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Recent market research from Deloitte seems to support this conflicted but ultimately positive view of the manufacturing sector's present and future. However, companies will need to solve many near-term problems if they hope to see those positive returns in the middle and long term. This article discusses nine of the biggest problems manufacturing companies will face regarding their manufacturing facility management and offers solutions for each, leveraging the power of the latest smart technology.
We all know about the ongoing supply chain problems in the wake of the Covid pandemic. Retail and manufacturing companies worldwide struggle to source the materials they need to do business. But even if they can ensure a steady flow of new materials, they may not have the human resources in-house to process them. More than half of all manufacturing businesses have struggled to source sufficient skilled labor in the wake of the pandemic.
Two strategic options present themselves: Find ways to attract more skilled labor or automate the manufacturing facility management tasks that rely on them. With so many vacancies across the industry, many manufacturing companies are trying to offer the most competitive pay and benefits possible to retain skilled workers. For many potential employees, these are the most important considerations when selecting a position.
Other companies look to provide the most welcoming and appealing workplace to retain employees who value quality of life. They also look to provide the latest tools and support services that make employees’ lives easier. For example, many consider using smart management systems to streamline how their employees use important manufacturing equipment.
Smart systems are not only appealing to potential employees, but they’re also a viable option for automating what were previously manual administrative tasks. For example, smart equipment lockers can automatically handle complicated transaction processes, track equipment use, and maintain detailed records for business and compliance needs.
Emergency preparedness may still be a new concept in many industries, but not in manufacturing and warehouse management. The safety of workers and infrastructure has long been well-understood here. That doesn’t mean managing workplace safety is easy, though
To protect worker safety, you first must recognize all the threats you face. For example, where is your organization vulnerable? Where are workers at risk? Your infrastructure? Your finances?
For example, do you have proper ventilation and PPE available if your manufacturing process involves toxic chemicals? Chemical exposure certainly puts your employees at risk. Depending on the nature of the chemicals, they may also threaten your mechanical equipment. And problems with either could threaten your company’s finances through exposure to regulatory fines.
When it comes to employee safety in industrial facility management, one of the most vulnerable situations is when workers are alone. So just as you would look to use proper ventilation and other precautions against dangerous chemicals, to protect lone workers, you’ll want to look for smart tools that keep them in contact with coworkers and supervisors.
Learn more about Real Time Networks’ Safety Solutions for Warehouses and Manufacturers
Tracking all of your raw materials, products, and the equipment you use to manufacture them remains one of the single greatest challenges in manufacturing. Material and product tracking have both gotten increasingly sophisticated in recent years. Equipment tracking, however, has lagged in innovation.
Tracking toolkits, handheld electronics, and other essentials is a time-consuming process that often falls on one or more FTE positions when it is done manually.
Automating your equipment and asset tracking will allow you to redirect those FTEs doing equipment management to more productive work. Even if you just reduce the time those individuals spend on repetitive or tedious tasks, you can reclaim meaningful work hours each day.
One increasingly popular choice to fix this problem is to use a smart locker system for warehouse automation. Smart lockers include an access control panel that verifies each user and authorizes access only to the devices you want them to use. The latest generation of smart systems includes advanced features, such as fault monitoring and process control checklists that help you identify issues with individual devices. In addition, you can program the smart locker to automatically pull faulty equipment from circulation and alert tech support to investigate potential issues.
Low Operating Efficiency
Many manufacturers have looked for creative ways to cut costs to deal with efficiency problems. Some are so desperate to keep costs low that they’re willing to reduce product quality to find breathing room in their margins.
Instead of compromising product quality and potentially losing customers, manufacturers should look for other areas where they can reduce costs. Cutting administrative costs is a good approach to consider.
Audit your administrative processes for any you can systematize and modernize. You can reduce or even eliminate time-consuming manual work, streamline operations, and reduce equipment damage and loss with a little upfront investment. Smart asset management systems can help with all of those goals.
Beyond managing the day-to-day transactions of tools and equipment, many manufacturers struggle with older, failing equipment slowing down work. Unfortunately, minor inconveniences don’t take long to snowball into major problems. If a handheld or toolkit isn’t in full working order, your personnel may not complete tasks on time, production will slow, and targets will get harder to hit.
Develop regular maintenance and update schedules for your equipment and stick to them. All equipment breaks down eventually, but sticking to your schedules will help maximize the life cycle of each device, tool, and consumable your corporate facility management needs.
When assets need scheduled maintenance or software updates, make sure you pull them from circulation as soon as possible. If devices are left in circulation too long, you risk further damage, extended service interruptions, and shorter asset life cycles.
If you have a large equipment inventory to track, consider using a smart asset tracking system to help you manage maintenance schedules. Enter the service schedules for each asset type or even each device in the system’s manufacturing facility management portal. Then, when those devices are due for servicing, the system locks them down, so they’re not released into circulation. Only authorized managers or technicians can retrieve the devices.
Too Much Time is Spent on Coordination and Delegation
Manufacturers know quite a bit about the cost of unnecessary overhead. Anything you can optimize out of your processes improves efficiency and makes your Lean organization even better.
That same principle should hold for your administrative tasks just as it does for your manufacturing work. If your personnel spend too much time coordinating, administering, and delegating work, when they could simply be directly working on important tasks, you’re losing valuable, productive work hours.
The key here is communication. Look for ways to streamline how people in your organization hand off tasks to one another. Are there more efficient ways you can communicate? Are there ways you can automate communication?
For example, using a smart asset locker, you can present checklists to users at signout or return. They can report faults, performance issues, or anything else you want to prompt them for.
It doesn’t even need to be about the device itself. So, for example, if you know your handheld scanners are used in specific workflows, you can ask operational questions when they return a device. The system can automatically route the user’s responses to the appropriate staff member.
Trouble Keeping Accurate Administrative Records
If your personnel struggle to coordinate warehouse productivity using manual processes, there is a good chance they’re not keeping good records either. That can lead to performance problems if you lose track of which equipment was used where and when. And in some instances, it might even lead to regulatory fines if you’re unable to report certain business activities.
Eliminate human errors by automating asset and workflow tracking. No matter how careful they are, mistakes eventually creep into any manual process, including asset tracking. An automated asset management system can track everything you need to know about your equipment error-free and around the clock.
There is never enough time in the day. There is always an unexpected mechanical problem you must diagnose, last-minute paperwork, and unscheduled meetings. And time-sensitive work, equipment is often never there when you need it, forcing you to rework your schedule even further.
Modern asset management systems include a reservation tool you can use from the access control panel or authorized PCs and mobile devices to reserve important assets you need. As a result, you’ll be able to get work done faster, more consistently, and more reliably.
Constant Technology Updates
Maintaining technical systems takes a lot of time and effort. There are always hardware and software updates needed to keep systems operating efficiently and securely.
The asset management system provider you work with should be ready to act as a business partner for the full lifecycle of the system you purchase. Do your research and find out what level of support each provider you’re considering offers. Is it just email? Live phone support? And when? Only business hours or around the clock? How about on-site support options for critical issues?
Also, consider what software development and customization service each offers. Can they help you build custom reports for your industry and regulatory needs? Can they help design those checklists for better process control?
Schedule a live demo and see what RTN asset management solutions can do for you
About the Author
Vice President of Marketing
Jay oversees marketing and strategic partnerships at Real Time Networks and has over three decades of experience in leadership roles in the financial services and technology industries.