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How Smarter Manufacturing Helped These Companies Beat 2023’s Biggest Challenges

Success Stories
January 9, 2024

As we look back on 2023, the ripple effects of the pandemic continued to shape manufacturing as businesses reassessed, adapted, and innovated in response to the many challenges the year brought. Businesses are rethinking their manufacturing strategies, leveraging cutting-edge tools to navigate unprecedented roadblocks. From enhancing visibility and agility to embracing automation not only to streamline operations but also to increase responsiveness, manufacturers continue to evolve and adapt every day.

This transformation is one we’ve seen through the eyes of our customers as we create solutions to help them conquer obstacles and achieve goals. As 2023 comes to a close, let’s reflect on our customers’ ability to beat the year’s biggest challenges with Plex in their corner.

Challenge 1: Supply Chain Distribution

The complex manufacturing landscape poses challenges, especially in supply chains. Logistical bottlenecks, material shortages, and meeting consumer demands globally define the struggles. The 2023 State of Smart Manufacturing Report shows that 79% of manufacturers lack a complete supply chain planning solution. But how can you overcome this issue? Plex customers OWS Foods and Coast Products tackled their supply chains head-on and stood out against the competition with smart manufacturing software from Plex.

Utilizing both fixed and variable batch sizes, OWS Foods engages in manufacturing through wet and dry processes. As this product line expanded, necessitating new materials and machinery, OWS Foods confronted these operational challenges head-on with Plex’s cloud-based Manufacturing Execution System and Enterprise Resource Planning. Additionally, OWS Foods implemented Plex DemandCaster Supply Chain Planning, a dedicated product designed to streamline cross-facility inventory management.

Adding these products was a pivotal step in adapting to the post-pandemic manufacturing landscape. These capabilities significantly minimized inventory, reduced costs, and enhanced customer service at OWS Foods. The company achieved operational functionality with robust user engagement within a remarkably short span of four to five months post-implementation. Notably, the integration of lot traceability and production reporting capabilities emerged as significant game-changers for the team, supporting efforts to tackle supply chain challenges.

Coast Products, a manufacturer of durable lights, knives, and multi-tool products, previously managed its operations using internally developed database tools and spreadsheets, requiring manual updates. This approach hindered the alignment of data within the organization, spanning from customer requirements to budgeting. Using a thorough evaluation process, the team determined that implementing Plex’s cloud-based DemandCaster Supply Chain Planning solution would help minimize human error and increase visibility. Despite deploying the product remotely during the pandemic, the team successfully transitioned live within six-months.

Presently, Coast Products benefits from comprehensive reporting, empowering employees with access to detailed information on inventory levels, sales data, and demand projections. This enhanced insight has unlocked fresh opportunities for strategic planning, leveraging Plex’s planning and forecasting capabilities to propel growth and effectively address supply chain distribution challenges.

Challenge 2: Decreased Quality

As manufacturers adapt to a dynamic market, upholding top-notch product quality remains crucial. To meet increased demands efficiently, companies are turning to smart manufacturing and innovative technology. The data shows that quality is the #1 reason manufacturers are accelerating their digital transformation. By prioritizing quality over quantity, Plex customers Pacur and Arrow Fabricated Tubing are not only tackling quality challenges but also setting new standards for excellence.  

Pacur, a leading custom sheet extruder of polyesters and resins for a variety of applications, identified an improvement opportunity through the adoption of Plex MES. Emphasizing scheduling functionalities and quality tracking, the team aimed to eradicate challenges associated with manually tracking in-process quality, a common source of errors. Leveraging Plex’s cloud-based solution, the focus on digitized quality eliminated information silos that previously depleted resources.

Consequently, employees now allocate their attention to other key areas of business, facilitated by the transition from error-prone, paper-based quality data collection to in-line quality data gathering. With accelerated data extraction capabilities, Pacur is efficiently gathering information to make strategic business decisions and ensure the highest quality for customers.

As Arrow Fabricated Tubing experienced escalating success and an expanding customer base, the necessity to streamline data integration became evident. Relying heavily on manual paper-based documentation, their requirements were no longer adequately addressed. Additionally, an increased demand for quality data to drive continuous improvement initiatives arose. Plex MES facilitated the seamless integration of quality data within the production information amassed by a growing enterprise.

This manufacturer now adeptly tracks and manages inventory, effectively reducing any risk for loss of goods. Incorporating Plex DemandCaster Supply Chain Planning also enables the utilization of historical data for generating future forecasts, further enhancing the company’s operational capabilities and helping to tackle decreased quality.

Challenge 3: Lack of Visibility

Limited production visibility poses an obstacle in today’s manufacturing world. Operational hurdles arise without a holistic view spanning from raw materials to final products. Smart manufacturing offers a solution, employing advanced technology for real-time transparency. In fact, among smart manufacturing adopters, 54% prioritize production monitoring. Leading the way, Newman Technology, Inc and BIC have not only addressed visibility limitations but have also transformed operations.

Newman Technology, Inc is the North American Group of Sankei Giken Kohyo Co., Ltd, a company that produces quality parts and develops solutions for motor vehicle markets. Prior to Plex, the company relied on spreadsheets and paper-based purchase orders for material movement throughout their operations. However, these methods proved cumbersome and time-consuming, impeding Newman’s ability to forecast demand accurately. In an effort to enhance accuracy and transparency, the team collaborated with Revolution Group to implement Plex MES alongside Plex MES Automation and Orchestration.

As a result, the team now benefits from heightened visibility into supplier operations, facilitated by a supplier portal enabling access to pertinent data tied directly to inventory in the system. With consolidated information, all facilities are interconnected, allowing management to monitor scrap and production rates in real time. This elevated visibility has significantly improved decision-making agility across the organization.

Recognizing the role of real-time visibility in remaining competitive within modern manufacturing, BIC, a prominent force in stationery, lighters, and shavers, sought to harness the potential of digital transformation for operational efficiency. Embracing a comprehensive suite of tools within the product to optimize manufacturing operations, including Plex MES, BIC prioritized the standardization of systems to take advantage of operational capabilities.

This strategic shift enabled BIC to transition from disparate software fragments to a fully integrated execution system. Moreover, BIC successfully resolved operational silos that previously led to inefficiencies, fostering a landscape where users capitalize on data accuracy and seamlessly share reliable information across the organization. As a result, the company has improved visibility across its supply chain.

Turning Attention to 2024

Manufacturers face significant challenges today, yet these six Plex customers exhibited remarkable resilience. Navigating supply chain distributions, quality preservation, and visibility limitations, they embraced transformative solutions with determination and dedication. This commitment, coupled with innovative smart manufacturing practices, propels the industry towards enhanced efficiency, sustainability, and technological advancement. Looking ahead to 2024, our customers remain dedicated to ongoing improvement, not only surviving in the modern manufacturing landscape, but thriving.

To discover more examples of smart manufacturing technology beating the types of challenges you’re currently facing, read a full case study here.

About the Author

Plex Team

Plex Systems, Inc., a Rockwell Automation company, is the leader in cloud-delivered smart manufacturing solutions, empowering the world’s manufacturers to make awesome products. Our platform gives manufacturers the ability to connect, automate, track and analyze every aspect of their business to drive transformation. The Plex Smart Manufacturing Platform includes solutions for manufacturing execution (MES), ERP, quality, supply chain planning and management, Industrial IoT and analytics to connect people, systems, machines, and supply chains, enabling them to lead with precision, efficiency and agility.