Cathie Hall, managing director of K3 Syspro, explains why, when it comes to fuelling growth, manufacturers need to look at systems, processes and technologies, and understand the possibilities that each present.
There is no better way to fuel the growth of manufacturing in the UK than by increasing the capacity of existing manufacturers.
Time and time again “supporting growth” comes near the top of “reasons to implement ERP,” as businesses feel their systems constrain their ability to grow
Growth constraints might come through manual sales order processing, or perhaps scheduling issues on the factory floor that increase lead times to customers, or ineffective stock control.
But by only looking at their ERP systems, manufacturers are limiting their ability to increase capacity with their existing asset base.
Fuelling growth in manufacturing requires a joined-up approach: utilising systems and integration techniques, continually improving processes and adopting new technologies.
I was lucky enough to recently visit the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry, a centre which certainly takes a joined-up approach.
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Lean initiatives are well ingrained in the psyche of UK manufacturers, but like all initiatives they have to be frequently revisited.
How much time is spent “waiting” for materials, machine set-ups, tools or specialist labour? How closely is supply matched to demand, are under produced items leading to poor customer satisfaction, or over produced items leading to high warehousing costs, large stock write offs and a lack of working capital?
Are products produced right first time or are there quality issues that need to be addressed to eliminate rework or rejects?
Of course, ERP can help with these challenges
Using modules such as materials requirement planning (MRP), advanced planning & scheduling (APS) and inventory optimisation to match supply and demand, manufacturers can ensure the right resources are available for the production plan in the right time frame, and better forecast stock requirements to keep inventory levels low while meeting customer “on time in full” requirements.
But manufacturers also need to ensure there are corresponding processes that feed data accurately into these systems, and more importantly, they need to make use of the data coming out of the systems. Otherwise the value added to the business is limited – and so is growth.
Feeding quality information from shop floor machines and processes, into an ERP system which can then harness the power of machine learning via the cloud, to feedback analytics which can highlight to manufacturers the areas they need to focus on.
The results may lead to a new training programme, closer supervision of the night shift or perhaps the business case for new technology.
Implementing automation on the shop floor may result in productivity gains, but if there is a huge manual effort involved in sending the job and collecting the quantity information at the end of the job, then these productivity gains can quickly be lost.
Using a piece of integration technology such as K3-DataSwitch can automate these information flows.
Where to start
Sometimes it can be difficult for manufacturers to know where to start, how to envision the whole piece, or simply they can’t afford to take the risk and try something new.
The MTC, is one of seven High Value Manufacturing Catapult centres in the UK, supported by government and dedicated to bridging the gap between new manufacturing technologies and their application.
The MTC doesn’t just concentrate on the latest technologies (and it has all the latest technologies from a virtual reality CAVE to cutting-edge component manufacturing systems, friction welders to net shape and additive manufacturing, intelligent automation and robotics), but also focuses on lean and six-sigma initiatives, manufacturing informatics and analytics.
It provides the joined-up approach that manufacturers are looking for and helps UK manufacturing take advantage of the many new technologies that are available to deploy.
So, when it comes to fuelling growth, manufacturers need to look at systems, processes and technologies. They need to understand the possibilities that each present and more importantly how they all integrate together to create capacity.