Attaining an efficient manufacturing flow is an elusive goal for many manufacturers but it doesn’t have to be. While numerous elements play into achieving an optimal manufacturing flow, two factors consistently have the greatest impact:
These two factors directly correlate to how efficient your operation is and how much money you spend.
Time is money and knowledge is power.
But if manufacturers can master these two points, their manufacturing flow becomes unstoppable.
Our work instruction platform enables manufacturers to master time and knowledge by providing workforces with the right information at the right time. And by integrating with other software, we enable manufacturers to expand the capabilities of their operations and their workforce to achieve new levels of efficiency and productivity.
A prime example of this operational integration is our partnership with JITBase, a machine monitoring software that closely monitors your machines’ efficiency while facilitating flow between equipment workstations.
Our versatile software creates endless possibilities for integration and teamwork, enabling manufacturers to expand how they gather data, make informed strategic decisions, and achieve the optimal manufacturing flow.
Good vs. Bad Manufacturing Flow
Before we dive straight into how you can optimize manufacturing flow, it will be helpful to briefly establish what characterizes good and poor manufacturing flow.
Good manufacturing flow is characterized by a production system that moves at a constant speed while producing quality results. A desirable manufacturing flow also produces reliable data that is used to strengthen the production line and value for the customer.
Poor manufacturing flow is characterized by a production system that starts and stops periodically. This “bad flow” is prone to breakdowns, unscheduled downtime, and periods of waiting.
According to Lean methodology, the enemy of good manufacturing flow is waste, often described as DOWNTIME. A good manufacturing flow can never be achieved if a production line is plagued with defects, waiting, inventory issues, non-utilized talent, or a lack of knowledge.
However, by integrating key digital technologies, you can achieve the qualities of a smart and consistent manufacturing flow.
The Top 4 Ways We Optimize Manufacturing Flow with JITBase
1. Embracing True Digital Transformation
Though digital transformation may seem like a fairly common practice in the industry, many companies are not truly transforming their operations with the right digital tools. Some even opt for simple programs like Microsoft Word and Excel under the pseudo-idea of “digital records and reports”.
But you need (dare I say deserve) more than basic word templates and manual spreadsheets. These systems do not integrate with your production environment and lack the ability to adapt to natural changes and developments.
You need a digital transformation process that has mastered time and workforce knowledge for you.
For instance, modern manufacturers can use our work instruction software to ensure high productivity among workers while machine monitoring software like JITBase automatically monitors machine efficiency.
Using our two software together, manufacturers are able to easily track KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness), and work order statuses without direct operator involvement. This effectively creates a more autonomous and data-driven manufacturing flow.
Digital transformation may be the largest commitment on this list but that’s because it continues to provide the greatest opportunities for companies to increase manufacturing flow.
2. Guiding Your Workers
Whether we like it or not, the world is experiencing a skills gap and a labor shortage simultaneously. The manufacturing industry has a shortage of workers and fewer and fewer workers have the necessary skills or experience. These two problems directly hinder the industry’s ability to achieve a consistent manufacturing flow.
Your workers need guidance — now more than ever!
Our work instructions software enables companies to share their years of knowledge and experience with their entire workforce. This distribution of knowledge is achieved through an interactive platform that uses pictures, annotations, and videos to guide workers through a step-by-step process accurately.
With this technology, every worker has access to years of experience through their tablet or computer screen. Manufacturers maintain the best working standards for their processes by displaying the right knowledge at the right time, helping your whole team master the elusive timing and know-how of manufacturing flow.
Through our integration with JITBase, we expand this capability further by providing a heightened level of guidance.
While workers perform machine changeovers, load new parts, and perform routine inspections, other machines could be sitting idle. To reduce the total amount of machine downtime and waiting, JITBase creates an optimal path for each employee to follow using their OPS (Optimal Path System).
This integrated capability guides workers to the machines they need to work, while our digital work instruction software guides workers with the proper step-by-step procedures.
This way, both of our software work together to ensure that quality and consistency are both maintained. Meanwhile, manufacturers gain the ability to guide their workers within each process and between each machine, greatly increasing manufacturing flow.
3. Listening to Your Operation
While machine processes may seem like independent silos within your production line, they are intrinsically linked to the actions of your workers.
For instance, imagine your company, Ace of Race, produces high-speed Go-Kart frames. To upscale your production and ensure that all workers and machines are running as effectively as possible, you’ve invested in digital work instructions and machine monitoring software. While guiding your workers is covered as we discussed before, there’s another valuable benefit your two systems can provide.
