The COVID-19 black swan event took the world into much disruption and the global crisis continues to affect manufacturing operations across varying scales. For some, the disruption in global supply chains, social distancing measures and shift in consumer behavior mean a significant loss to production with full or partial plant closures. Other industries producing essential goods such as food and beverages, medical supplies, and pharmaceuticals are dealing with the challenges of unpredictable increases (and potential decreases in the future) in demand.

We have been speaking and listening to the challenges that the people behind operations are facing during this crisis and continue to provide solutions to help them manage and survive continued, unexpected changes to operations, processes, labor force, etc. (more on this below). What we have found across the board is a heightened need for production visibility to adapt to capacity changes – whether it’s managing slowdowns in production or accelerated time to market. The need for remote access to production monitoring data during this time and in the future is also a must to accommodate new work structures and facilitate business continuity. 

In this blog post, we’ll discuss how IIoT based smart factory software helps manufacturers adapt to unpredictable changes efficiently while safeguarding their operations for the future. 

Increase Production Visibility to Adapt to Capacity Changes

In this unprecedented time, flexibility in operations is a must to adapt to capacity changes and to avoid unexpected disruptions. Even essential industries such as F&B and medical supplies, which are experiencing high demand (risk of underproduction) will have to plan for eventual slowdowns (risk of excess capacity). Having remote and in-house access to real-time data around material consumption, labor, quality, and energy usage is crucial to controlling downtime reasons such as line starvation. 

Ideally, manufacturers want to achieve optimum capacity (meeting order deadlines, minimal waste) and want to avoid constrained capacity (bottlenecks, running out of material) or excess capacity (wasting money and resources). Smart factory software connects to the pulse of your machines and production data to produce real-time information to make smarter decisions on capacity. 

  • Track top losses by the hour to identify bottlenecks, delays, and microstoppages. For example, during this time, social distancing and newly added safety requirements are to be implemented on shop floors (understandably). This means taking extra time and effort to disinfect machines and wash hands which can add to changeover times, OEE, downtimes that need to be taken into account.
  • Stay ahead of preventative maintenance by analyzing labor and scheduling data to identify ideal times to conduct maintenance work on machines without disrupting or slowing down production. 
  • Automated Alerts – Set up automated alerts when components are close to empty to help make smarter replenishment decisions based on expected job or work order completion time to avoid line starvation. 
  • ERP and MES integration – true smart factory software can be integrated with other systems such as ERPs and MES, for bidirectional information exchange that can be accessed remotely if needed. Inventory information such as available materials and work orders can help make smart decisions on the amount of achievable output or capacity for a given timeframe.  

Facilitate Business Continuity 

Most manufacturers have business continuity plans in place, but they may not fully address the fast-moving and unpredictable variables of an outbreak such as COVID-19. Typical contingency plans focus on managing operational effectiveness during natural disasters, cyber-attacks, and power outages, however, they don’t have steps in place to deal with quarantines and the restrictions that come with such emergencies. Having the right smart factory technology in place allows for remote access to production data and offers additional benefits. These include: 

  • Protect your employees – mandatory checks and reminders can be created in the system to ensure workers are following social distancing rules and are washing hands, disinfecting machines, and generally following the precaution sanitization efforts implemented.
  • Messaging systems built into smart factory software create advanced notices that can be color-coded and set up as pre-operations checks before shift start-ups. Company wide-messaging can be created from the system to increase engagement and boost morale during this difficult time or to update employees on company news. These digital announcements connected to workstation displays allow for workers to receive important information without having to gather in large groups contributing to social distancing measures.  
  • Create action plans remotely – Shoplogix action plan allows workers to create action plans, update statuses of tasks and add comments and notes virtually. These action plans can be shared and reviewed in a team setting over the phone or virtually.
  • Changes to labor – For manufacturers that are scaling down, this may mean layoffs and higher turnover while those ramping up production may need to add additional labor.  Smart factory software tracks, organizes and reports on labor activity to easily understand optimal labor levels, labor variance and the impact to OEE efficiency to make the right decisions around hiring or reducing the number of employees during this time. If adding labor, it’s important to have technology that is user-friendly and easily adoptable to speed up the onboarding process. For example, the Shoplogix smart factory platform’s intuitive design comes with built-in user guides that can be accessed directly from any screen to reduce the learning curve. 

Shoplogix Smart Factory IIoT Platform with Remote Monitoring 

Shoplogix is re-defining the manufacturing industry by making the Smart Factory platform the cornerstone of digital production performance transformation. With plug and play implementation that captures machine data instantly, Shoplogix offers remote access to real-time operation data for advanced monitoring. By empowering manufacturers to visualize, integrate, and act on production performance, Shoplogix helps to adapt to changing demand, uncover hidden shop floor potential and drive rapid time to value.

Take the next steps to safeguard your operations. Contact us to discuss manufacturing capabilities, capacity management, employee engagement, operational excellence, remote production monitoring, and more.