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Making Your Water Spider Role More Efficient

Reliable and accurate part replenishment is a critical component of smart material flow management. As just-in-sequence manufacturing becomes more and more important, replenishment strategies have to keep up to maintain schedules and satisfy customers.

Kanban. Lean. Sharks. Waters spiders. Whatever your process, the people responsible for feeding your production lines with the exact collection of parts they need are some of the most important workers on your production floor—whatever you call them.

The Goal is Constant Progress

If your assemblers have to step away from their stations on the production line to source their own parts, you are losing momentum. If your material handlers are constantly sharking for parts throughout the warehouse, you are losing productivity. In both cases, workers are in motion, but their actions aren’t adding value to your products.

In Lean manufacturing, creating a water spider role is the first step to the ideal solution. They are responsible for timely and accurate parts replenishment. The term comes from a whirligig beetle, known as Mizusumashi in Japanese. These beetles move about swiftly keeping both the air and water in their site at all times. In manufacturing, water spiders have to understand the entire process they are a part of, stay aware of all stations they feed, and be able to recognize and remove any obstacle standing in the way of productivity. Their ability to help maintain a steady flow of production through regular part delivery can greatly increase efficiency and decrease costs. In fact, some companies have reported 40% time-savings after implementing water spiders.

There’s Always Room for More Improvement

Imagine how fast material could flow if water spiders instantly and directly received calls and instructions for what parts were required and knew exactly where they needed to be. How much could productivity improve if material handlers didn’t have to watch for signal flags or Kanban cards which are often slow and error prone?

The Next Piece of the Puzzle Is Smart Technology

The Panasonic Logiscend Replenishment Application is a wireless, paperless, IIoT system that uses Panasonic VIEW tags to send and receive information faster and more accurately. Designed to get up and running as fast as possible, the VIEW tags install and configure in minutes with no wiring or IT involvement. Their simple GUI requires minimal operator training before you can put the application in action. Here’s how the application makes replenishment so much faster and more accurate:

  1. Operators simply press a button to call for parts
  2. Sensors can also trigger a call when inventory is depleted
  3. Handlers (Water Spiders) receive a call on their tablet which tells them what’s needed and where
  4. Operators can always see on the tag when a call is sent, and parts are on their way

Giving sharks and water spiders technology like this integrates their expertise with your operation’s existing systems to reveal needed action in real time. Managers will know when outstanding parts need to be delivered or if delivery times are over threshold. You’ll be able to plot trend data so operator performance, part location and driver routes can be optimized. When you integrate this application into your existing ERP/MES, you can increase efficiencies, reduce costs or excess inventory and minimize line down situations even more.

What Do You Feed Your Sharks and Water Spiders?

Many smart phones and tablets today use BLE to connect external devices such as headsets, car infotainment systems, smart watches, and many more. By leveraging the BLE technology that is widely adopted in the consumer market, manufacturers can capitalize on lower pricing due to economies of scale. With these common BLE IoT edge devices manufacturers can see a rapid Return on Investment opportunity when creating a Smart Factory.

The Panasonic IIoT Solution group identified the need for a flexible platform that could integrate different IoT technologies with the Logiscend system to enable the development of unique solutions for specific manufacturing use cases. BLE communications technology is now the latest example of Logiscend’s progress in supporting new IoT technology integration.

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