Chief Technology Officer, 42Q

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It’s time to take the next step, and connect your manufacturing system directly to your supply chain management system. This level of integration streamlines the decision-making process, enabling the smart automation systems described above to not only order components from the warehouse, but to send signals to the purchasing department and directly to suppliers regarding inventory levels. If your supply chain system is also monitoring inventory levels at your suppliers, your manufacturing planning system can automatically detect coming shortages in parts or components, enabling smart substitutions or new production schedules, as allowed.

Resolve to connect your manufacturing system to your supply chain system, and your supply chain system to your suppliers’ inventory systems, to reduce risk and eliminate production bottlenecks.

4. Embrace Industry 4.0 / The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

Over the past year, it was impossible to escape headlines about the IIoT or Internet 4.0. These new models for technology-enabled manufacturing have already moved into the implementation phase by many of the world’s top manufacturers.

One of the hallmarks of IIoT/Industry 4.0 is removing humans from decision-making when machines are just as capable – or in many cases, more capable – of making smart decisions quickly and efficiently. One of our customers has connected their surface mount machines, their manufacturing execution system, and optical inspection equipment to watch for solder volume trends during their high-speed manufacturing processes – and the feedback from the optical inspection systems is used to adjust paste dispense volume before a process drifts outside of specifications. No engineering analysis needed – the machines make the decisions and prevent bad PCBA’s from being produced.

Resolve to educate your team on IIoT/Industry 4.0 principles, and to remove humans from decision-making where machines can do it better.

5. Productivity: Do More With Less

The past few years, we’ve been hearing a lot of complaints: about how hard it is to hire good people, how lines and plants are operating at peak efficiency and customers are still demanding more. The mantra since coming out of the Great Recession has been “do more with less” – and that’s going to continue in 2017.

It’s time to recognize that this is the new normal. Major improvements in productivity that came with the operational revolutions of the 1980s and 1990s (e.g., lean and world-class manufacturing) have been achieved, and in the future improvements are going to come at the margins – a percentage point here, another half point there.

Continued improvement in automation and systems connectivity will bring some of these gains, but manufacturers need to go searching for more. Advanced analytics can help us find opportunities for improvement that have been hidden. But as McKinsey said in their report titled “Manufacturing the future: The next era of global growth and innovation”, “…the manufacturing sector has changed — bringing both opportunities and challenges—and neither business leaders nor policy makers can rely on old responses in the new manufacturing environment.”

Resolve to continuously search for new ways to improve throughput and quality with minimal investment.

With these resolutions, you’re sure to have a happy, healthy and productive 2017. Happy New Year!

About the Author:  Srivats Ramaswami is CTO at 42Q, has worked at both OEM’s and contract manufacturers for many years, most recently as vice president of IT Operations. His expertise includes the architecture and implementation of innovative IT solutions for large OEM’s, making their global supply chains visible and more efficient. Srivats is now responsible for providing leadership in customer acquisition and engagement, technology development and deployment for 42Q.

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