Having been in manufacturing for most of my career, it seems as though the recurring topics of interest tend to fall into the same categories: Machines, Materials, and Labor. Even today, while there are now top level positions for information systems, little attention is paid to the value of the information a company needs to operate. Sure, everyone recognizes the need to have good data (CRM, engineering, purchasing, planning, etc.), however; integrating all that data, so that it is quickly available when needed, is often a lower priority.
Data (information of all kinds) supports every activity. Incorrect data (size, material, CNC program) is a recognized problem, but what about the importance of connecting all the systems to reduce mistakes, duplicate entry, delays…?
Failure to connect data and manage it for ease of access, is a large and costly problem that many companies complain about but few really address. One reason is that the value or cost of integration is often misunderstood. Just last week I heard from one of my business associates, who explained how difficult it was simply to get good reporting for management decisions. Given the sorry state of his company’s information systems, custom reports have to be written. Due to the fragmented databases, such reporting takes a huge amount of time, which also translates into great cost. And, by the time the report is completed, management has forgotten why it was needed.
Modern integrated systems called ERP, offer fast and easy reporting solutions known as dashboards, which can be built in minutes and provide instant access to important data. The more fragmented the databases, the less likely the information will be used, leaving managers to operate without the full benefit of the data that has been collected.
Want to get the maximum return on a machinery investment? …better make sure that the data needed to run it will be accurate and quickly available. What good is a fast CNC, if the programming is a bottleneck? Want to keep material inventories lean? …make sure you have a handle on the exact quantities required as well as WHEN they will be needed. Want to produce your products with the lowest possible labor content? …have every detail checked and clearly documented, or expect idle time and mistakes, while employees look for construction details, materials, and setup instructions.
These common operating costs (waste in lean terms) are the result of failure to properly organize your company’s valuable data. With a well-integrated system, your investments in machines, materials, and labor will pay back large dividends.