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Manufacturers Turn to Shop Floor Data Collection Software to Stay Competitive

Written by Michael Clark
September 3, 2015

Auditing performance can help manufacturers become more efficient.

Auditing performance can help manufacturers become more efficient.

Companies that employ repetitive manufacturing processes expect consistency. Businesses develop assembly lines for routine performance so they can focus time on other issues and trust operations to continue without direct supervision.

Sometimes, however, companies get thrown a curveball and have to adapt. Changing government regulations or new technologies force businesses to overhaul operations to stay competitive and profitable. Other times, companies have to audit existing procedures because they miss out on opportunities provided by new solutions.

Whenever a company has to reevaluate manufacturing processes, it should employ mobile shop floor data collection software devices to capture current performance metrics and track the success of new solutions.

Reasons for Change

Recently, the U.S. Labor Department proposed new salary threshold rules. Manufacturing.net reported the Obama administration wants to make more workers eligible for overtime pay. Currently, only workers who earn $24,000 have to be paid overtime. The new rules aim to raise the threshold to around $50,000.

This means many companies would have to pay managers and other manufacturing officials for overtime activities. Many production supervisors would become eligible and projects will end up costing businesses a lot more. Manufacturing.net suggested companies should turn to software solutions to reevaluate processes and find ways to avoid the need for overtime altogether.

Manufacturers need to find solutions for more efficient production lines. By employing tools that facilitate automated data collection and consistent performance, managers can create leaner production schedules that don’t call for extra hours.

Factors to Take Into Consideration

Outside of new government regulations, manufacturers should audit their performance to find the most profitable solutions for daily activities. Just because a repetitive assembly line performs adequately, it doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

Automation World said there are three production costs that must be evaluated; direct materials, direct labor and overhead. Data collection devices can help keep track of each of these expenses.

  • Direct Materials – Assets and supplies marked with barcode labels are visible in an ERP system. Complete oversight prevents materials from being lost or wasted.
  • Direct Labor – If manufacturing workers report their daily performance through convenient computing devices, companies gain insight into labor distribution. When employees perform redundant tasks or show repetitive mistakes, managers can spot problematic trends.
  • Overhead – Data collection procedures can monitor how much time and energy goes into the creation of each product. The amount of fuel or electricity needed for daily activities may be reduced if every step of assembly is measured for efficiency.

Example of Changing Procedures

Companies can’t become fixed in their ways. Repetitive processes shouldn’t be held onto for consistency’s sake. Manufacturers have to be ready to abandon previous investments for better solutions.

An RFgen customer case study detailed how a national home products manufacturer wasn’t happy with its existing production and inventory management software. The data collection software the company utilized disrupted manufacturing and was prone to outages. RFgen worked with the business to implement a new data collection solution that was more flexible. Even though the company had worked with data collection technology for years, the new solution introduced by RFgen provided valuable new insight into daily manufacturing procedures.

For example, the new mobile solutions were used to track material utilized in the production line. Before contacting RFgen, the company was wasting money on materials that were scrapped due to warping or improper cutting. Better tracking measured the performance of each piece of equipment used on materials and prevented damage and waste.

Gaining better visibility of operations allowed the company to change manufacturing, picking, processing and distribution procedures. The overall business became more efficient and profitable.

Companies have to be constantly on the lookout for opportunities to increase profitability. Repetitive assembly lines are great for consistent performance, but a manufacturer can’t sacrifice innovation for comfort.