How to transform your factory with agile manufacturing
If 2020 taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected. The manufacturing industry was shaken by enormous shifts in consumer demand and changes in the industry in general. In reaction to those changes, many factories have been forced to recalibrate the way they work.
Indeed, for the majority or manufacturers, many of the changes will become permanent. For example, in a 2020 report by Deloitte, 61% of surveyed executives said they were planning a hybrid model for all production and non-production processes over the next 3 years.
Manufacturers are planning ways to become more automated, agile and disruption-proof to prepare for and navigate uncertainty in the future. So, how can your factory become more agile?
A dynamic factory
In today’s environment, factories must be adaptable and agile. Processes need to be seamlessly connected, with machines and people working collaboratively to react to fluctuations in supply and demand.
According to a report by PwC, 59% of factory workers have been working alongside robots for a number of years to speed up processes, reduce errors and decrease costs.
Artificial intelligence (AI)-enhanced industrial robots are also extremely adaptable, being easily re-programmed by humans to perform tasks differently and adapt to changes in demand. This makes robots the perfect investment for factories looking to become more agile. The Internet of Things (IoT), where devices are connected to each other via the internet, can also be applied to robotics to make them even more adaptable. Applying sensors to robotics enables them to ‘read’ their environment and make informed decisions about what to do next. For example, some AI industrial robots can navigate factories autonomously using light detection and ranging sensors, similar to echolocation used by bats and whales. And some recycling centres have programmed robots to recognise different textures for sorting. As robots become more advanced, the possibilities for a more dynamic, flexible, smart manufacturing plant come ever nearer.
Augmented intelligence combines human intelligence with AI automated processes, combining strategic inputs from human planners together with AI technology which does the repetitive and tedious work. To make this seamless, workers need to be connected all of the time with mobile devices like rugged mobile computers and voice headsets in order to boost productivity. Real-time Locating Solutions (RTLS) like RFID technology allows you to track your people, machines, vehicles and products to ensure real-time visibility of assets.
“You can’t improve what you can’t see”
The IoT enables assets, products, processes and people to ‘talk’ to each other in real-time. Geolocation systems and radio frequency identification technology (RFID) can be used to identify what stage of production they are at and where they are located, even after they have left the building.
Having this visibility and data means manufacturers know exactly how long each process takes and results in an ability to swiftly respond to demand, reduce lead times, and predict how long new processes will take based on current timings.
Visibility increases agility and decreases the chance of disruption by remaining aware of work in progress at all times. By constantly monitoring and adjusting the allotted time frame for each procedure along the production line, costly delays and hold-ups can be avoided.
Supply chain resilience
Analysing the data collected during the production process can help identify opportunities for streamlining and improvements. It also allows greater agility along the supply chain, by providing real-time updates for logistics and even the end customer, warning them of changes or disruptions to lead times.
For large device estates, it may prove beneficial to opt for a managed service through your technology provider. This will diminish the probability of expensive tech and communication failures occurring. Managed services mean your devices can be fixed remotely if anything goes wrong, and are constantly monitored should any potential issues arise in the future.
The Barcode Warehouse offers their customers a Managed Service, which includes data analytics reporting and proactive device tracking, negating the need to provide staff with software training or to hire someone who can create the reports for you.
Working smarter, harder and better
If you are thinking of adopting technology to become a more agile factory and don’t know where to start, contact The Barcode Warehouse team of technology experts. We have over 30 years of technology know-how to help your plant implement the right technology solutions for your agile plant. We have worked with clients across all industries to successfully increase agility, streamline processes and get more return on investment from their technology.