It’s no new news that manufacturing needs to keep up with accelerating consumer demand. How to do so is not always as clear.
Why Automation is the New Mandate for Success
While its easy to see changes in our world that 2020 brought on like social distancing and face masks, its not always as easy to recognize some of the changes in manufacturing that may be in uential long after face masks are a thing of the past. Preparing to face some new realities for the long-term is critical to the success of all parties in the manufacturing industry regardless of business category. Following are some of the insights from seasoned engineering and manufacturing experts leading MiQ Partners that can help you make wise decisions as you not just come back, but move forward.
At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we watched as more and more food plants and retail businesses had to shutter for days and even weeks because one or more employees tested positive for COVID. While of course these occurrences sounded the alarm about pandemic spread, they also rang a loud bell for the financial stability of any company having to shut down.
For manufacturing companies and their clients, the cost of just one day of downtime is substantial, not just for dollars lost but for the lost opportunity costs associated with getting to market late and having to catch up with competitors. According to MiQ Partners CEO Olaf Tessarzyk, our industry has to have the mindset that we will have another pandemic or setbacks like we did in 2020, and we must prepare accordingly. Relying on traditional methods for assembly and other manufacturing processes is a risk no business can take.
“Automation is the only sure method to maintain productivity as we embrace for more of the unknown,” says Tessarzyk.
“We cannot think this is over, and that it won’t happen again. Those that maintain the status quo and are slow to embrace automation for assembly, packaging, shipping and more will struggle to make it to 2022. ” Tessarzyk continued, “Beyond the threat of quarantine and forced reduced capacity happening from another pandemic or an expected surge of new variants of Covid-19, we need to think about the ongoing challenges associated with labor pools.” Consistency issues with the quality of human labor will and always will be an issue we face, regardless of pandemics or another storm that comes our way.
The inability for a human work force to operate at the same levels as automatic robotic systems is causing wider gaps in productivity. To compete, companies need to produce at higher levels of output than human assembly can generate. It goes without saying that companies relying on human production simply will not be able to compete with companies relying on automation. This principle applies to any market conditions, pandemic restrictions or shutdowns, and so on.
Another reason companies need to embrace automation is the failure rate associated manual labor. Even a 1% failure rate can be costly beyond the dollar value of scrap and wasted labor inputs by losing precious revenue and competitiveness through go to market delays. When processes are automated, failure rates are substantially lower, and in many cases, eliminated altogether. This alone makes automation the difference between success and failure for getting products to market and keeping brands on top of their industries. Does it cost more to hire a manufacturing team to build a custom automation production line for your next manufacturing project? Depends on how you look at it. You will pay to develop the systems to produce your products, but in the long-term you will realize such lower unit costs and profit margins that there will be little if any comparison.
According to MiQ VP of Operations, David Hummel, a key consideration for successful outcomes is assuring your team is not distracted by manual manufacturing challenges so they can focus on developing new projects and generations of products.
“By using a proven partner to develop your automation systems, product engineering teams can focus on keeping their companies on the cutting edge of innovation, which is equivalent to keeping them pro table and sustainable.”
Remote access to projects through machine vision integration is one of the most important trends for all manufacturing companies to embrace. It is not just about quality control, but about readying up for another pandemic if such were to occur. Remote access does not just enable product managers to monitor the effectiveness and accuracy of projects, it opens up much wider options for partner selection. It used to be we chose manufacturing plants in our own backyards so we could stop in and monitor progress and processes. This ability limited our ability to vet partners nationwide and often resulted in paying more for proximity that did not always manifest in great overall value.
Now, companies in medical device, consumer packaged goods, automotive and more can hire the partner that provides the greatest value and still monitor production processes, quality outputs on demand outside of “office hours.” Remote access thorough vision machines help engineers in all fields stay on top of their production goals and mitigate issues before they become a crisis. Issues with quality consistency associated with human labor will and always will be present, regardless of pandemics or another fire storm that comes our way.
