Choosing the Right Manufacturing Technology Partner
Tuesday 3 November, 2020
As humans it’s in our very nature to create routines that make us comfortable, so when change is suggested, it makes us fear the unknown. Manufacturers are under increasing amounts of pressure to make cost-effective decisions. There are a number of digital manufacturing technologies that will make this possible but selecting “the right” provider for your business is essential because this tech must contribute to your bottom line both now and in the future.
TotalControlPro’s Business Development Manager, Belinda Walton has provided some advice and guidance on how to choose a manufacturing technology partner and ensure that you don’t end up on a digital manufacturing road to nowhere.
How do you currently use Manufacturing Technology?
Don’t be phased by this question. It’s important to have an open and frank discussion with a tech partner in order to establish the needs of your business. Maybe you’re just starting out on your digital journey so you still have piles of paper stacked up on the shopfloor and not much in way of digital manufacturing technology. Or Perhaps you have an ERP or accounting system in place that doesn’t sync up with your production floor leaving room for errors and communication breakdowns. Or maybe you’ve tried implementing multiple technologies all at once in the past and they’ve not really helped you achieve what you wanted to achieve, leaving you with paper filling the holes once again.
No matter your situation, it’s important to clearly illustrate the technology that’s already in use and decide if it’s really working for you. A good tech provider will be patient enough to get to know your business processes and take the time to understand your situation.
What do you want to achieve from your Manufacturing Technology?
In manufacturing, as in many areas of life, digital technology and Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) adoption can often be driven by trends and advertising as opposed to your business needs. This paired with the confusing buzzwords used to describe manufacturing technology, it can be hard to pinpoint what technologies will actually work best for you.
Begin by considering what your biggest challenges are, as well as where your quick wins will come from, for ultimate success. For example, imagine you have no visibility of what’s happening on the shop floor. The impact may be that you are unable to see the jobs that are being worked on, or which stage of your process the job is in. You don’t know the timings for how long a job will take and therefore can’t accurately cost the job. You may be estimating that a job will take an hour to get through one of your processes, but in fact may be taking an hour and a half. If you are creating a price based on these timings, you could be falling short on your margins and losing money. If shopfloor visibility is your biggest challenge, your tech partner will be able to provide recommendations on the most appropriate manufacturing technology, like implementing a MES system.
Alternatively, you may be faced with stock and inventory challenges where business cash is tied up in surplus stock. You may not have access to information like how many items you have currently in stock, or if you have enough to fulfil a new customer order. Perhaps you have digital drawings that need to be sent down to the shopfloor and accessed quickly. You may need to build a Bill of Materials or run production in batches. If this is the case, your tech provider should recommend an Inventory system that provides end-to-end visibility.
Implement Manufacturing Technology One Step at a Time
It’s likely that technology partners can solve many of your challenges with a series of their product offerings and there are tech providers out there that will try to sell you as much technology as possible all at once. Although many of these technologies have strong value propositions and make good business sense on some level, they may not be what’s needed at that time, to address important operational issues. Belinda stressed, “when you don’t know what you’re doing, digital implementation is frightening, especially in today’s chaotic world”. If you are under pressure to hit targets on a production floor, implementation of new systems is going to be concerning because when handled poorly, it can be disruptive. A good tech partner will identify what solutions you need the most and help you to adopt your new manufacturing technology in a way that minimises disruption, learns, and engages your team.
TotalControlPro™ does this through identifying your biggest needs and working closely with you to ensure that your technology helps you to overcome your initial challenges and starts delivering the quick-wins you need to see a return of investment. Belinda’s stressed that the best approach is to think, “Let’s get one part done right, let’s give you the visibility that you want and the information you need so you can start looking at a clear view of your costs. Let’s make sure your business is profitable, let’s make sure your resources are utilised well. Then we’ll work on overcoming your next challenge.”
Belinda’s Top Tips for Successful Adoption of Manufacturing Technology
1. Ask Questions!
“Don’t be blindsided by technology!” There’s no such thing as a stupid questions in tech because there’s likely to be some terminology that you’re not familiar with. Whether that’s because it’s been abbreviated by those in the industry or it’s just a new concept to you. Equally, it’s just as important to find yourself a technology partner that has the time and patience to listen to everything you have to say, understand your requirements and put you first. Find a partner you can trust to guide you through the process instead of someone forcing you to ‘run before you can walk.’
2. Start with WHAT
When you first speak to your tech partner, through a demo or any other means, make sure you highlight your internal challenges and what you want to achieve. When you aren’t entirely sure about new manufacturing technologies, it’s much easier to start with WHAT you’re trying to achieve and then work out HOW after. This will prevent any unnecessary tech implementations and helps to keep both cost and disruption to a minimum. Let your tech partner come back with how, allow them to bring their expertise to the party, you can then focus on the outcome.
3. Be TOO detailed
When you have chosen a partner you will go through a scoping session. A scoping session aims to capture a lot of information about your manufacturing business in a short amount of time and this is stored in a scoping document. It is really important to spend time going over this document and speak up about anything that has been forgotten as soon as possible. It’s equally important to query and challenge anything you’re not certain of. It’s far better to give MORE detail than not enough because this gives your tech company the best possible opportunity to deliver.
It’s a journey of small incremental improvements over time which can massively impact your bottom line, and in the end, technology has to serve the business and its stakeholders.
Think you have found the right technology partner? Let us prove you right! Book a Demo today!