10 Ways to Shop Floor Efficiency for Rolled Goods Manufacturers

Digital Innovation Returns to the Industry that Started It

Rolled goods manufacturers have a unique opportunity to take advantage of digital technology to become more efficient and gain an edge in competitive, data-fueled operations management. Because the shop floor is at the core of rolled goods manufacturing, we suggest 10 efficiency and productivity measures that start there but which can drive similar improvements across business processes. Expert Sikich consultants can help you plan and perform these steps to achieve the best outcomes and ROI from process and technology optimizations.

The Technology Opportunity for Rolled Goods Manufacturers

The textile domain of rolled goods manufacturing spearheaded digital innovation we still benefit from today. In 1801, a French weaver and tradesman, Jean-Marie Jacquard, exhibited the first programmable loom. The Jacquard loom automated weaving with accurately repeated patterns by means of pasteboard cards with punched holes. It provided a showcase for other programmable machines. Jacquard’s technology influenced the use and design of punch cards by Charles Babbage with his Difference Engine and by IBM in its early computers.

From Innovation to Constraint

Textile manufacturers assumed Jacquard’s invention to streamline their production, continuing a long history of ever more efficient and productive machinery and factories. Today, many makers of rolled goods still rely on robust production machinery that may be several decades old. Over time, it may become more difficult and expensive to find knowledgeable technicians and source parts to maintain and repair these machines. In a digital era that prizes connection and decision-making based on data, traditional machine assets in rolled goods manufacturing operations tend to be information islands unless they’re enhanced with modern, digital technology.

When we hear from manufacturers, we often find that their extremely reliable production machinery has served them so well that they have not explored the potential benefits of digital technology on the shop floor, in the warehouse, or in distribution operations. Because of narrow margins and the need to keep costs under control, their budgets typically don’t allow much room for technology spending.

Roadmap for Transformation

Sikich consultants know how to help manufacturers and other businesses take advantage of the best of modern technology in an affordable, low-risk, outcome-driven manner that suits their goals and priorities. Rolled goods manufacturers can gain a competitive edge and become more efficient, profitable operations when they introduce modern, digital solutions designed for them. The potential for beneficial, digitally fueled change in rolled goods manufacturing ranges across operations, from the shop floor to demand planning, finance management, and sales. Today, in your rolled goods business, you can use proven, affordable technology to:

  • Digitize and connect systems to accomplish more with data you already generate every day, for example, to enable production and business planners to make better decisions, faster.
  • Manage your workforce, industrial assets, customer relationships, and trading partner networks to achieve the best possible business outcomes efficiently, at reasonable expense, and with a strong ROI.
  • Simplify the management of multiple production facilities or warehouses as you accommodate growth and change in your business and industry.
  • Demonstrate leadership in innovating your industry and run a forward-looking, resourceful enterprise that is attractive to customers and business partners.

10 Tactics to Boost Shop Floor Efficiency

The shop floor at the heart of rolled goods manufacturing presents many opportunities for driving greater efficiency and productivity. At Sikich, we’ve worked with many rolled goods clients to help them make meaningful, nondisruptive changes that start at the shop floor but which can benefit executives and teams across the entire business. Below, we briefly describe the 10 shop floor modernization measures we propose and implement most often for rolled goods manufacturers. Sikich can help you realize all or any of these. They can help extend the productive lifespan of production equipment and deliver immediate resource efficiencies, cost savings, and productivity improvements. At the same time, they can be part of your journey to Industry 4.0 and the digitally run manufacturing operation of the near future.

Each of these 10 tactics is useful and complete in itself. You will need to determine which make sense for your business. We begin by discussing measures at the shop floor and go on to technology changes that go beyond the shop floor to impact other business groups and workflows. For some manufacturers, that may be the most practical way to proceed. Depending on your priorities, you might prefer a different path, and your Sikich consultants will help you design the best course.

01: Collect and Analyze Machine Data

We identify and list what kinds of data points your shop floor machinery produces every time it runs. Then we install new or use existing sensors to gather the information that matters, and provide connectivity so they can send their data streams to a server or other computer. Sikich provides and configures the analytical and data management tools to help you make sense of the information and store it safely.

Low-cost, purpose-designed sensors can, for example, collect data on vibrations, temperatures, power consumption, output metrics, or production cycle times. You can put that information to work to improve equipment utilization, avoid unscheduled downtime with proactive maintenance, identify and minimize spikes in power usage, ensure consistent product quality, or adjust settings for better productivity. If you already use software like an enterprise resource planning (ERP) or manufacturing execution system (MES), you could use the reporting mechanisms that are part of ERP or MES to process and analyze the data. We can also create and deploy—or show you how to do so—easy-to-use, intuitive analytics and reporting dashboards or reports built on Microsoft Power BI. In any case, we keep your new data intelligence tools simple, economical, and easily adjustable.

