Digital Production System

The Power of a Digital Production System

Are you an “Old School” manufacturing dude like me or are you one of those young whipper snappers who think they are just so smart with their “Smartphones” and their “tablet” living somewhere with their head in the “cloud”? Whatever that means!

Well, my friend, as an old troubadour once said, “For the times, they are a changing”, and changing pretty freaking fast at that.  Seems like each time we just get one system up and running, another comes along to take its place.

For those of us old enough to remember, there used to be these things called Quality Circles (Today often known as “Kaizen Events”). Some of us can even remember the first time we saw a simple piece of equipment pick up a part, spin 180 degrees and drop the part onto another moving production line, and then futuristically refer to that as a “Robot” with deep disdain in our voice. The one thing we have learned over the years is that change is the only constant of manufacturing.

3 Core Elements of a Production System 

Recently though, manufacturers have been able to encapsulate their thoughts, ideas, and philosophical approach to manufacturing down to a couple of words, Production System, putting their own unique spin on how product is produced. In a sense, a Production System is essentially the same with all manufacturers and consists of three main elements.

  1. Input

Each Production System requires input of raw material, labor, machines and some sort of documentation in the form of drawings and instructions on how to specifically transform the raw material to its new desired state.

  1. Conversion

The second element of a production system is taking all of the materials and information from the input phase and turning it into a viable and sellable product. In this element, we also see key critical functions of the process come into play such as planning and maintenance, as well as other support processes and people to ensure the product meets standard.

  1. Output

The third and final element is the completed product or service itself, along with all of the associated processes such as shipping, inventory management, quality, and so forth.

A Successful Production System

From the moment humans began to trade goods and services for currency until this very day, this version of the production system has stood and will continue to stand. Today we have 1000s of companies that have taken this simple 3 phase process and put their own individual spin and philosophy on it, using improvement and manufacturing principles developed over the years.

The most famous of these is the often-copied Toyota Production System. We can trace this Production System’s roots to the founding of the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works in the late 1920’s, where the principles, methods, and practices woven into the system can still be seen in practice today in modern Lean Manufacturing applications. But the key factor in this and any Production System is the foundational Principles on which the system is integrated into the overall company.

To this day, the Toyota Motor Company espouses these principles for all of manufacturing to see. “The Toyota Production System is a production system based on the philosophy of achieving the complete elimination of all waste in the pursuit of the most efficient methods.” Companies around the world attempt to mimic and duplicate the success of the standard bearer – the Toyota production System.

6 Principles of a Successful Production System

Regardless of which variation of a successful production system you’re using, when examined closely, we can see that each variation contains six very distinct principles that drive their successful implementation. These are:

  1. Visual Workplace
  2. Employee Involvement and Accountability
  3. Improvement tools and methods (5S, TPM, SMED, etc.)
  4. Standardization of work instructions and procedures
  5. Clear and actionable metrics across the enterprise
  6. Supporting technologies such as software (CMMS, SCADA, MES, etc.)

Because these six principles are core to each production system, we can assume that any technologies introduced to further improve existing production systems thus must also include and strengthen these six principles within the factories where they are implemented. These new software technologies are known as Digital Production Systems.

Digital Production Systems & Social Intelligence

Incorporating the principles of well-known Production Systems from around the globe, L2L describes their version like this: “L2L’s Digital Production System enables real-time visibility to issues impacting production performance. Our system digitizes and simplifies your manufacturing processes by eliminating paperwork and streamlining actionable data collection. We engage problem solving at all levels to drive bottom-line results.”

One key element to a modern-day Digital Production System is incorporating Social Intelligence. Clark Carlile, VP of Sales for L2L, explains that Social Intelligence is, “The learning and changes in technology found in Social Media platforms that have fundamentally changed our culture”. Drawing on comparisons between Social Media platforms and new Digital Production Systems, Carlile points out that both Systems harness the power of the user to input real time data. “Both of these platforms, Social Media and Digital Production Systems, allow for real-time visibility, instant feedback, understanding what is good and bad, the ability to share information quickly, and both are built on User Interfaces the new generation of users and workers understand.” says Carlile.

