Simplify, simplify, simplify. If you could magically streamline your manufacturing operations from top to bottom with a single click, it would save so much time, energy, and money, right?
Manufacturers face daily struggles with customers, suppliers, research and development, employees, and products. Juggling all these duties while ensuring there aren’t any miscommunications, errors, or unhappy customers is the daily struggle.
While software won’t make this all go away with a simple click, it sure can reduce the workload for manufacturers by streamlining processes and freeing up time for projects you can’t find time for. Not only that, automation can also reduce costs and improve profit margins as well.
Here are some ways software can help reduce the daily headache of running a manufacturing operation by simplifying your processes.
1. Eliminate manual processes
At the most basic level, any software investment should mean transitioning from manual processes to an automated process.
Whether that means hand drafting designs—which are time-consuming and hard to share with colleagues, manually entering numbers on Excel—which makes you vulnerable to human error, or relying on paper invoices and documentation—putting the information at risk of exposure or loss, manual processes are a big time suck.
How many hours do you currently spend entering data into systems? How much storage space do you need in your offices to organize all your paper documentation? If the answer makes you cringe, it’s time to make some changes.
From accounting software that can produce quick quarterly reports and track taxes, to quality management system (QMS) software that centralizes all your QMS documentation in one place, software can save time and improve organizational efficiency.
2. Optimize your data
If you’re relying on the manual processes like the ones described above, you probably aren’t utilizing your internal data as productively as you’d like. When you’re relying on humans to enter numbers and produce reports, there will inevitably be errors, not to mention the added time to presenting clear and accurate insights.
For example, do you have a reliable system to figure out the answers to the following questions quickly and accurately?
- How much time are you currently spending assembling key parts for your products?
- How do those compare with the rest of the stages in your production cycle?
- How much did that supplier’s mistake cost you last quarter and how long did it take you to recoup the losses?
- How many hours are your employees spending simply searching for inventory?
This isn’t data you can easily spit out off the top of your head, nor is it simple to track by hand. But the right software makes this data easy to collect, analyze, and put to good use for future improvements.
3. Predict problems before they occur
The number one way to avoid costly mistakes is to not make them in the first place. But in order to foresee problems down the line, you need to be able to predict them. Although experience is a big factor in anticipating issues, a hunch isn’t always the most reliable way to measure potential costs caused by errors.
So how can software help simplify operations by reducing mistakes? CAD software can do this by simulating a design before it goes into production, which can help you see potential flaws and costs in advance. Software that has costing features can more accurately predict how much you’ll have to spend on materials and supplies so you don’t run into big budget problems down the road.
Data can also play a decisive role by letting you know where in the manufacturing process you’re spending the most on, or where the majority of mistakes are occurring. This allows you to adjust processes so that the same costly problems don’t keep happening over and over.
4. Improve communications
Another manufacturing challenge is communicating effectively with multiple stakeholders across various divisions, including machine-to-machine communications.
Sometimes a worker can convey the wrong information which then gets repeated, causing confusion. Other times, a machine malfunction may be detected too late, affecting operational costs. There are also problems on the factory floor that aren’t communicated to managers until they reach a crisis point.
One way software can simplify communications is through real-time, accurate data. When you equip your machines with sensors, your mechanics can view their current statuses remotely and attend to the most pressing problems. Rather than having to be physically present to diagnose the issue, engineers can use 3D visualization software or AR/VR technology to see what’s going on inside the machine before they open it up.
Advanced autonomous machines can transmit live data to a central system so that you have the latest, most up-to-date figures that will lead to higher efficiency and impact the decision-making process. Big factories, in particular, can suck up a lot of wasted time simply traveling from point A to point B, so eliminating any time spent on internal communications like this can increase productivity and reduce costs.
Once you simplify internal communications and achieve a certain flow, it’s much easier to handle daily operations and get down to business, rather than spending your time putting out fires.
5. Enhance product quality
If you can ensure top quality for each individual component from the start, it’s much easier to build a high-quality final product. Whether you do that through a quality management system (QMS) software that oversees quality standards from start to finish or monitors the production cycle through a manufacturing execution system (MES) to see where standards are suffering the most, software can boost your manufacturing outcomes by improving quality.
Without software, you’ll have to rely on manual quality inspections that are costly and time-consuming. Keeping up with quality standards is much simpler when all the regulations and data are uploaded in real-time through software, allowing you to track the quality of raw materials and identify defects to avoid costly recalls.
Because manufacturing operations tend to be vast and complex, you’ll always be looking for ways to simplify processes and cut costs. It only becomes even more important to simplify operations as your business grows in complexity.
Although software isn’t a one-stop solution to all your problems, its natural function is to provide data, automate processes, and improve workflows. By investing in software with functions built specifically for manufacturing, you’ll be able to simplify core aspects of your operations and optimize your processes to fuel business growth.