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Leverage Your Data to Unlock Hidden Capacity and Supercharge Processes

Big Data, Supply Chain Management, Smart Manufacturing
November 29, 2022

Capital equipment is one of the most significant variables in calculating a manufacturing company’s capacity. The higher the capacity, the more business a company can take on. Optimizing that capacity means a more substantial ROI, which leads to higher profits and less new equipment in the future.

But capital equipment is also expensive. The U.S. alone will account for over $71 billion of investment in this area in 2022, which is on par with other developed nations. But with pressure put on manufacturers by inflation, tariffs, material shortages, and further disruption, companies are tasked with squeezing out more capacity with existing assets.

Traditional Capacity Optimization

Traditionally, manufacturers have relied on best practices to optimize capacity. Using process improvement programs and advanced methodologies like Lean and Six Sigma, companies found a way to extract greater productivity and equipment utilization to generate higher capacity per machine.

But these tools and methodologies reach a point of diminishing returns for several reasons. First, they rely on managing and manipulating physical tasks and reducing waste. While these things need to be done, there are only so many human-generated ideas that can be effectively implemented to increase machine utilization and capacity.

Second, despite the value of these tools, they often rely on manual data collection, tracking, and analysis. This practice limits the extensibility of their impact as there is only so much data that can be manually managed without increasing labor costs.

This reality limits the depth of analysis required to extract the most capacity from each machine, and this capacity may be as valuable or greater than that gained through Lean methodologies.

Data Management in the Manufacturing Industry

Data management in manufacturing is increasingly seen as the next step in Lean and other process optimization methodologies. Data analytics in manufacturing can easily be described as “digital lean.”

By unsiloing data and storing, managing, and analyzing it in a cloud-based platform, companies can unlock hidden capacity. Manufacturers can integrate analytics deeply within their operations using advanced analytics and standardized data to generate actionable insights that are impossible with human-based data management.

These platforms are easily linked to enterprise software like ERP, MRP, CMMS, quality systems, and more that can utilize the same data for process optimization. The result is that everyone - from operators and line supervisors to plant managers and executives - has access to the same data at a speed and accuracy not possible by human manipulation.

Benefits of Data Analytics in Manufacturing

Data analytics is part of a more significant trend of business analytics that uses equipment-generated data to optimize processes and unlock hidden capacity. This capability can optimize core processes or offer insights into new processes that increase equipment utilization.

Benefits include:

  1. Increases Manufacturing Efficiency – Using machine data collected by sensors and edge computing devices, data analytics provides insights into the production operation for better decision-making. This increases capacity by empowering greater throughput.
  2. Creates Transparency for Supply Chain Management – Supply chain tasks are quickly automated and easily integrated into ERP and other enterprise software. Calculations for economic order quantity are improved by using at or near real-time data. The linkage to other systems means the analytics impact capacity by ensuring the correct amount of material at the right time.
  3. Improves Quality – Many data management systems, like the Plex Smart Manufacturing Platform, can receive data from connected factory assets. This capability means that quality can be monitored at the point of production instead of inspected after the fact. Quality becomes proactive and reduces off quality or scrap that must be produced again.
  4. Improves Maintenance Strategies – Because data analytics allows visibility of the whole floor, maintenance strategies can change to become more predictive and proactive. At or near-real-time data lets managers analyze downtime to schedule maintenance at the optimal time.

Using Manufacturing Technology to Unlock Hidden Capacity

Today, it’s not enough to utilize Lean and other process optimization methodologies to find more capacity; it takes technology specially made for the industry. A smart manufacturing platform like Plex puts the power in your hands, allowing you to take a significant step toward unlocking the hidden capacity of your valuable manufacturing data. By leveraging data analytics through a modern software solution, you can unlock hidden capacity, improve your ROI on existing equipment, and reduce the capital expenditures that sink your budget.

For more on getting the most out of your assets, read this quick guide to monitoring machine performance.

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.