By now, it’s safe to say, COVID-19 has thrown a monkey wrench into just about everything, including manufacturing. This health crisis has certainly brought into sharp focus the need for manufacturers to be flexible and agile, particularly in regard to their workforce.
Many companies are enabling their workers to conduct business from home. It’s a necessity. But often, manufacturers don’t have the ability to do that, especially for operational teams that rely heavily on data generated on the plant floor.
Enact®, the InfinityQS Quality Intelligence platform, is here to help. It was designed to enable easy access to real-time operational and quality data on any device, at any time, and from any location.
Keeping Our Distance
Like everyone else, manufacturers follow recommended health guidelines for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is concern for the health and well-being of their customers and their workforce. That means adhering to social distancing guidelines and minimizing non-essential contact between workers.
Many manufacturers are also limiting the number of employees on the plant floor. So, when we talk about remote working, that does not just mean off-site (working from home), but also off the plant floor.
Although these measures undoubtedly make things safer for employees, they put quite a burden on production. How do we continue to produce consistent, high-quality products in adequate numbers with a smaller workforce on the plant floor? And how can those workers who are not on the shop floor remain connected to what is going on? How can they continue to fulfill their roles effectively?
Remote Work Poses a Problem for Many Manufacturers
Non-essential personnel should be working from home. Employees with underlying health conditions should also be at home. In some cases, the restrictions may apply for a considerable length of time. In the UK, for instance, people with underlying health conditions must remain at home for three months.
So, where does that put your operational staff? It’s difficult at best for them to be effective when they’re working from home. Many manufacturers’ operational data from the production process (or from the quality team) is not accessible remotely, and especially not in real time. When data is collected manually on paper forms, that data is not accessible from anywhere other than at the data source.
There has to be a way to lighten that load, to make that data accessible anytime, anywhere.
Finding a Way
Where exactly does that leave most manufacturers? Since many manufacturers still rely on manual quality checks and information written on paper checklists (neither of which get you the information you really need), that information is definitely not accessible remotely—unless it’s transcribed to a spreadsheet or otherwise electronically transferred to a quality manager. That information is essentially trapped. Not worth the paper it’s printed on, if you will. You can see how highly inefficient this is.
We’re all conducting meetings online with Teams or Zoom or some other tool. Don’t get me wrong, collaborating on video conferencing applications is great. We’ve been doing it for a long time now here at InfinityQS. But, for manufacturers, this is no magic pill. It doesn’t solve the underlying problem.
While you’re videoconferencing, ask:
- Can we collaborate on the data we’re collecting?
- Can we all access and discuss the data coming from our plant floors?
- Can we analyze the data?
- Can we visualize the data in meaningful ways?
- And can we do that with real-time data, without waiting for offline reports to be sent and emailed across?
Yes, you can still talk through video. But if you don’t all have access to the data you wish to discuss at your fingertips, then you’re certainly not collaborating on it.
That kind of remote working, without access to the information you need to see, is unproductive time. You need a solution in place that is designed for you to be productive from a remote location. That solution is Enact.
And, by the way, the word “remotely” can mean more than just working from home; it can mean remote from the plant floor—in an office on the other side of the company’s campus, for instance, or four floors up. Remote means anywhere away from the plant floor. Enact’s capabilities can bring you from your office or your home right to the plant floor, via the real-time data that you can access (and analyze and collaborate on).
The same can be said for notifications and alerts. In many factory environments, we rely on light sticks or alarms to alert us to these events. But we can’t see or hear them from afar. If we are “remote,” how can we be made aware, promptly, of when quality or production problems are occurring? Do we have to wait for someone on the shop floor to call us?
Instead, if notifications can be issued remotely, automatically, then we have the peace of mind that when an issue occurs, we will be notified of it immediately. Now, you know you’ll be able to respond if a quality event happens (e.g., out-of-spec product has been produced), or a quality operator misses a check, or a trend occurs that requires remedial action.
The Cloud is Key
Ten years ago, the level of remote access to real-time operational data that Enact gives you today was almost inconceivable. It just wasn’t something any of us could do.
But now we have access to cloud-based solutions in which data is captured and stored centrally in a secure cloud storage environment. Through Enact, that information and data is available anytime, anywhere, on any device. All you need is a browser and an internet connection.
Centralized Data Repository
Bringing all that data together into a single, secure, unified data repository, is critical. It means that now everyone—whether they’re on the plant floor, upstairs in their office, or at home—can access the real-time data you collect.
They can access data from individual production lines or manufacturing sites, with the ability to slice and dice the data from across the enterprise. And now, with that data at your fingertips, you can identify areas to implement improvements to quality, yield, efficiency, productivity, and more.
A supervisor or quality pro sitting on their couch at home can analyze real-time data and then collaborate with an operator (again, via Teams or Zoom or any online tool) about adjustments that need to be made to a production line, process, or schedule. Those proactive adjustments can improve your operational efficiency and even the bottom line.
Doing More with Less
In certain manufacturing sectors, demand has ramped up due to the health crisis. In food and beverage, consumer packaged goods, medical supplies, and other industries, the need to eke out all those improvements in quality, yield, efficiency, and productivity are absolutely crucial.
But if your current quality system hampers your ability to fully analyze your data and pinpoint opportunities for improvement when you need them most—which is right now in those sectors—then your troubles are compounded.
Companies currently using a cloud-based quality system (like Enact) can attack their data head on. They can interrogate the data—slice it, dice it, look across lines, sites, or across the entire enterprise—and determine where they need to focus, improve, and use their precious resources.
When the workforce is depleted or offsite, how you use it becomes a critical part of meeting your deadlines, maintaining quality standards, and keeping costs in check.
Enact is Designed for Remote Setup
Enact is designed to be easy for you implement so you can be up and running quickly and efficiently. And in keeping with your current requirements, Enact can be configured, set up, tested and deployed remotely.
In addition, your employees can be trained remotely. Those are important considerations in the midst of this health crisis. The entire system can be deployed without devoting a huge amount of time or resources (if any) on the plant floor.
Imagine being able to move quickly to the cloud, begin collecting the data you need to improve in critical areas, collaborate on that data, and make strategic decisions that can transform your business—all at arms’ length. That’s how Enact can help in these tough times.
Now is the Time for Enact
So, you can see how a cloud-based system like Enact—designed to be deployed and configured remotely, designed for remote training, and designed to enable remote collaboration and decision making—can help manufacturers at a time like this. So, the monkey wrench is now part of our daily lives. But there’s a way to make the best of it. Freed up resources translate into solid planning for the days ahead.
Enact has a lot to offer. And it’s affordable. Learn more about how it can help you meet your critical needs now—and build a more agile future for your business. Visit our website and request a customized demo.