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    Intelligent Manufacturing – Part 7-A – Manu-Services, a new production paradigm?

    Intelligent Manufacturing – Part I: Manu-Services, a new production paradigm?

    In our previous reports and articles, we’ve examined a lot about the way in which we create goods, ship them, and even how we’re leveraging social media to change the way that the manufacturing industry is viewed. We’ve taken a look at technological progress, as well as how and why the changes in the way we produce goods and provide services to our customers are taking place.
    An examination of the services that we are providing and how they play into the manufacturing process, as well as how they affect the manufactured goods and the jobs required for support is also in order. It is that service and that change in manufacturing that we’d like to address here.

    Modern industry learned a lot of lessons from the recent financial recession. There have been literally decades of lassitude in manufacturing that quite simply contributed to the decay of the economy in their own way. Today, according to the experts, there is a serious need for broad scope reform in the way in which we see manufacturing in order to re-balance our efforts and our funding of manufacturing.

    The outlook today is that manufacturing; the making of items is not so much the area of importance and perhaps should not be the area of concentration in and of itself. It’s not the moral aspects of making things with our hands or the sense of satisfaction, or even the products themselves that are the most important aspect of manufacturing today, although of course those things do enter into play.
    What makes manufacturing so important today is not the creation of things or goods, but the way in which it feeds into the financial marketplace and because that manufacture is highly export-intensive, innovative and productive, three things that all advanced economies desperately need as explained in this article: 3 Things All Advanced Economies Desperately Need
    There’s one problem with talking about manufacturing as being nothing more than making things. It’s a great deal more than making things. It is creating products, manufacturing to exacting specifications and safety standards, working within specified legalities, taking the product to market, advertising it, shipping it, and a vast array of other things such as customer service and customer relationship management. There is nothing simple about manufacturing today.

    In a report that was done by The Work Foundation, a subsidiary of Lancaster University in the UK, More Than Making Things, Andrew Sisson writes that about 40% or a bit more of manufacturing jobs actually involve hands on manufacturing. The remainder jobs are in support services to the manufacturer or to the people who are creating the actual goods. To coin the term, the largest part of manufacturing is in Manu-Services.

    Today most companies in the United States, due to their massive involvement with other areas of support for the goods and services that they produce, consider themselves to be Manu-Services companies, selling both goods and services to the customers that they serve.
    In their report, the Work Foundation stated that they believed that most of the growth that will take place in the immediate future in manufacturing may not be in the actual processes involved in the making of goods but would take place in the Manu-Services that surrounded the process of making those goods.
    Specifically they believe–and many manufacturers agree–that the greatest need for growth and the best place to concentrate our energies and our funding for that growth will be in supporting services that bring the goods to market and provide for the aftercare of the customer.
    How and why can these services grow and how much growth is necessary to provide for the smooth delivery of our manufactured products to buyers from around the globe? Our next session will take a look at what the various Manu-Services actually are and how they play into our economy and our own business growth.

    James Kemper is the president of W. H. Meanor & Associates, an executive placement & training company specializing in engineering & manufacturing careers. He can be reached at: jms@whmeanor.com or 704-372-7640 #102 or visit at www.whmeanor.com

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    Intelligent Manufacturing Part 6: Leveraging Social Media

    Intelligent Manufacturing – Leveraging Social Media to Build Your Brand and Even to Rescue It

    Today there isn’t a major brand out there that isn’t leveraging the power of social media and trying to build their brand in that way. Tinu Cherian Abraham, described his own experience with major manufacturers and their methods of influencing their market. He shared a story of how Mercedes of India helped him to realize his dream of driving a Mercedes. This gave brand recognition and positive PR to the Mercedes Group, but that isn’t all that social media can do for us today.

    Major brands and even smaller ones are sharing more on social media and offering more details and deals about what’s going on in their business. Social media gives them the chance to build a bigger brand and to increase the number of people who follow the brand or even learn about it when they may have known very little prior to finding it on social media.
    Ford Motor Company believes that Facebook and Twitter and others have expanded their brand in a way that television would not have allowed them to do today.
    Ford, an older brand that was often associated with older people, knew that it had to find a way to reach out to younger people to build their brand and even for hiring. Ford went to work at their social media marketing and became–in a relatively short time, one of the leaders in social media.

    Ford gave away 100 Ford Fiestas, allowing the users to drive them for a full year. More, it gave them free gasoline, insurance and a video camera to enable them to make an honest video review about the Fiesta automobile.

    The campaign worked so incredibly well that they are modeling this year’s 2014 campaign after it and used it to introduce the Fiesta of 2014 too.

