It’s time for manufacturing companies to transform the shop floor

Manufacturing companies have a unique opportunity to seize the technology of today and transform the shop floor landscape, says Dell’s Jay Monahan and Mike Gauthier

By Guest on 06 October 2014
It’s time for manufacturing companies to transform the shop floor

This article was first published in the Autumn 2014 issue of Prime

Today’s manufacturers have the world at their feet. The sheer amount of technology out there is immense, providing a universe of opportunities when it comes to transforming the shop floor.

Unfortunately, however, many manufacturers are at a loss as to how to move forward from their current IT environment. It’s common practice for them to have a vast number of disparate software solutions, resulting in inefficient manual processes, costly integrations and limited access to real time information.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Manufacturing Execution System (MES) systems have matured based on years of business process knowledge, across multiple industries. As industry requirements changed, software and hardware packages have adopted new technologies to provide flexible and sustainable solutions.

Indeed, today’s software and hardware solution landscape provides a solid, robust toolbox of solutions, applicable to both small and medium size business, up to and including fortune 500 companies. With competitive price points and rapid deployments, technical solutions are now available to address common business problems that were once thought cost prohibitive.

Connectivity is king, and software and hardware solutions are no longer constrained by interoperability concerns, based on platform and software dependencies. Being able to see information in real time, via integrated work flow publishing information to mobile devices, can make a huge difference to the lives of every worker on the shop floor. At Dell we’re working on achieving this for many different organisations in every manufacturing sector.

Recognising that there’s no single solution that fits all, we take the time necessary to understand our customers’ needs and then build wrappers around different systems so that everything interoperates. Using Microsoft technology helps enormously with this as the whole stack – from Office and SharePoint, through to business intelligence, customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning – is built to work together. Microsoft’s communication platform enables tools such as SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence tool (MII) to easily extract shop floor data and quickly integrate and display through Microsoft 365, providing access to real time manufacturing data.

Devices are now internet ready, pre-configured and interchangeable – the new standard for the industry is really how it applies to the internet of things mindset. With this in mind, we’re focused on creating a shop floor strategy that will equip workers with everything they need.

Overall, technology made simple is great technology. Today’s users demand the same positive user experiences contained on their cell phone as they do in their business. Paper- or spreadsheet-based processes are no longer deemed acceptable, as users challenge standard business processes.

Industry examples are varied, but customers can truly build anything with Dell Services to meet their current business demands. From enabling plant maintenance staff to view and record real time work orders on tablet devices, to empowering robust shop floor systems, empowering operators and supervisors to make proactive vs. reactive decisions. Companies are now able to tap the creative spirit of their employees to solve problems otherwise ignored with paper based processes.

Mike Gauthier is practice lead for Microsoft Dynamics AX and Jay Monahan is global shop floor practice lead for SAP at Dell IT Consulting Services

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