In manufacturing, leaders innovate and grow while followers fall prey to inefficiency and waste. A recent report from the Aberdeen Group, Lean Manufacturing: Success Starts with Visibility and Alignment, describes how manufacturing leaders consistently benefit from having tools in place to track continuous improvement activities. In addition, 61% of these high performers provide management with a comprehensive, easy-to-understand view into operations. These results reinforce the truth that lean principles are only as good as the actionable data available, and it follows that organizational integration of manufacturing software solutions is key to process improvement.
The case for using a manufacturing software solution to support lean transformation comes down to selecting software that is both individually effective and which works with other software solutions such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and manufacturing execution systems (MES). Of course, the solution should provide:
- Easy implementation with minimal support required
- Solid ROI
- Production scheduling efficiency
- Tracking of inventory and production process anomalies with corrective action protocols
- Synchronized material flows and increased visibility across the supply chain
- Elimination of waste and rework
Manufacturing software solutions should be chosen for their ability to be used on plant floors to drive lean manufacturing initiatives, to support continuous process improvement, and to enable organizational change management.
ERP, MES, and LPA for Lean Process Methodologies
The complexity of ERP software has been traditionally seen as being a challenge to lean simplification principles. However, ERP software can actually support lean principles of continuous improvement by:
- Providing the data within meaningful context
- Enabling clear and intuitive cause/effect relationships behind the data to support a continuous improvement model
- Enabling action and process modification for achieving specific results
This flexibility would support a continuous improvement model in which ERP empowers a siloed workforce to have role-based access to tools for strategy execution based on actionable information.
As a comprehensive system, a manufacturing execution system (MES) helps control shop floor resources and operation processes to gain more efficiencies. Many MES solutions have grown increasingly complex in an attempt to capture more data. Often, end-users lose track of software processes and begin developing bad habits. Designed to operate in real time, schedulers can make faster decisions regarding risks such as cost overruns, poor quality, and late deliveries.
Communication and accountability are major challenges in the manufacturing environment that lead to waste, errors, and rework. That’s why LPA software that is used in conjunction with ERP and MES software creates a trifecta of lean continual process improvement. LPA software accomplishes this by:
- Management and conduct of process audits
- Automatic notification of scheduled audits
- Nonconformances and corrective action tracking
- Customized report templates with 24/7 report running access with intuitive daily, monthly, and year-over-year statistical information
The Trifecta of Software for Lean
With tight margins, increased competition, and pressure to innovate to achieve speed and quality improvements, manufacturers must have confidence in their data and find actionable ways to make lean processes pay off in the bottom line. To do this, they must have manufacturing software solutions providing actionable data that can help the entire organization—from the factory floor to the C-suite.
By working together, these software solutions can provide supplier traceability, quality, nonconformance and corrective action (NC/CA), corrective and preventative action (CAPA), statistical process control (SPC), and genealogy traceability data made immediately available plant-wide. With wireless devices increasingly finding their way onto the factory environment, it’s becoming possible to monitor production workflow performance, communicate with the production workforce, and take corrective action in real time.
Efficiently running a complex operation requires real-time information for process monitoring and improvement, corrective action, and change management that minimizes or eliminates uncertainty. This can only be done when all levels of the organization receive the facts they need, when and where they require such information.