At the recent North American Manufacturing Excellence Summit, our team had the opportunity to meet with an abundance of manufacturing pros looking for ways to solve challenges facing the industry. Find out what we learned.
This doesn’t have to be a difficult question, because to us, the answer is obvious:
Begin with a win.
At the outset, establish your criteria for success.
- Look at the low-hanging fruit. Pick an area that is in clear need of upgrading—for example, consider replacing a paper-based operation with an electronic workflow. Out of the gate, you eliminate a substantial paper and printing cost, while you streamline and speed up communication and improve your carbon footprint. Panasonic Logiscend Pick, Replenishment, and Work Instructions applications all generate an immediate payback in paper savings that quickly can add up to six figures.
- Choose an area with clear immediate benefits that you can easily quantify and justify. Improving material flow within your plant pays off quickly because material is one of your major manufacturing costs—so any material savings is likely to go straight to your bottom line. These days, with materials in short supply, material flow management is critically important to your ability to meet your production schedules.
- Pick something where you can start small but easily roll out to other parts of your organization with minor adjustment. For example, Panasonic Logiscend’s asset-tracking application allows you to locate inventory and tools in seconds, saving valuable time and endless searching. You can start with one section of the plant—finished goods, for example—and easily expand to other areas. This kind of flexibility is characteristic of the benefits of IIoT transformation. It adds agility to your response to customer demand.
- Opt for an application that easily integrates with the rest of your IT systems. Panasonic has developed APIs that allow you to connect your Panasonic applications easily to your MES, ERP, or other software. Once they understand how easily it will interface, your IT people will support your journey—and may even become your champions.
- Pick something you can explain to management in an elevator pitch: 30 seconds or less. “We’re going to replace our paper Kanban system with the Panasonic Logiscend electronic Kanban system and completely eliminate paper, automate our replenishment, and reduce assembly line downtime.” Keep the project manageable and get buy-in from key stakeholders.
- Consider an application that pays for itself in under a year. You can explain it this way: “We will use Panasonic VIEW tags instead of paper on bins and parts. Instructions on the tags will tell the pickers what to pick and the kitters what to kit. Accuracy shoots up to nearly 100 percent, and if we need to reconfigure our line, it’s a matter of hours, not days or weeks.” Choose a project with a quick payback so that you can demonstrate success. Funding for future projects will come more easily with a win.
- Finally, it’s important to select an application that clearly moves your organization forward into the Industry 4.0 IIoT revolution. At the end of the day (and at the end of this brief article), real-time information will allow you total transparency into your material flow—you’ll be able to see how each operation works, make changes on the fly, and compare performance across a variety of important parameters to inform change. Material flow management IIoT software will typically pay for itself in tangible benefits within 12 months. But the larger benefit of the real-time data and the trend data over time will allow insight into your operation that could truly be even more valuable.
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