Within your complex operation, you have a great deal of human and machine processes, which means you have the incredible opportunity to gather valuable information from both your metal-bending machines and your workers who monitor and perform each process.
Your workers and machines are a treasure trove of valuable data and knowledge.
Within your work instruction guidebooks, you’ve placed a series of smart forms that enable your workers to quickly gather loads of data. This includes:
- Completed quantities
- Process KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
- NCRs (Non-Conformance Reports)
- Machine Maintenance Data
- Production times
- Quality and inspection data
- Employee feedback
- Safety data
- Process health through SPC (Statistical Process Control)
- Confirmation of employee activities
- And more.
Pro Tip: All of this data can be reviewed at any time through VKS reports or within a connected BI platform.
At the same time, your machine monitoring software enables you to capture data from inside your machines. This gives your team data like:
- Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)
- Machine Utilization
- Tool Efficiency
- Part counts
- Analyze Tendencies
- Performance Rate
- And more.
The teamwork between our work instruction platform and JITBase’s machine monitoring software enables you to view 100% of your Go-Kart operation in real time. Process events are gathered both automatically and manually by VKS while machine data is observed and monitored by JITBase.
If a metal bending machine used to create the Go-Kart frames is malfunctioning, the data can be captured through an NCR smart form by your employees and confirmed through your machine monitoring software. The two systems can then be used to extrapolate the root cause of the issue.
This ability allows you to truly listen to your operation, act on accurate data, and increase your manufacturing flow.
4. Connecting Your Systems
Our work instruction software, coupled with JITBase provides the means for companies to truly integrate their operations with other software, helping you optimize how data is shared within your operation.
These two systems work together and integrate with other systems like ERPs and BI software, creating an interconnected digital thread that can track performance, production trends, material usage, and equipment health, in real time. Manufacturers can use this data to enact smart continuous improvement actions that work.
Pro Tip: Both JITBase and VKS enable organizations to create Pareto Charts and perform Pareto Analysis. Find the issues that impact your business the most by gathering data on defects, production times, and more.
The ability to push and pull accurate data also enables your operation to behave like one cohesive unit, maximizing manufacturing flow in a new way.
For example, imagine you are the direct competitor of Ace of Race, and you have your own line of Go-Kart frames named 2 Good 2 Kart.
You’ve just received work orders for several new models that need to be completed by the end of the week. You and your team get to work, but there's an issue.
While the work order comes directly from your ERP, you’re still using printed work instructions from a dusty binder. Suffice it to say, the processes have changed and the information is out of date.
Because of this, workers need clarification on the BOM (Bill of Materials), the process, and the routing, causing management to manually consult the ERP. Plus, with an unclear understanding of what needs to be done, the utilization of machines is all over the place, causing wasted time with employees waiting at 1 or 2 machines.
Conversely, your competitor, Ace of Race, has invested in advanced technologies like VKS and JITBase. They easily fulfill their new work orders through two key actions.
Their VKS Application receives the work orders directly from the ERP. Operators select the work order and the up-to-date instructions appear on their screen. Information such as BOMs and Tool Lists are directly fed into the VKS guidebook through the API (Application Programming Interface) so the information is always accurate and current.
JITBase also receives the work orders and calculates the most efficient route through its Optimal Path System. OPS enables each operator to safely and efficiently monitor 4 machines at once.
Under this connected factory system, your ERP, VKS, and JITBase work together to empower your workers and machines with the best plans and instructions for the day.
Pro Tip: VKS guidebooks can be updated at any time through our mass update feature. Make changes and improve your processes with just one click.
Consistently Evolving Manufacturing Flow
Manufacturing flow is anything but static. In today’s competitive market, production environments are constantly changing and evolving. New products are being produced while new methods and machines are changing the way we look at manufacturing.
For this reason, your tools and methodologies need to evolve with the industry. But most manufacturers don’t have the time to scale their production technologies accordingly by themselves. Neither do they have the resources to create their own proprietary systems. That’s why work instruction and machine monitoring software are so valuable to modern manufacturers. The process of evolving your manufacturing flow is done for you.
We at VKS, along with JITBase, have dedicated teams of people striving to advance your production systems. Whether collecting data, distributing knowledge, finding the optimal path, or digitally transforming your operation, we are always pursuing the greatest capabilities the industry has to offer so that you can truly master your time, knowledge, and manufacturing flow.