The inability for a human work force to operate at the same levels as automatic robotic systems is causing wider gaps in productivity. To compete, companies need to produce at higher levels of output than human assembly can generate. It goes without saying that companies relying on human production simply will not be able to compete with companies relying on automation, regardless of market conditions, pandemic restrictions or shut downs, and so on.
“Not only are we able to communicate with clients in real time about real issues that could affect their project goals and production ROI, clients tell us that remote vision and access tools are enabling them to more effectively communicate with their team members across countries and languages,” says Hummel. “The bottom line result is that project development, production and profitability timelines are moving at faster rates, and with remote access, projected costs and other key outcomes can be more reliably monitored.”
MiQ provides clients with various remote viewing technologies, including 3D glasses that allow for virtual tours in real time, and software that allows clients to monitor dashboards with project updates, throughput data and more anytime, anywhere. Hummel suggests that anyone not using remote access will eventually struggle to be competitive no matter what markets or industries they serve. This is because not being able to monitor your production in real time prevents you from identifying issues causing waste, slowing down systems, or mishaps that could otherwise delay production schedules.
“The old adage that time is everything applies more than ever in manufacturing today as consumers expect products faster and new generations more often than ever before. This is why accelerating timelines is critical to any company’s short and longterm competitiveness.” - David Hummel, VP Operations
Vision integration and remote access software provided by MiQ Partners enable clients to login to monitor the accuracy and effciencies of their projects regardless of location or language of CMO team members. As a result of remote capabilities, teams of engineers can view assembly and production processes in real time in order to identify issues that could impede speed and accuracy, opportunities for greater effciencies, and so on, assuring projects stay on track to meet timeline and budgetary goals.
Local Sourcing - Supply Chains
Another key trend that will impact your productivity and overall competitiveness is local sourcing. While this may seem counter-intuitive as we have grown accustomed to believing products associated with cheaper labor in other industrial nations are always less expensive, there are many more variables that factor into the overall cost of any given project.
Consider These Critical Factors
Cost of Time
When you rely on parts to be shipped from overseas, you have to factor in much more time for production schedules, getting you to market potentially weeks after a competitor with faster access to parts. Given the shortages we saw in all aspects of commerce, from machine parts to toilet paper, as a result of COVID-19’s global impact, we have to consider these threats real and highly likely to reoccur.
Cost of Quality
Relying on parts from mass producers takes away the ability to get parts customized quickly should production parameters or requirements change even slightly mid production. Should your operations team run short and require more of a given item, your timeline is extended longer than would be with parts produced and sourced locally. Local sourcing enables you to get modi ed parts quickly designed and produced, keeping your manufacturing timelines on track.
Cost of Competitiveness
Competitiveness, the sum of the above two variables, is now and will continue to be a very high driver of success as companies must get products to market faster than ever, and must have sustainable quality that makes market entry by imitators much more costly and difficult.
Clearly, the way to up any company’s competitiveness is getting to market faster, with high quality products, and marketing presence that creates ownership of a given category. Being able to achieve rigid timing and quality goals not only puts you ahead of competitors, it creates ownership of new ideas and products that can create sustainable revenues and profits.
Because consumers demand what they want when they want it more than ever with the rapid distribution channels created by Amazon and other massive product distributors, being able to keep up with product quality and supply or demand will be more critical to long-term success and market dominance than it is now. A proven solution to managing the demands and challenges of cost and quality through local sourcing is partnering with manufacturing companies that have comprehensive machine shops on site.
These machine shops should have the capacity to re-engineer parts as needed and produce on demand, on site where or near where your production assembly is taking place.
“This is truly the most exciting time in history to be in manufacturing. With robotics, vision integration and the ability to monitor projects remotely 24/7, there is no end to how companies can increase their productivity and profitability, across the globe, across industries.” - Olaf Tessarzyk, CEO
Beyond automation, remote access and local sourcing, there are many more challenges and opportunities facing manufacturing companies moving forward in 2021 and beyond. However, with the current technologies that make manufacturing processes more efficient than ever, the opportunities outweigh the challenges.