The Top Manufacturing Challenges – and How Enact Can Help: Part 2

Rick Sloop
By Rick Sloop | March 15, 2022
Director, Service Programs

Fact checked by Stephen O'Reilly

So, here we are at Part 2 of our short blog series about the big challenges that modern manufacturers are facing today. As I mentioned in Part 1: a few times a year, I get together with a couple of old friends of mine from the manufacturing industry to catch up, grab some dinner, and talk into the night. This blog series is the result of a dinner and conversation I had with one old friend back in December of last year. We usually talk about the manufacturing things we have in common: Statistical Process Control (SPC), quality control, waste reduction…those sorts of things.
 
But this time he quickly steered the conversation away to the big challenges his organization was facing, “Well, we really can't focus any resources right now on quality control or SPC,” he said. “We've got much bigger problems...”
 
So, he went on to describe the challenges of losing tribal knowledge, onboard training, and system usability. I couldn’t help but see how our cloud-native quality management software platform, Enact®, could help with each and every challenge he mentioned. It was uncanny.
Enact for Quality Control 
So, now we’re on to part two, wherein our discussion continued—to include the additional (big) challenges his company was facing: automation and digital transformation. Let’s dive right in…
 

Digital Transformation

“Digital transformation,” my friend says. And then just looks at me. “Corporate is pushing for digital transformation, whatever that means,” he shrugs. “I guess they want to move things to the cloud, or whatever.”
 
Everyone, it seems, is concerned with digital transformation these days. Writing during the heart of the pandemic, my colleague, Jason Chester, InfinityQS Director of Global Channel Programs, stated in this blog that 2021 was going to be “the year of digital transformation.” He was right; and I think it has definitely carried over into 2022. “We are seeing the pace of digital transformation projects dramatically increase. Enterprise-wide, strategic goals of digital transformation have become a tactical priority as manufacturers attempt to solve very specific challenges and tackle areas of weakness on a case-by-case basis using digital transformation approaches.”
 
Jason says that data is “widely accepted as the single most critical feature of the journey we are all on toward the ‘new normal.’”
 
“Not just data in and of itself, but how data is captured, stored, accessed, analyzed, and utilized to ensure that manufacturers remain as agile, efficient, productive, and cost effective as possible.”
 
As Jason states in his Quality Transformation blog series, “In today’s high-stakes world of manufacturing, you cannot sit quietly by while your competitors make continual efforts to improve; you cannot remain content with your organization’s status quo, or you risk being left behind. The underlying causes of performance and quality challenges in manufacturing today often can be traced back to a single problem—data.”
 
So, what is it? What is “digital transformation?” Digital transformation is moving from what Jason calls “dysfunctional” data towards “actionable intelligence”—the kind of information that Enact quality management software puts in your hands. The kind of information that can transform your organization.
Quality on the Shop Floor

Automation

“And, of course, corporate is also pushing for automation,” my friend says. “They think automation will get us around some of the employee retention issues and things like that.”
 
If your company is pushing for more automation, perhaps it’s because they are seeing too many human errors being made in production; or maybe it’s because management wants to reduce the number of tasks for which the operators are responsible; or perhaps they see the value of easy access to process and product data in their efforts to improve productivity and quality. Automating data collection can reduce operator task time, reduce errors, and assist with productivity and quality improvements.
Automated Data Collection 
For automated data collection, Enact offers ADC, or automated data collection. There are many areas of your operations where you can automate and eliminate the need for a worker writing on a check sheet or keying information in. So, it's not automation as people typically think of it—like robotics or something—but just having the data collection automated can save you time and errors.
 
InfinityQS COO, Doug Fair, wrote extensively about automated data collection and its benefits in his blog, From Manual to Fully Automated Data Collection with InfinityQS Quality Management Software Systems. Here’s a sample:
 
“Fully automated data collection is performed with measurement devices that an operator does not manipulate. For example, a manufacturer might utilize programmable logic controllers (PLC) data streams—for capturing and revealing machine speeds, feeds, and temperatures. That's a great example of a system that sits out there in the manufacturing space collecting data (or presenting data to people) all the time. Why not tap into it?
 
“Our software can dip into those data streams and gather data on a regularly scheduled basis. Data streams can even be automatically sampled. Once data is gathered, charts and graphs are automatically updated and presented in real-time to operators and others. Automatic updating of charts is another huge benefit to an operator—it allows the operator to further reduce the amount of time required to work on the computer or manipulate a gauge. By minimizing that time, operators have more time to attend to quality issues, control their process, and ensure compliance.
 
“If collected data violates specification limits or generates a statistical alarm, then operators, managers, and support personnel are notified automatically. InfinityQS software (Enact or ProFicient) sends emails in real-time so that, even if you are travelling, you receive immediate notices of quality issues.
 
“Generally speaking, fully automated (and semi-automatic) data collection provide much more information to your operator, in a shorter period of time. These benefits greatly improve focused process control efforts, but the benefits extend beyond the plant—to regions and to the entire enterprise.”
Enact Helps Manufacturers Tackle Challenges

In Closing

So, all of these thoughts—from here and from Part 1 of this series (in which we discussed onboard training, losing tribal knowledge, and system usability) and right on into automation and digital transformation—sprang from just a nice dinner and quiet conversation with a friend in the manufacturing industry. Like I said, he’s worked in production for years and we usually talk about things like SPC, quality control, and waste reduction…but he opened my eyes to a whole host of other challenges that worry today’s manufacturers.
 
And, of course, the answers to those issues led me directly to Enact…and to the thing we excel at here at InfinityQS—helping our customers succeed. Thanks for joining me for this short series!
 
 
Take advantage of the technology at your fingertips today: contact one of our account managers (1.800.772.7978 or via our website) for more information.
 

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