Canadian Plastics

Opinion: Connecting management to manufacturing

By Richard J. Goldstein   



Managing a manufacturing organization can be both thrilling and frustrating. Manufacturers must make decisions daily using whatever information is most readily available....

Managing a manufacturing organization can be both thrilling and frustrating. Manufacturers must make decisions daily using whatever information is most readily available.

For example, a CEO constantly challenged his senior managers to manufacture products with reduced staff and facilitation resources. This CEO wanted the lowest manufacturing costs possible to help increase profits. His challenge forced front-line managers to think “outside the box,” to find novel methods of achieving these goals. Instead of hiring full-time employees, the managers found a staffing organization that supplied tradesmen on a rental basis. They also found sub-suppliers to eliminate other direct costs.

However, the extra amount of work and time spent enabling these cutbacks drove up internal overheads and pushed the business into bankruptcy. Why did this happen? It was the result of not having the systems or tools to track every part of the manufacturing and assembly process.

A management rule of thumb is that managers cannot make high-value decisions when they are unsure, unclear or lack the real-time data needed to make the best decisions possible. Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) can be used to help make such high-value decisions using real-time information.

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But before deploying MES, it is crucial to understand what exactly real-time information is. Machine tools use controls that require real-time results of one millisecond. One millisecond is how often instructions are sent from the CNC control to the servo drives and motors allowing them to make precision straight-line cuts and circular paths.

However, real-time data communications for financial systems is typically slower than real-time communications for machine tools. As well, there is a lag time between when data is collected manually on the manufacturing floor and when it is inputted into the financial system.

So why do manufacturers use this manual system? Many think it is cost-effective. In reality, manually collecting production or process data is a recipe for disaster. Data can be lost, misread or simply not collected at all. On today’s modern manufacturing floor with multiple work shifts, a vast amount of information has to be accurately collected and quickly merged with financial and accounting systems. Manufacturers can no longer afford the perceived luxury of manual data collection operations.

The best way to solve the inefficiency of manual data collection is to electronically connect the manufacturing floor with the financial systems, and automate the collection and evaluation of production and process data.

FIVE POINTS FOR ROLLING OUT AN MES:

1. Compared to machine tool controls, financial systems do not provide real-time data.

2. Production machinery is nothing more than a collection of islands of automation.

3. Quality depends on the method, timing and documentation of manufacturing data.

4. Paper-based manual data collection systems are full or errors.

5. Customers demand better data, quality, and cost control.

Implementing a MES is the only way for manufacturers to enable profit-enhancing decisions, and gain better control of processes so they can respond more quickly to customer requirements, which will result in increased profits.

Richard Goldstein is the vice-president of Syscon-PlantStar in South Bend, Ind. He can be reached at rjgoldstein@syscon-intl.com.

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