02: Enable Reporting from PLCS and SCADA Systems

Like many manufacturers, you may already be using programmable logic controllers (PLC) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems locally, on the shop floor. If the data they collect remains at that level, only your production teams will benefit from it. When PLCs and SCADA connect to your other business systems, their data can enable realtime reporting that helps production managers and planners boost production efficiencies. They can plan machine utilization and production optimizations with complete visibility of each machine, cost center, and industrial asset, individually, in subsets, or overall. Again, Sikich outfits your PLCs and SCADA systems with the inexpensive interfaces and sensors to transmit their data and helps you choose, implement, and configure the software tools that facilitate analysis and reporting.

03: Deliver Valuable Shop Floor Data to Decision-Makers

The machine operators on your shop floor may be experts in running the production equipment, but it’s likely a challenge for them to find the time to manually collect and share machine data with people elsewhere in the business. Sikich can install proprietary human machine interfaces (HMI) comprising the hardware and software to automatically collect and forward data from your production machinery. Doing so brings data sets from the shop floor directly to production and operations managers, who can then better understand what happens in production and intervene to improve process efficiencies. As we describe below, you can also provide a subset of that shop floor information to executives and decision-makers who can benefit from curated, meaningful data in procurement, finance, sales, order management, supply chain management, and other business groups.

04: Implement a MES to Drive Shop Floor Efficiency and Productivity

If you’re not yet using a mature, modern MES, implementing a system like JUST MES might be the right next step to drive efficiencies and productivity on he shop floor and beyond. JUST MES monitors machinery and production processes, tracking performance, workflow details, equipment efficiency, production and non-production equipment utilization, materials processed, and more. The MES enables operators to monitor and control production, reacting in real time if machine performance or efficiencies flag or if output departs from quality or regulatory standards. It also analyzes production data to draw attention to improvement opportunities. As JUST MES boosts shop floor efficiencies, it also helps you minimize material and financial waste.

Expert Sikich teams deploy JUST MES on-premises or in the cloud for your production facilities and connect it with the vast range of machinery of various brands, types, and versions they’re familiar with. We provide the cables, ports, and other hardware to enable connectivity. We also perform any integrations between your MES, ERP, product lifecycle management (PLM), and other systems.

05: Use MES to Improve Manufacturing Planning and Execution

In addition to driving efficiencies during every moment of production time, your MES can help you optimize manufacturing processes and supporting workflows. You can better plan the use of machine time and minimize the efforts and potential delays caused by the setup and adjustment of production machinery. With MES data guidance, it also becomes easier to avoid production bottlenecks, for example, by considering constraints in the availability of specialized machines which could easily cause a production slowdown. As a consequence of using your MES this way, operators and production assets can continue working productively in sustainable cadences. You can minimize the costs and waste associated with uneven or disrupted production and more confidently plan, generate, and meet customer demand.

06: Integrate MES and Warehouse Management to Ensure Timely Availability or Materials

You can integrate your MES with other business systems to enable useful data flows across your operations. For instance, Sikich teams often connect MES with the warehouse management systems (WMS) used by rolled goods manufacturers. Some ERP systems, including Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain, come with a WMS, and we can also build integrations between JUST MES and other WMS solutions. This integration connects the shop floor directly to the warehouse, thereby avoiding ambiguities and minimizing the need for many phone calls or messages. Shop floor managers can then more easily make sure that needed materials in the right quantities are on hand in the warehouse or in transit at the right time. Warehouse teams can use their spaces more efficiently, stage materials to align with production schedules, and spend less time shifting materials from one warehouse location to another. You generate additional savings and efficiencies, and your customers can rely on their products being manufactured and shipped when they expect them.

07: Integrate MES and ERP for All-Up Visibility and Efficiency

By integrating MES and ERP, you can accomplish more, more easily, than having the two systems run without exchanging data. With MES bridging the shop floor and ERP, you can bring a new level of transparency into your rolled goods manufacturing business. An ERP system typically helps you run such core business activities as financial management, business planning, forecasting, sales, order management, and workforce management. ERP can greatly streamline and accelerate many business processes, fuel wise decision-making, and make employees’ lives easier.

