal ways. It's difficult to predict what will happen on your lines, but you can minimize the damage done through advanced planning.
When it comes to production schedules, most manufacturers are still relying on human schedulers to shoulder most of the work. While these workers are no doubt experts in their area, they are often unable to react to sudden fluctuations or downtime in the manufacturing process. Whether it’s a delayed shipment of raw materials or a piece of machinery down, the human scheduler very often has to spend their workdays playing catchup to correct hiccups. This reactionary scheduling means they aren’t able to spend their time looking days or weeks ahead. Not to mention that the immense pressure and demands on today’s human schedulers can result in even more problems. Today’s APS solutions take that burden of responsibility off of your schedulers. Many modern APS tools automatically create production schedules for however long out you wish.
There is no point in having any of this information if it is never communicated with the client. Furthermore, waiting for your client to ask for an update to communicate the order status is too late as it most likely means you’re not living up to their transparency expectations. Modern MES solutions can integrate directly to your ERP and from there the data can be distributed to client facing solutions such as a web portal. Instead of picking up the phone every time they have a question about order status, the client can then keep track of it right there in real-time.
Client expectations are increasing and creating the transparent experience that your clients expect and deserve requires synergy of multiple business faucets. Trying to implement all of these various solutions on your own can lead to massive headaches. Rain Engineering is now offering a free connectivity assessment exclusively for IMA members. To learn more or sign up for the free assessment, visit https://raineng.com/assessment-ima/.