Factory Floor Feedback
by Epicor, on Jun 2, 2023 10:21:24 AM
Empowering employees to share best practices and improve processes.
We are living in a moment when there is justifiable excitement about the game-changing power and pace at which cutting-edge technologies are transforming production environments—helping enable manufacturers to reach new heights of flexibility, efficiency, visibility, and control. In this context, it is ironic that some manufacturers are losing sight of the fact that it is in people, not tech, where they can unlock some of the greatest opportunities for positive change. More specifically, it’s the way in which new programs and platforms elevate and enhance the work of operators: not replacing them, but instead making them better at what they do—and more fulfilled and empowered in the process.
That empowerment is at the heart of some of the most exciting advances in this space. Because a big part of the promise of connected process control solutions is right there in the name: the connectivity that the best of these platforms facilitate allows for a level of collaborative engagement that extends from the plant floor to high level decision makers. The seamless immediacy of information across the value chain can translate to a wide range of meaningful and measurable benefits.
Many of the most dramatic improvements in efficiency, quality, and consistency come from empowered operators who are given new tools, new agency, and new opportunities to contribute to a connected operating model.
When you digitize things at the station level, there are so many new tools for operators on the front lines in a production environment to not only identify issues, but also opportunities for improvement. Utilizing the people actually performing the task at the station and getting feedback from them can deliver real-world, hands-on input that is equally or even more important than top-down analysis.
Coordination and collaboration
One of the most exciting features about the new generation of connected process control solutions is the way in which they integrate and coordinate without sacrificing efficiency. The best systems tie all layers of the operational architecture together without the cumbersome and time-consuming process of communicating and implementing changes that plagues many outdated production environments.
Knowledge sharing and best practices preservation
The technology behind the best-connected process control solutions doesn’t just facilitate greater efficiency, it captures and records improvements and insights to allow for knowledge-sharing and the preservation of tribal knowledge—paying dividends not just today, but potentially for a very long time to come. For example, relying on senior operators for their experiences and best practices, especially during kaizen events, is critical. These valuable team members can help enable faster, better continuous improvement efforts.
Real-time insights and implementation
In a connected manufacturing environment, new information like change notifications flows in both directions. Higher level decision-makers can be looped in immediately for issues or opportunities (which can subsequently be addressed in a timely manner commensurate with the complexity of the issue), and shop floor operators can receive real-time alerts about process changes and other critical information. Information can be conveyed that is not just product-specific, but station-specific, with automated alerts or communications to other team members about any machine, tooling, or quality issues. This can help limit downtime, scrap, and faulty products, resulting in potentially dramatic cost savings.
Improved employee satisfaction
One of the most signifiant but often least appreciated elements of systems and solutions that empower employees is the positive effect on employee satisfaction and engagement. Empowered employees are more fulfilled and more invested. Their input is valued, and they feel like they have some ownership of the process. Operators have a stronger grasp of not only what they need to do, but why they need to do it. Setting clear expectations, and giving employees the means to fulfill those expectations, is a recipe for retention and recruitment that can have a significant impact on the bottom line.