PASO ROBLES, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Supply chain integration, automation, and analytics are among the top action items for 2017 identified by manufacturers, reported IQMS, a leading manufacturing ERP software and manufacturing execution system (MES) authority. For IQMS, the focus in 2017 will be helping its customers to address these priorities through the practical application of Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing concepts, which have established new benchmarks for manufacturers in North America and beyond.
With a mission to keep traditional manufacturing countries competitive in a low-cost global manufacturing environment, Industry 4.0 fundamentally addresses automation and data exchange in manufacturing plants. Core tools of Industry 4.0 include work center automation, production monitoring, and predictive analytics, which increasingly rely on the Internet of things (IoT) and cloud computing to serve as their infrastructural backbone. Despite the availability of proven manufacturing solutions in these areas, to date there remains a gap in adoption at many mid-tier companies.
“A lot of what we hear about Industry 4.0 today could be considered too advanced for all but the largest manufacturers,” said Steve Bieszczat, IQMS CMO. “However, there are a lot of practical applications within Industry 4.0 from which some of our mid-market customers are already benefiting. In 2017, we want to help other mid-size manufacturers realize similar gains by incrementally applying software functionality that enables an Industry 4.0 approach to their operations.”
Supply Chain Integration
Today, few businesses stand alone. Instead, upstream suppliers and downstream customers are interdependent. For manufacturers, this is bringing increased pressure to streamline these interdependencies with business-to-business electronic communications that not only exchange purchase order and shipping data, but also forecasts, change orders, production specifications, labels and production data. More companies are turning to the cloud to facilitate this exchange, since it lowers the technical barriers to bringing more participants into the supply chain. At the same time, many communications that previously relied on the involvement of several people have been replaced by machine-to-machine interactions in lights-out environments.
“We deliver products just-in-time to our automotive manufacturing customers from our production lines,” said Mike Hopkins, administration manager at Nissen Chemitec America. “This gives us a competitive edge that would not be possible without the tight supply chain integration we have with the companies we serve.”
Automation for Today’s Skilled Workforce
Interest in automating the manufacturing shop floor is at an all-time high as companies seek cost savings, along with solutions to the dual workforce challenges they face: a continuing shortage of skilled labor and the impact of millennial employees.
“If we automate multiple work centers, then we can have fewer skilled people monitoring them,” notes Doug Jobe, Tessy Plastics Virginia director of operations. “It solves two problems: the need to reduce the labor cost per part to be more competitive and the difficulty in hiring qualified workers.”
At the same time, Ed Potoczak, IQMS director of industry solutions, observes, “Much of the available labor force is now made up millennials, who trust and expect to take advantage of technology to automate activities and enhance communications. They are bringing new norms into factories across our customer base. In response, many of these manufacturers are now increasing their use of ERP and MES for automation and mobile technology for communications and collaboration to create an environment that fosters productivity and employee retention.”
Analytics for Actionable Insights
Analytics is moving to the forefront as mid-market manufacturers recognize the value that can be mined from the data that is a natural byproduct of automation and supply chain integration. Information from electronic orders, digital records of material consumption and production data, and even shipping data can help increase the accuracy of sales forecasts, delivery date promises, and material and labor planning. Increasingly, in combination with the use of IoT sensors to monitor manufacturing equipment and processes, analytics also are providing predictive data on machine performance and product quality.
“We use production and process monitoring to establish production norms,” explains Chris Flohr, Spencer Industries extrusion manager. “Then, when we see those production metrics trending out of our established boundaries, we can intervene before the problems cause production delays or product quality issues.”
“Every day we push our customers toward greater supply chain integration, increased automation, and data utilization to increase the success of their businesses. And conversely, we feel our customers pulling us each day toward the same goals,” said Gary Nemmers, IQMS CEO. “These manufacturers want to establish themselves as the suppliers of choice, and today that means embracing the ideas expressed as Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing. That is why our top priority is empowering them to apply these concepts through the comprehensive IQMS products and services they rely on to run their businesses.”
IQMS uniquely combines ERP and MES functionality to give manufacturers a comprehensive end-to-end suite for running the business, backed by the real-time performance and scalability that companies demand. Developed specifically for mid-market repetitive, discrete and batch process manufacturers, IQMS provides robust capabilities for addressing strict customer and regulatory certification and compliance. IQMS achieves this by delivering traditional ERP functionality for accounting, sales orders, material requirements, inventory and purchasing, plus extended native features for CRM, human resources, production scheduling, shop floor control, warehouse and quality modules. With offices across North America, Europe and Asia, IQMS serves manufacturers around the world. For more information, please visit http://www.iqms.com.
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