Brad Kuvin Brad Kuvin
Editorial Director

The Time is Now for SMMs to Develop a Digital Strategy

July 1, 2020


“Plant-floor information is not going away, and there's a greater need for it―even more so now due to the Covid-19 pandemic.” So notes Dean Phillips, manufacturing and sales engineer with Link Systems, who outlines several aspects of the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution, and its challenges, in this special digital issue of MetalForming

“I've heard from manufacturers that have brought in lean and Six Sigma experts to help them formulate what information is and isn’t important to gather,” Phillips continues, commenting on the data gathering and analysis that consumes IoT strategies. “That’s been one of the biggest struggles.” In particular, we see a lot of small to midsized manufactuers (SMMs) tackling this challenge.

We devised the content of this special digital issue with the intent of guiding metal formers and fabricators in their efforts to leverage information technology to better navigate the “new normal.” Plant managers require real-time information regarding the status of their most critical operations—if not the entire factory. Plant-floor workers must have data at hand to help them anticipate machine hiccups or failure, and then be prepared to take action in order to minimize downtime. And, those in the front office must be able to accurately track production flow, monitor and control costs, and have a hotline into those on the plant floor to ensure customer satisfaction when it comes to key measurables such as on-time delivery and quality requirements.

A recent blog post to The Manufacturer by Asif Moghal, senior industry manager at Autodesk, describing Covid-19 will forever change design and manufacturing, highlights the rise of digital literacy.

“People are becoming more comfortable with a greater range of digital tools and capabilities,” says Moghal. “Even though this may only be a minor sub-segment of the digital toolkit that exists, it has raised our confidence in what’s possible with technology and potentially, a thirst to learn more.”

Learning how to apply the digital tools that are available today is what this issue of MetalForming is all about. Case in point: the front-office team at Tier One metal former Hidaka USA, profiled in this issue. “We’ve worked to provide the flexibility in our scheduling and production departments to support smaller batch quantities,” explains Diane Rosso, director of administrations. A few years ago, the facility implemented a collection of mobile apps that run on Android-based tablets and use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology to communicate with and collect data from barcode scanners located on the plant floor. The consistent flow of data produces cycle and physical inventory counts in real time. As a result, direct labor for its annual physical inventory process has dropped from 320 man-hrs. down to just 104 man-hrs.

Mo Abuali, managing partner of IoTCo and co-author of yet another article in this issue, titled Five Tips for a Successful Digital Transformation, summarizes well the coming digital era of manufacturing: “A manufacturer’s digital maturity,” says Abuali, “goes far beyond simply deploying new technology, by aligning the company’s overall strategy with people, process and technology to meet the expectations of both customers and employees. Four key elements comprise a digital strategy: the business case, connectivity, analytics, and technology selection and adoption.”

I hope that you find the information provided in this special issue of MetalForming of great value as you and your company embark on your own digital strategy.

Industry-Related Terms: Case, Point, Run
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms

Technologies: Management

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