Don’t Make This Common Mistake with your Paperless Shop Floor Decision

Many manufacturing companies today are making the decision to improve the visibility and control of the factory floor production activities through the use of newer technology in computer systems. These new shop floor systems are often considered Paperless Factory Floor Systems or Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), and sometimes they are referred to as, Shop Floor Data Collection (SFDC) or Production Tracking Systems.

The focus of the evaluation for newer factory floor technology needs to start with senior management. The top level executives need to make a decision on who is responsible for improvements in the production process. At a bare-minimum, they must determine the Key Performance Metrics for running an efficient and cost effective production environment that matches up with the corporation’s values on:

1. Cost cutting through better asset management
2. Improvements in customer service and quality
3. Continued commitment to corporate responsibility for sustainability

Too often however, there exists a “blurred line” between Engineering Management, Quality Management and Production Management when it comes to factory floor “paperless systems.” Consequently, a decision might be made that does not match up with upper managements vision for the shop floor production goals and that leaves the middle management moving the deck chairs around on a “sinking process improvement ship”, so to speak.

Mistake # 1. Being fooled that a computer system that directly controls the machine(s) will help with obtaining the goals that provide all three values statements above. These Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (SCADA) can help improve the speed of making a part and the visibility of equipment “availability” (up and down time). But the SCADA will do very little in other areas of the shop floor visibility and control. Areas such as improving the on-time delivery of shipments, customer service visibility to floor activities, elimination of wasted WIP time and/or identifying and implementing best practices. However, the engineering team will push for SCADA in that it is a very interesting, fun and useful project to control machines with computers.

Mistake # 2. Engineering, as well as, Quality, might also push for better document control in a paperless approach to factory floor improvement. However, document management and delivery of those documents on demand to operators is not going to improve on-time deliver, nor will it help identify areas of waste and potential improvement. It will help to eliminate or minimize the shop floor paperwork, such as those stuffed into job packets.

However, the heart and soul of a cost effective factory floor system is the ability to improve the production process starting with better visibility and control of ALL the factory floor activities to be performed during each shift. This includes recording of raw material usage through the production process and up to and including inventory “put away.” The capability to optimize the sequence of activity and then control the execution of these activities, usually in the hands of the Production Management Department, is offered in only certain Shop Floor Production Tracking Software Systems that provide optimized scheduling logic (APS) along with factory activity control known as manufacturing execution (MES) systems.

MES should have an easy-to-use operator User Interface (UI). The User Experience (UX) must be simple and intuitive. Information should be captured through push buttons on touch screens and unique specialized intelligent keypads promoting a “one-click” approach to production and labor tracking. By coordinating all the activities and resources, the MES provides a paperless system (electronic, real-time and interactive) for improving the accuracy and timeliness of all the floor activities. As a result, operators and supervisors have immediate feedback on performance while management has detail and granular analytics for lean manufacturing process improvements.

As mentioned in one of our prior articles…here are the 10 reasons to implement an MES on your factory floor:

1. Data analysis too late to be useful
2. Little or no trace-ability of materials
3. Minimal accountability at the operator level
4. Little or no visibility into WIP production process
5. No “compliance” to the production schedule/rate
6. Too many floor transaction and transcription errors
7. Need a visual systems approach to Lean Manufacturing
8. Multiple copies of the same documents or too much paper handling
9. Too many different systems for the floor and no uniformity of floor systems
10. OEE metrics becoming a necessary floor metric that is wanted by management

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