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The transition from hand production methods to machines, from handicraft to high tech, from raw materials to finished goods, started two centuries ago with the Industrial Revolution.
The question is: Where we are now? What is the impact of new technology on the manufacturing process, on the shop floor? Have you noticed something different during the last ten years?
The boom of technology is everywhere--smartphones, smartwatches, electric cars, robots modelling humans, prototypes of cars flying, and the list can go on and on… All of the things previously mentioned born with an Idea, Plan, and Execution. And here, my friend is the role of Manufacturing…We are living in a Fast Manufacturing World. Think about it, everything that you can see and touch has been manufactured. For instance: your car, your clothes, your home, your TV, your food, your phone, airports, hospitals, and everything that you are using daily went through some process where people were involved. Raw materials, machines, high tech systems, and more make up the shop floor, where the magic happens, the “heart” of the process.
What is the shop floor?
Let’s use an analogy. Imagine the “human body” is the “manufacturing”, and the “heart” is the “shop floor”. Of course, you need to have your legs, arms, head, and more. If we continue with the analogy, you also need Logistics, Controlling, HR, and Operations. Every cell inside of the human body is every person working within the organization. Top Management is the brain and mind which make the decisions and define the Vision and Goals.
You can be the best class Manufacturing Process and Shop Floor, have the best team, the best systems, and controls BUT what happens when the shop floor “stops”--“Line Down”,” Down Time”? “May Day! May Day!” Everything can slow down or die.
The next questions are: What we can do to prevent these “heart attacks”? What is the role of technology? What is this generation’s (Baby Boomers, Millennials, X-Y-Z Gen) role? What are the most experienced people in the company’s positions? (I’m not saying the people who have more years working in the company.)
First of all, we need to define what is right and bad for our body/ heart (Manufacturing and Shop Floor). What are the boundaries? What types of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are a MUST to have? What are the triggers that will let us know if something is wrong? Remember, every second count when you are in crisis. You can save the life of the person or company, and having the information in real time will help you to make better decisions. Information like the heart bit = production numbers, scrap, inventory, turnover, training, and more.
"Globalization is pushing us to be the best of the best- -the best in quality, cost, and time"
The trend is moving to have these types of information in real time-- having it in the palm of your hand in the form of your cell phone or computer—no matter where you are. Globalization is demanding to be able to see how business performance is 24/7.
The same happens with the people on the shop floor. These days they can have monitors to see their performance and read their work instructions. This makes them accountable, and accountability is critical for every organization. In the meantime, we are looking for every engineer and supporting areas to optimize their time and results--less “work office – paperless” and more “analysis, improvements, and shop floor support”.
Globalization is pushing us to be the best of the best--the best in quality, cost, and time. Every single day we need to improve and reduce our costs. We are being challenged to work with zero defects, lean processes, and being frugal. Every unique KPI in the organization is challenging us, and we need to use technology and innovation to our advantage.
If we can’t measure it, we can’t improve it. Monitors, cameras, software, and apps have been implemented or created to have the shop floor visible in Real Time-- preventing issues and saving hundreds, thousands, or millions of dollars. Most of the companies are moving forward with innovation, to have sustainability, and to live longer. Everyone wants to live longer, to be healthy and wealthy, and the same is right with Organizations.
Everything starts with an idea, using our imagination to improve or create something that doesn’t exist. Then, you have a plan. Later, you execute it--you are manufacturing your ideas to bring them into reality. Manufacturing started with hand production; if we don’t “Manufacture” our opinion, it will remain just an idea.
The impact and the power that we have using technology in our process and on the shop floor is infinite. We see the results and excellent benefits, but our role is to keep exploring and asking better questions every day.
Imagination is more powerful than Knowledge – Albert Einstein.