Manufacturers take advantage of a new era of connectivity promising improved utilisation of assets. Charles Corner, director at Malton Laser, explains why a good data connection is essential to fully leverage the value of a firm’s plant floor information.
Malton Laser manufactures sheet metal products from steel, stainless steel and aluminium, ranging from components and parts right through to finished assemblies.
In June 2000 the Malton Laser opened its doors for the very first time on the Pyramid Estate Showfield Lane in Malton.
One of the company’s first major projects was to laser cut and form 23 eight-metre-tall stainless-steel letter ‘M’ sculptures supporting large format electronic advertising billboards in Manchester.
Today the company employs 30 people and it runs two fibre laser systems, both fully automated with one-minute changeover sheet handling and the company has three modern press brakes.
The company works from seven industrial units and has just ordered its first robotic welding cell, and Charles Corner, Malton Laser’s director, said that the firm is experiencing further growth and is to invest again very shortly.
The North Yorkshire based company offers a variety of laser cutting, welding, product assembly services with an in-house, state-of-the-art engineering, design and sales department, which means that an interleaved work environment like that requires a seamless data communication between the silos.
Good sales figures require good (data) connections
Recent trends in manufacturing have shown that mobile technologies can accelerate the delivery of business information and data across silos and manufacturers now consider it a critical tool for integrating people and processes.
And advances in mobile technology are liberating information from the confines of the desktop and making it possible to deliver it to the organisation’s frontline, allowing for example sales teams to make more informed decisions in real time.
Charles Corner said about the importance of seamless data flow: “Connectivity is extraordinary important for the company. We have got a high-speed connection which works. Today you can’t do without. Most of our communication regarding internal sale order matters are based on data connectivity.”
As well cloud computing allows manufacturers to process, store, retrieve and analyse large volume of data in real time — across platforms, beyond shop-floor and top-floor boundaries with the help of movable devices.
Corner explained: “In fact, to be most efficient, we invested in a Panasonic system. These are the devices you find in war zones, where in can be tough, and it works in a workshop environment which can be most helpful for getting data down on to the floor.
“The Panasonic system looks like an iPad, and basically, your iPad costs you £400. These things cost £5000, and they are very tough things a with very fast high-speed connection for Wi-Fi.”
Corner added: “They allow to shift all kinds of jobs to the shop floor. You can transfer large amounts of information directly to the man, and digital drawings give you the opportunity to zoom in and interrogate things, for example.”
A good organised data connectivity can reduce overhead, lower prices and accelerate installation — with easier scalability and better collaboration.
Going paperless on the shop floor
Although most functions of the manufacturing enterprise (the shop floor in particular) still rely on paper documents and templates to capture transaction and status data from the field, many manufacturers try to more and more go paperless.
Corner said Malton Laser’s journey is to become increasingly paperless: “For us these devices have been very successful, they are a very lean and an efficient way of doing things.
“So far, our data journey has been reasonable successful. But there are still people in our company working on paper; there is some resistance. Overall, the connectivity internally and to the outside world is important, and our good data connection is very important for our company’s success.”
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