On top of the common challenges facing manufacturers in the wake of the digitalization of the industry, discrete manufacturers face added layers of complexity due to the specific nature of their organizations. The market segment in which these organizations operate is characterized by volatile markets that are subject to sweeping technological changes and short product lifespans. This forces discrete manufacturers and in particular lean manufacturers to have high visibility and control over the entirety of the production process in order to remain flexible and quickly adapt to unforeseen market shifts.
Here are 3 common issues facing discrete manufacturers in the Industry 4.0 era.
Regulatory compliance and traceability
One would have a hard time finding a type of manufacturer that wouldn’t identify increasing regulation as an important factor in planning the organization’s future strategy. While it is obvious that a large number of these regulations are necessary and/or beneficial to customers, the fact remains that each of them presents an additional layer of complexity for the organization’s internal processes and an added strain on company resources.
While technological advances have done a lot to assist manufacturers in quality control and customer relations, they have also been responsible for the creation of more demanding regulation and a more demanding customer base. Now, many manufacturers are faced with the challenge of having it required of them to have an extremely high level of visibility into the entirety of their supply chain. This includes regulations that often require that all components going into a given end-product can be traced back to the specific materials that were used in the component’s manufacturing.
For discrete manufacturers, and especially lean manufacturers, these challenges are compounded by the fact that supply chains are becoming increasingly globalized and tracking materials and products, as well as the regulations that apply to them, is getting to be a task that can only be handled effectively using robust systems able to centralize and visualize all the necessary data.
Balancing maintenance with throughput
Keeping production running smoothly has always been a top priority for any manufacturer. However, with unprecedented levels of automation coupled with the aggressive shortening of the R&D cycle in order to introduce new products into the market faster than ever, this task has become much more complex. Due to the fact that even the slightest incidents can prove devastating to operations and cause severe loss in production and customer satisfaction, manufacturers are increasingly turning to preventive maintenance to ensure optimal production levels.
The introduction of IoT technology into manufacturing plants has provided organizations with systems capable of keeping track of machine performance and production levels regardless of how complex the operation may be. This automated collection of an astounding amount of data, along with its processing and visualization, provides plant managers with insight into their maintenance requirements like never before. Modern systems can predict issues based on past information, order replacement parts and even send out work orders to the maintenance staff entirely autonomously. This ensures high throughput while minimizing cost and ensuring worker safety and customer satisfaction all the way through.
Keeping products relevant
We’ve already touched on the speeding up of the pace at which companies are putting new products on the market – but other than complicating the production process due to retooling, faster product introduction also adds complexity to the process of R&D itself. With the rise of global media platforms, the internet culture, and worldwide trends and fads – it makes sense why each manufacturer is clamoring to be the first one to capitalize on the latest opportunity.
This requires organizations to be agile and highly flexible with their suppliers in order to ensure that quality is monitored and maintained as product specifications change. Also, organizations need to be prepared to handle relatively frequent adjustments to the configuration of their plant floor. And the R&D process needs to become much more structured and robust in order to manage the required pace of product delivery.
In the pursuit of a healthy balance between flexible production, rapid product development and adequate quality controls and maintenance – your organization will need to partner with a team that has considerable experience and expertise in assisting organizations undergoing digital transformation. That’s where Merit Solutions can help. Learn more about our Lean Manufacturing or Digital Manufacturing solutions.