Outcomes our rolled goods clients often realize first from MES and ERP integration include timely procurement at advantageous terms and optimized inventory management, ensuring that materials will be available when they need to be in the warehouse. It also becomes easier for managers and employees to raise awareness or make a correction when delivery dates, inventory levels, sales forecasting, and financials don’t align in your and your customers’ best interest. As a result of ERP and MES integration, the shop floor and the business groups can more easily and productively work in concert to serve customers and reach your goals for business performance, efficiency, and productivity.

That said, you could have Sikich deploy JUST MES on its own and it can already make a huge difference in transforming shop floor processes for the best possible efficiencies and business outcomes. Similarly, you could run Dynamics 365 ERP without MES integration. When Sikich consultants begin working with you and come to understand your goals and challenges, they can recommend and scope the solutions and integrations that make sense for your company, without complicating your technology environment with functionality you don’t need nor underserving areas of the business.

08: Introduce Automation Efficiencies and Data-Driven Management

By integrating MES, ERP, PLM, and other business systems on-premises and in the cloud, you can create a coherent technology environment that seamlessly connects your people and processes, at a single location or across multiple production facilities, warehouses, or offices. You can then automate many processes and routine activities to remove redundant functions and other drudgery from people’s jobs and make operations more efficient. Executives and decision-makers can draw on realtime data from the entire operation to move the business forward and overcome competitive challenges. The innovators in product development can remain firmly grounded to the reality of financials and shop floor processes. In turn, shop floor teams and other business groups can become collaborative partners in the drive toward innovation and Industry 4.0.

Working with you, Sikich consultants help you create this digital environment with the visibility, control, agility, and automations that make sense for your business. We integrate systems, build automations, and provide the analytics and reporting tools that meet the needs of your business roles, using Power BI as well as the best of today’s cloud-based data insight solutions. As your business generates large volumes of information every day, we can also propose and realize the most efficient and economical ways to store, process, and safeguard those data streams.

09: Align the Shop Floor with Customer Commitments

As you connect and align the shop floor with the rest of the business to become more efficient, you can also sharpen the focus on how you deliver value to customers and the quality of the experience you provide them. An enterprise-level customer relationship management (CRM) solution like Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM can be the system of record for all customer information, contracts, communications, and histories. Anytime your employees connect with a customer, they can be fully informed regarding the customer’s ordering and account history, often addressing concerns efficiently in a single conversation. For running sales and marketing campaigns, CRM can serve as the source of data and the tool for execution that makes it possible to approach the right customers and prospects with valuable offers and relevant messages. You can also track the outcomes in CRM.

With a seamless connection all the way from the shop floor to sales conversations, it becomes easier to communicate and ensure that production and delivery meet and exceed customer expectations. Any news regarding quality deviations or production delays can immediately travel from the shop floor to customer account or service representatives, who can then take the right next steps with customers.

10: Empower Shop Floor Workers to Communicate and Share their Insight

Your shop floor operations can become greatly more efficient with MES and other technologies we mentioned. In addition, you can equip individual shop floor supervisors and workers with the tools to manage their tasks and communicate with their colleagues in other business groups. Sikich often deploys Microsoft Teams to help employees and organizations connect and communicate. Teams is a cloud-based, easy-to-use, versatile communications platform for messages, chats, calls, planned or spontaneous meetings, and document sharing. When it’s easy for shop floor workers to communicate with the warehouse, maintenance specialists, shipping, or procurement, they will more often take the initiative to address concerns and avoid problems in the moment instead of delaying. As communications become more timely and immediate, your workers and production facilities can operate more efficiently and avoid unplanned downtime or delays.

Sikich can help you deploy Teams, configure it for the users on the shop floor and elsewhere, and modernize your business communications. For many clients, we also replace traditional telephony systems with more affordable, flexible Teams telephony.

An enterprise-level customer relationship management (CRM) solution like Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM can be the system of record for all customer information, contracts, communications and histories.

Partnering to Drive Efficiency and Productivity at the Shop Floor and Throughout the Business

When you collaborate with Sikich industry and technology experts, you extend your own resources with a team that
is committed to your success. Our consultants take an individualized, collaborative approach to working with
and for you. We treat the shop floor as a key area in your rolled goods manufacturing and a priority for technology modernization. We treat it in the context of all the processes and events that touch on shop floor activities or are impacted by them.

In over forty years in business, we have served many manufacturers benefit from the best of technology and optimize their processes. Our partnerships with leading technology innovators give us advanced visibility of new software capabilities we can deploy for clients and provide us with a channel to make clients’ concerns and requests heard by developers and product planners.

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