In the third of our ‘Lean manufacturing in the digital age’ series, we explore how inefficient and out-dated systems can prevent your ability to provide excellent customer experiences.
The modern trading environment is uncertain, full of disruption and highly competitive. In today’s world of instant gratification and on-demand services, it’s never been easier to shop around and find the product or service that best fits your unique requirements.
Increasingly, businesses are discovering that customers are prioritising experience over price, value over brand loyalty. At the click of a button, customers are switching suppliers quickly and frequently, and businesses are struggling to keep up.
As ever, it will be the more agile and responsive organisations that are most likely to benefit from rapidly changing market conditions. Those that prioritise innovation and develop new routes to market will maintain a competitive edge and successfully meet future demands.
But it’s not just about adopting the right mindset, having the right systems and processes in place is equally as important.
Growth-Focused Mindset + Modern Technology = Customer Value
Creating a more diverse, customised product portfolio; offering customers the opportunity to become involved much earlier in the production process (such as the initial design stage); alerting customers to potential issues before they occur; and providing efficiency recommendations to optimise performance are just some of the ways in which manufacturers are looking to provide unique experiences.
All these activities represent an opportunity to create greater value in your customers’ businesses – transitioning from selling standalone products to offering value-added services that unlock more predictable (potentially very lucrative) revenue streams.
Underpinning them all are the capabilities provided by modern, increasingly cloud-based, tools such as:
- Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES),
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP),
- Supply Chain Management (SCM),
- Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP),
- and Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
Adopting these systems (or upgrading your current versions) isn’t just about capitalising on new opportunities, though. By optimising the performance of your day-to-day operation, they also offer the opportunity to get the basics right and set a solid foundation for future growth.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure
Many manufacturers still struggle to accurately measure, and therefore move the needle, when it comes to key business metrics including overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), lead time, material cost per unit (MCPU), work-in-progress (WIP) and on-time-in-full (OTIF).
These key performance indicators (KPIs) enable a business to make better use of production capacity, optimise productivity, increase quality, improve delivery times, minimise waste, and maintain control of costs. All of which directly impact your ability to deliver an impeccable customer experience.
These KPIs should be the bedrock of any modern manufacturing organisation and must be established and embedded before any attempt to start offering more value-added services can begin in earnest.
Martin’s Rubber is one manufacturer successfully reaping the rewards from accurate shop floor data collection.
Success story: Martin’s Rubber
Martin’s Rubber has been trading for more than 150 years and specialises in the development, production and supply of rubber products including technical seals and specialist mouldings.
The Southampton-based, family-owned business serves a wide range of demanding markets, from aerospace, defence, oil & gas and general manufacturing, through to niche automotive and special vehicle operations for most of the teams competing in Formula One, World Rally and Touring Cars.
The business manufacturers hundreds of different parts with variable batch runs, and lead times that vary from ‘while you wait’ to more than a year for defence contracts. The complexity of its operations requires accurate and robust data collection from the factory floor in order to improve manufacturing efficiency.
Martin’s Rubber successfully moved away from paper-based shop floor data collection more than 20 years ago. Having spent the intervening years writing their own bespoke software, the business recognised that future growth and resilience could only be achieved through a more intuitive and flexible system.
An integrated system
The business had already invested in an ERP solution provided by award-wining software provider, Access Group, with the intent of creating a standard platform to support its increasingly complex supply chain.
By integrating Mestec (MES) into Access ERP and Access Orchestrate, an Advanced Production planning and Scheduling tool, Martin’s Rubber now has the ability to manage the whole production environment experience.
“Mestec integrating with Access helps us control costs and has enabled us to improve our performance on several levels. Because we can accurately measure actual values against expected, we can assess where we are against our plan and, if necessary, do something about it,” explains Adam Hooper, operations director at Martin’s Rubber.
“Access Orchestrate gives us visibility of all the jobs that we have in the system, including the time that those jobs should take and the resources they require in terms of machines and people.
“It juggles those various constraints and comes up with the most effective manufacturing sequence. Mestec then sends work-to lists to operators’ portable tablets in this priority order at a work-centre level.”
Building the ‘digital factory’
As well as collecting data, the system is used to share work-lists, send drawings and provide real-time feedback to operators. Being able to present that information electronically enables the business to keep everything relevant to the shop floor in one place, and relevant in real time.
Manufacturers are increasingly seeing the value of replacing manual and paper-based processes with automated systems that can increase productivity while helping to reduce costs and human-error on the shop floor.
By building an in-depth picture of what is happening in its factory, this is exactly what Martin’s Rubber has managed to achieve.
Knowing that customers have the power to instantly switch suppliers, software needs be customer-focused for manufacturers to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
For further reading, The Access Group and The Manufacturer have created a resource hub on Lean to assist manufacturers looking to take proactive technological steps.
Every Monday, we will be publishing a new article in the Lean manufacturing in the digital age series:
- The key to Lean Manufacturing in the digital age
- Is Frankenstein’s monster disrupting your Production Planning?
- Don’t let Legacy Software be the albatross around your neck
- Does your supply chain contain more holes than Swiss cheese?
- Greater productivity isn’t delivered by hand
- Could the loss of one person sink your business?