Data collection software often enters the discussion when manufacturers begin considering ways to create more efficient processes. However, the conversation needs to go into detail and eventually be put into action. The reality facing many companies is the inefficiencies in current data capture methods and lack of integration with centralized systems like ERP software. According to Quality Magazine, manufacturing enterprises can't make sound decisions without access to accurate and up-to-date data.
Reducing Variability a Top Priority
There are numerous moving parts within a manufacturing facility, and many companies have multiple warehouses and production plants. When there are remote locations, there's an opportunity for variability, which is one of the most critical pain points for manufacturers. Customers and other stakeholders involved in the supply chain value consistency. When production quality fluctuates significantly, customers begin to evaluate the entire business, as well as its products, as being undependable.
Accordingly, manufacturers look for many of the following characteristics while making sure their processes are as uniform as possible:
- Suppliers provide parts that are consistently of the same grade and integrity
- Processes are repeatable without significant variation in quality
- Items are reproducible following a standardized workflow
Without an effective data capture solution, it's incredibly difficult for manufacturers to make certain they're meeting these objectives and benchmarks. Errors that begin with production materials may not become apparent until an item rolls off the assembly line and is prepared for either delivery or is moved to inventory. The majority of manufacturing organizations still rely on manual data collection using paper and a pen to track incoming materials.
The problem with this strategy is twofold. First, human error can creep in with miscounted supply numbers and shorthand may not make sense to another person responsible for entering the data into an ERP software platform. Second, manual data entry is a labor-intensive process that either requires excessive amounts of time or manpower to accomplish. Manufacturers have to deal with overhead costs if their employees are required to work overtime because quality inspections take too long.
Manufacturing Equipment a Big Piece of the Puzzle
Fixed assets like machinery used on the production line must be included when a manufacturer considers incorporating an automated data collection solution. As important as materials are to the production process, the actual machinery on the shop floor to create inventory is crucial to streamlining operations.
In other words asset management is a big piece of the puzzle with reproducibility and repeatability in production. If a piece of equipment is not performing at optimum levels, the resulting goods will not meet quality standards. Asset management software can eliminate inaccuracies that accompany paper-based methods. Manufacturers can use automated data collection tools like barcode scanners to conduct physical inventories with greater speed and agility. Because information regarding equipment status is then digitally transferred to ERP software, it's much easier to run tests to see whether a particular machine needs maintenance - before it becomes inoperative.
At the same time, manufacturers can more easily keep track of equipment if it needs to be transferred between locations. Because all machinery is labeled with a unique barcode, all necessary information is stored in ERP software, and the status will automatically be updated once the relocation is complete. Additionally, companies can never lose track of fixed assets and accidentally order a replacement, which can increase overhead costs.
Creating consistency and reducing variation in production quality is foundational to manufacturing. It ultimately helps organizations manage risk and meet objective standards that create a functional value chain. Automated data collection software is a key resource to meet these goals.