Do you work for a Fortune 500 company? If so, this article may not be for you.
But – if you fall into the category of 90% of manufacturers globally who are either at the start or early phases of digitizing operations, then keep reading.
Nowadays, the majority of companies need a vision and a step-by-step path towards Smart Manufacturing. It’s a very comprehensive title that can apply to almost any type of industrial production, but it requires careful planning to reach the end of that path.
It’s incredibly important for you to find a software platform that meets your immediate needs and also has the potential to meet your future needs along the pathway to full Smart operations.
You don’t need just a SaaS, you need a scalable software as a service, or SSaaS, and here’s why.
Spearheading Your Own Industrial Revolution
Today's biggest SaaS industry buzzwords such as Industry 4.0, Industrial IoT, and Just-in-Time, are attached to an ever-growing list of software products out there. Each offers a tantalizing glimpse at what production could look like in the future.
Now, it’s true that many of these packages are well-made and can provide much added value to a company’s bottom line.
So what’s the problem with just choosing one?
It’s easy to get swept away by the futuristic promises of IIoT capabilities, so be sure to focus on your operational ecosystem and how it can progress. The underlying issue usually isn't within the software itself, but rather, with its fit and applicability in the environment for which it's designed.
One thing most companies have in common is that they are all interested in digitizing their manufacturing operations. The biggest difference between them is capacity – to what degree they should digitize and where to begin.
Rather than looking at digital transformation as a massive mountain to climb, your software should be applying Industry 4.0 concepts to your immediate situation, breaking that mountain into smaller, more easily achievable hills or milestones.
Choosing Scalable SaaS For Tomorrow’s Needs
For starters, not all companies can afford six-figure software packages. These types of investments can be too much for a lot of small to medium-sized businesses. Not to mention, it’s not always a great fit.
Moreover, getting approval to bring in a new software supplier is challenging enough. Imagine how much more difficult it is when you need to get approval for 10 different software solutions that do 10 different things. Maybe you’re not there yet, but trust me, you don’t want to have to rip up all your foundational software in a decade because it isn’t suited to grow with your operations.
Identify the problem you are trying to solve today and make sure to ask yourself what future problems you want to solve. Also, think about where you see your operations in the next 3-5, even 10 years down the road.
Once you’ve done that, find a software that you can form a relationship with and scale your business to new heights with its flexibility and applicability.
Where To Target Your First Operational Improvements
Different groups within the organization may have different needs that spark their interest in searching for a software that could help them solve a specific issue:
- The QA team seeks to improve internal rejects;
- Engineering wants a more effective way to create and distribute instructions;
- Operations requires a way to track productivity and view bottlenecks;
- The Continuous Integration team prioritizes eliminating waste and creating a more lean working environment, etc.
Whether you need to scale your module, number of plants, or overall user count, a scalable software as a service (SSaaS) makes it possible.
1. Identify quick wins with big impact
Our clients turn paper production instructions into digital versions using a bare bones version of our modular platform, VKS, which takes only a couple of hours.
Storing audits and instructions in large filing cabinets fails to hold up in quality compared to storing all of this information digitally. No more dusty binders and no more SOPs stored in individual workers’ memories.
With digitization, users now have a visual interface. New employees can now perform their jobs in the same exact way as operators with more than 25 years of experience.
Many companies have since also decided to connect VKS directly to their existing QMS platform. This switch allows for a seamless transition of the data between the two systems in real-time, which means no more file cabinets, ever!
It’s a simple change, but it has a massive impact. Productivity tracking gives them insights they never previously had. Through this data analysis, they're also able to see a positive increase, and once Corporate catches wind of this positive return on investment, they can scale up accordingly.
2. Set up your operators for continued success
In an automated, high-volume environment, the bottom-line is much more reliant on machine up-time than anything else. But what often gets forgotten is that with every machine, there’s an operator in charge of running it. As a result of developing work instruction software, we identified a need for improving training and onboarding.
Consider using your modular software for onboarding and operator training before fully deploying it on the shop floor. A good reason for this Just-In-Time training is to monitor work instruction creation and smooth out any process kinks that may arise between departments.
Then, operators won’t feel blindsided by being thrown onto the shop floor and told to immediately perform. Your software’s Certifications feature also scales highly-controlled, qualified jobs to match with properly trained expert employees.
Smart Forms, another helpful software feature, allows companies to quiz employees, confirming that they understand required material. From there, generate reports on specific areas of training and distribution of worker skills.
See how you can incrementally add more Smart solutions using modular software? By scaling up according to your unique needs, there won’t be any critical shock to the system that will interrupt overall workflow or frustrate workers.
3. Set the foundation for later stage data-driven insights
If your company is further along in its digital transformation, then you will probably need an ERP (enterprise resource planning) or full-blown MES (manufacturing execution system) software.
This integration allows for the pushing and pulling of work order information, non-conformances, live & dynamic BOM attachment and more correlated data through summarized reporting.
This includes capturing live quality data, tracking operating efficiency in real-time, and generating reports for managerial traceability. All of this also allows for full IoT capabilities through tool, machine, and ERP integration.
Our more advanced VKS module allows companies to add forms for in-process inspections and monitoring operators. From there, your processes can be automatically streamlined using our API.
You can also leverage our DataConnect feature to connect directly with the test-benches being used. Once a go or no-go signal is received from the test bench, the operator may either proceed or stay put. This fail-safe adds a full new level of process compliance and insights which they are then shareable with customers for traceability guarantees.
Don’t let software implementation issues add to your workflow bottlenecks – instead, invest in a modular and scalable platform like VKS so you can hit the ground running.