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The Visible Value Blog

Driving man and machine in smart manufacturing

Posted by David Stain

September 13, 2016 at 11:10 AM


The modern manufacturing environment requires flexibility to meet the needs of consumers who expect products customised to their preferences. With such variability in production, the need for collaboration between humans and smart manufacturing technology is essential. Working side by side on a daily basis, process compliance plays an integral role in ensuring both the safety of workers and the quality of the final product meet the necessary standards. These standards are driven by legislation, regulatory bodies and company/product specifications. Adhering to defined expectations in the manufacturing of large quantities of product presents a significant challenge, and forms the basis for the technological opportunity.  


As humans and technology continue to work closely together, process compliance difficulties arise and must be met with a clear integration strategy. Managing a massive product variety while adhering to compliance processes can be difficult, particularly as the variables regularly change to meet the needs of man and machine.


Personalisation is now a key trend across manufacturing: first in food (customised M&M®’s anyone?) and now moving into larger fast moving consumer goods. Nike’s sports footwear for example, allows consumers to design and buy the exact trainers they want; people are now seeking out things made specially for them. This is occurring on an even bigger scale as well! Take the Vauxhall Adam - it has over 1 million variants, the Citroen DS3 offers 3 million combinations and the 2015 Dodge Viper and Viper SRT can be ‘one of a kind’ cars with a staggering 25 million possible configurations. Indeed, if building things wasn’t already complex, it’s becoming more so! 


This variety complicates the on-boarding process. Staff must learn an ever-growing quantity of build configurations that then must be adhered to as the variety of products intensifies. This growth increases the risk of mistakes and non-compliance.


As manufacturers look to achieve ever-closer union between humans and machines while maintaining process compliance, many in the industry are attempting to redesign their operations to safely accommodate this closer relationship. These developments are being further advanced through the growth of technology across the production process. New innovations are driving improved product quality, traceability, flexibility, repeatability and agility, ensuring optimal ROI and compliance.


With the implementation of new technologies across manufacturing operations, process compliance is being simplified as data on information management relating to condition and process is becoming easier to access. With clear instructions included on the actions to take in the result of non-compliance, the people working with the machines have the capability to resolve errors quickly and efficiently.  Technology manufacturers such as Zebra look to enable manufacturers to take that technology step, be that a new or, deeper step into technology. Whatever the case, scalability is the key so that the investment can be staggered as the organisation grows.


When a manufacturer is driven by its customer to comply with a product specification and deliver those products on a just in time basis, they will often look to establish pinch points and identify compliance challenges. This is where technology becomes an enabler. With the right equipment in place, the system can ensure clear instructions are visible to operators across multiple devices, both static and mobile, to drive efficient data sharing, collaboration and performance.


In reality the manufacturing landscape is rapidly adopting a new approach towards process compliance. Reactivity is no longer good enough. With high profile errors showcased across the globe in the form of the automotive emissions scandal and the horse meat debacle, manufacturers are now looking towards pro-activity. Pre-empting and mitigating non-compliance has the potential to increase sales volume, heighten brand image and consolidate confidence in production capability. These are true benefits few manufacturers can afford to turn their back on.


Working together, humans and machines have the potential to drive enhanced productivity throughout the manufacturing process, while adhering to process compliance.  With the right combination of processes, solutions and people in place, the potential to create a world class manufacturing operation is very real indeed, and not to be missed! 


For more information on process compliance in smart manufacturing, download our eBook today!

Topics: Manufacturing, EMEA, Technology, process compliance