Pizza deliveries jump 30 percent on Super Bowl Sunday. That kind of demand shift can give pizza makers fits, especially if they didn’t see it coming. Fortunately for the pizza companies, the Super Bowl date is publicized far in advance. But what if every pizza shop in America all of a sudden asked a single pizza oven manufacturer to build and ship an extra oven per shop? In this case, there might be issues. How does a manufacturer organize operations to meet unexpected demand shifts without creating inefficiency for the rest of the year?
A Dynamic Environment
Unpredictability exists throughout the supply chain. Bad weather disrupts shipping, earthquakes put plants out of production and the political environment can shift quickly.
Historically, inventory has buffered the peaks and troughs of supply and demand so that manufacturers could produce at a steady rate. But inventory is expensive. It ties up space and money that could otherwise be used for additional tasks, and when it deteriorates, there’s an immediate risk of obsolescence.
Today’s manufacturers are running more lean than ever. There’s minimal inventory throughout the supply chain with goods produced “Just-in-Time.” Product lifecycles are getting shorter and consumers demand more choice, so changeover frequency is multiplying. And on top of it all, many industries are seeing pressure for effective traceability systems and recall management.
Wherever challenges exist, solutions emerge. For manufacturers wrestling with uncertainty in an ever-evolving industry, a range of innovative ideas offer solutions. These include:
Enterprise Resource Planning
Whether on-premise or in the cloud, manufacturers must utilize some form of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to run their plants efficiently. An advantage of incorporating a cloud-based ERP is the ability to integrate with other cloud solutions. Though, with the rapid rate of change happening across industries, businesses need to be agile and flexible regardless of the application. Advanced technologies are changing the ways manufacturers operate, so the ERP must enable these companies to adapt and succeed.
Manufacturers need an adaptable, role-based and modern user experience when it comes to gathering and appropriating their data. Colloquially termed, “Big Data” tools, analytics products can merge data from multiple sources to yield new insights into demand patterns, product quality, purchasing and even equipment maintenance. With QAD’s Channel Islands User Experience (UX), users can track real-time KPIs, based on embedded Platform Analytics, which are determined by role but easily adapted to personal needs on a self-service basis. This ultimately improves productivity, decision-making and worker success.
Often referred to as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Industry 4.0 represents the convergence of low-cost computing, inexpensive sensor technology and connectivity. Outfitting production equipment with sensors measuring variables such as temperature, pressure, current and vibration leads to realms of process data.
QAD Customer De Bortoli Wines developed several digital solutions to address challenges. In some scenarios, this data is “crunched” right on the device before being sent to a server, which is known as edge computing. In other cases, everything is uploaded and made available for analysis. The result is improved yields and quality with higher overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and lower costs.
The robots deployed on most manufacturing shop floors are flexible, but they can also be seen as dangerous. Worker protection has required large cages with complex part feeding and safety interlock systems. As a result, they’ve been less flexible and less productive than what was originally expected.
Collaborative robots, or “cobots” overcome this problem. Using a variety of sensor and control strategies, these automated robotic workers can work directly alongside human workers. That saves space and increases flexibility as the cobot handles repetitive tasks and frees the human for the tasks requiring judgment and creativity.
A large semiconductor manufacturer and QAD customer is leveraging cobots on the shop floor of many of their sites leading to a more efficient and autonomous factory. The cobots are currently performing fairly repetitive tasks, but tasks that require a great amount of accuracy. This allows for a level of quality that gives them an advantage in their highly competitive marketplace.
Combining IIoT technology with data analytics yields insights into production equipment performance. This allows manufacturers to switch from time or usage-based maintenance schedules to a predictive approach. OEE improves as work is done only when analytical tools dictate that it’s needed to ensure reliability. This provides increased flexibility for handling unexpected demand surges.
Also referred to as “3D printing,” additive manufacturing is an approach to low-volume discrete part manufacturing. While slower than most conventional processes, additive manufacturing approaches can eliminate tooling delays and avoid multiple manufacturing steps. The result is often shorter lead times and happier customers.
Augmented reality (AR) uses digital technology to annotate displays of real-work scenes. One application area is in maintenance, where it can reduce the need for specialist support and also get equipment back online in less time. A second area is training. By allowing trainees to “work” on real equipment, AR brings new hires up to speed faster, helping to increase capacity and adapt to shifting demand.
It’s a Fast-moving World
The days of predictable demand and dependable supply are long gone, which is forcing manufacturers to adapt quickly to unforeseen changes. Fortunately, a range of new and emerging technologies are becoming available to help. From cloud-based ERP to augmented reality, when put to work effectively, these technologies can help businesses address uncertainty during uncertain times.
Something to think about the next time you order pizza!