How Are Next-Gen Digital Production Systems Different?

So, what exactly is so different about a fully functional Digital Production System as opposed to the current software tools found on today’s manufacturing floor? The key is that new cloud technology allows for much easier acquisition and retrieval of data. One key feature that differentiates L2L’s Digital Production System is the real time Andon System, or as L2L calls it, CloudDispatch.

Think about the real-world scenario of a 911 call. When an emergency call is made to a dispatcher, details of the event are recorded, and the clock on the event starts. Instantly we know the clock starting point and can begin to track the length of the event. We also learn many other things when that call comes in. We know who called it in, the location of the event, who we sent to the event, how long they were there at the event, were any additional resources needed, and when the event is over. All of these details are collected in real time from the single call and subsequent interactions with Dispatch. In a manufacturing environment, the same principles can be applied to capture data and calculate metrics.

5 Foundational Metrics of Production Success

When doing a deep dive on all common manufacturing metrics, there are really only five foundational metrics needed to be captured in order to calculate a large number of common manufacturing metrics. These five numbers are:

  1. Production Demand
  2. Production Actuals
  3. Scrap and Rework quantities
  4. Labor Hours
  5. Production Downtime

A good Digital Production System can capture these five data points at the same time, in real time, and instantly calculate the metrics that can then be displayed on scoreboards throughout the plant. Some older generations of manufacturing software can only capture one piece of this data each. I.e., you use your CMMS to capture downtime, your MES to capture production demand and actual, your QMS system to capture rework and scrap data, and your timeclock system to capture labor hours. A good Digital Production System can capture all five on the same screen simultaneously.

Digital vs. Manual

A Digital Production System is also key to sustaining gains in places where manual versions of Production Systems have failed. One area in particular is in its ability to connect Production and Maintenance within the same system. When we consider the above sections of this blog such as the Dispatch process, we can see the ability to capture and track machine downtime. A dispatch is created by manufacturing when the machine goes down and the clock tracking the downtime starts. The clock stops only when the mechanic interacts and closes the dispatch on their mobile device, indicating that no more downtime is being accrued.

This creates zero places for both organizations to hide their data because both Maintenance and Production provide details for which both are accountable.

Production is accountable to ensure the downtime starts as soon as possible on the event in order to ensure production actuals are properly represented, and maintenance is incentivized to ensure the downtime is represented properly in order to show when the machine came back up.

Additionally, the ability to capture real production numbers that interact with the maintenance system (CMMS portion of the Digital Production System) allows maintenance to finally have the ability to move to cycle-based maintenance because the Digital Production System is capturing real production numbers and sending them directly to machine counts that will auto launch the cycle-based PM’s.

Intelligent Document Association

Another key feature of the Digital Production System is the ability to generate, control and launch digital documents. For years industry has attempted to move to a paperless shop floor. But until recently, the technology to produce, edit and deliver documents such as checklists, instructions and standards directly to the shop floor in digital format has not been available. Next-gen Digital Production Systems allow for this very thing to happen. Documents, such as checklists, can be stored in the cloud and delivered directly to the operator or maintenance technician in real time with a feature known as intelligent association. Intelligent association delivers the digital document to the mobile device of the user on the shop floor. This ensures that all documents sent to the user are the latest revision in the system. In other words, the day of using out-of-revision documents on the shop floor are over.

The Technology Is Here

Finally, because all of this data being collected is being stored in the cloud, the data is easily retrievable and displayed in charts and graphs to all users of the system. No longer do organizations need to depend on system experts to retrieve data that can be helpful for immediate action in the process.

So, don’t allow yourself to get caught dreaming of the olden days, but allow yourself to realize that the technology we have hoped for is finally here and ready to take your Production System to the next level.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *