7 Ways Connected Process Control Can Decrease Manufacturing Costs

by Jason Bullard, on Apr 16, 2023 2:00:30 PM

Boost new efficiencies, enhance operational excellence, and improve quality.

Often in industry there are inherent tensions between complexity and simplicity, sophistication and clarity, and customization and standardization.  Tools and technologies that bridge the gap between those seemingly contradictory elements are highly prized. 

In recent years, a new generation of technologies has emerged that is fundamentally changing the game by combining lean manufacturing principles with Industry 4.0 advances. 

The result is an expanding ecosystem of new solutions: manufacturing execution system (MES). The best examples of these solutions allow users to benefit from the holy grail of manufacturing innovation: connected process control.  Connected process control technologies can be found in the kind of versatile, scalable, and holistic platform that deliver comprehensive and ultimately transformative results.  Connected process control systems boost efficiency, reduce complexity, improve quality, and significantly reduce costs.  They allow manufacturers to bring new order and control to a virtually unlimited range of different production or assembly environments. 

Here's how: 

By removing the need for antiquated paper-based work instructions

The digital work instructions that are part of connected process control systems can help improve accuracy and reduce defects, as well as accelerate training, onboarding, and reskilling. Changes in process can be executed quickly and easily and verified by operators at the station level. Ready digital access to safety instructions and videos at the station level has been shown to reduce injury rates and meet OSHA compliance standards. Digitizing work instructions yields cost savings with new efficiency, higher job satisfaction, improved performance, and reduced employee turnover. Because the cost of paper-based work instructions alone is significant—and the time it takes to change or update instructions at each station can add up—digital work instructions are significantly more cost effective across the board.

Operator viewing digital work instructions - connected process control

By providing collaborative environments

The best-connected process control systems are fundamentally collaborative in nature. They integrate feedback from operators at the station level who are doing the work: following the instructions and the using equipment in question. Operators can input notes at the station level, or send alerts and notifications as needed. Because those front-line employees are often the first to know when things are working well or not, they can help provide valuable input and insight into potential process improvements and opportunities to improve SOPs and reduce or eliminate waste. This also contributes to a culture of operator value, which may subsequently reduce turnover rates.

By incorporating reject/repair/rework strategies into assembly processes

Most manufacturing environments lack the kind of built-in reject/repair/rework functionality that can identify where something went wrong, determine how to repair or address the issue, and then validate the fix. Connected process control unlocks that ability. While waste is inevitable in some operations, minimizing it can be a significant cost saver. Identifying not just when or if, but why parts are rejected at the station level can quickly identify inefficiencies and be critical cost saver—especially when those rejections are due to structural issues like poor supply quality, operator error, or machine issues.

By introducing and integrating game-changing technical advances

The ability to automate and coordinate repetitive manual tasks within manufacturing processes is a big part of the connected process control value proposition. The best solutions can closely coordinate cobot movement, boosting efficiency and reducing injury rates by literally taking difficult, awkward, or unsafe tasks out of the hands of human operators. Connected process control systems can integrate a wide range of IoT devices with a correspondingly wide range of functionality, from sensors to safety devices.

By reducing unplanned downtime

By automating preventative maintenance, connected process control can significantly reduce one of the top causes of manufacturing downtime. The best systems detect issues early enough to allow operators to address them before they become a bigger, more disruptive, and more expensive problem. They can also recognize trends that help identify and rectify the root causes of unplanned downtime. For example, a manufacturer saw a 38% decrease in downtime by enforcing the preventative maintenance procedures that take place prior to the run. During that process, they were able to collect data to predict part wear prior to part failure.

By delivering real-time data insights and KPIs

With connected process control you don’t just get the data you need; you get that data in real-time, with a level of clarity and immediacy that opens an invaluable window into your operations. By enabling station operators and management to monitor, analyze, and implement changes quickly, connected process control capabilities allow for continuous and intentional improvement.

By enhancing training and customizing work instructions

Connected process control allows manufacturers to introduce a flexible, adaptable, and customized level of training. New operators at a station benefit from detailed instruction, while more experienced operators can gradually progress to less granular detail over time. This makes training dramatically more effective and can reduce training windows from weeks to just days—yielding potentially significant and even dramatic savings in operational efficiency, quality metrics, and costs/ROI. This allows new hires to start building product on day one with 100% quality as their takt times improve.

For manufacturers, the bottom line is the bottom line, which is why the cost-effective nature of connected process control functionality is so appealing. There is a direct path from improved efficiency, safety, and quality to a more profitable business model. Connected process control doesn’t just illuminate that path—it allows manufacturers to move along it with unprecedented speed.

Epicor Connected Process Control Banner


Topics:OpinionIndustry 4.0Digital Work InstructionsQuality ManagementConnected Process Control

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