    Just how popular is Ford on social media?-How about 206K fans on their Twitter page and over a million on their Facebook.
    Not only can the “big players” benefit from social media interaction. Another great example of how social media can provide for growth is the story of how Madison Electrical Products took on the big guys and came out on top of the heap.

    Madison is a very small, privately owned and operated electrical manufacturer who was not considered a real player in the game. They are a perfect example of the power of social media. Madison was considered “a third-tier player that competed on price.” The new buyers of the company took a hard look at opportunities for growth and settled on using social media to bring that home.

    According to Rob Fisher, who is the Director of Marketing for Madison, the company wasn’t big enough to spend more than their competition but they believed that using social media was going to give them a real edge. They were more than right in their thinking.

    Rob states “We started off slow, initially created basic Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. The first few months, we did a lot of monitoring and listening to discover what electrical contractors and distributors were discussing. Once we began participating, we kept the focus on addressing industry issues and trends.”
    Based on a lot of what they heard on social media, the company launched a crowd sourcing methodology for new ideas, provided the means for their customers to give them new ideas and insights and they listened to what their social media followers had to say. These days, Madison is no longer seen as a third tier provider. With multiple new product releases that have been well-received, they are a major player in the game because they took the time and the initiative to use social media, not just for marketing, but for discovering what their customers really wanted–and then doing it. You can read a detailed article on them here: Madison Electrical Products & Social Media

    The smart companies today are leveraging social media in ways that can help them to build their brand but also in ways that can help them to rescue it or prevent injury or damage should the need arise.

    While many manufacturers are not yet using social media as well as it might be used, some are leveraging it to the fullest extent. Many manufacturers are using social media as a resource in their disaster planning. Price Waterhouse’s survey http://www.pwc.com/us/en/press-releases/2013/2013-bcm-survey-results.jhtml shows that about half of all manufacturers do not yet have a “Formal usage” of their social media pages as a crisis management resource but that about half do provide for that as part of their natural disaster recovery.

    One of those using social media as a means of recovery is Atlas Oil. According to Bob Kenyon, the Executive VP of Atlas, “Social media channels are now the connective tools that allow us to communicate when other means are compromised during natural disasters.” “Atlas Oil EFS used social media strategically to announce and update outreach efforts during Super-storm Sandy. It was really the only way to get the word out to employees and clients due to the extensive power outages, and weather severity on the ground was changing drastically by the hour.”

    When manufacturers are trying to find out what’s happening in the wake of any disaster, natural or man-made, social media can be the connective tissue that keeps them moving forward with some measure of knowledge. Everbridge, a California software company that makes emergency incident software also touts the use of social media. Jaime Ellertson, CEO commented “For a manufacturer trying to find out what’s going on in the midst of a disaster, social media can augment or replace traditional news sources.
    In many instances social media can make a real difference in a business, preventing loss and injury as well as providing for the users of the products or services to know what’s happening.
    Phil Harris who is the CEO of Geofeedia works with a company that permits users to monitor and to search out social media information in real time. He believes that the days of relying solely on traditional news or television news are over. Social media users are everywhere, providing real time updates and information in the event of storms or disasters. This data, including photos, videos, descriptive text and other information provided from mobile devices can be invaluable to manufacturers and even to EMS personnel and emergency management.

    In a time when power outages or phone outages may be rampant, social media can close the information gap and help people to see what’s happening in real time. What plans has your business made to make use of social media in the event of a disaster? Maybe it’s time to rethink your strategy.

    James Kemper is the president of W. H. Meanor & Associates, an executive placement & training company specializing in engineering & manufacturing careers. He can be reached at: jms@whmeanor.com or 704-372-7640 #102 or visit at www.whmeanor.com

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    Business Growth: Outsourcing your manufacturing

    The goal of every business owner is growth. One of the main reasons that you decide to undertake the challenge of developing a business is to create a venture that can improve your life. As your enterprise begins to expand, you will have to make some difficult decisions. One of those might be the need to establish a manufacturing process where outsourcing could be a possibility.

    Outsourcing business processes is getting very popular today. But did you know that you can also outsource a manufacturing process as well? Basically, you can ask another company to manufacture your product on your behalf. You may be wondering about the advantages of this choice since the goal is to manufacture your product without the help of another company. However, outsourcing part of your manufacturing process has several benefits that need to be considered.

    For example, when your peak season arrives, it is inevitable that the demand for your product will increase. Should you buy new equipment and hire new workers to meet this demand? In the past, this might have been the solution. Today, outsourcing your production enables you to avoid paying the higher costs for meeting the demand of the market during this particular timeframe.

    However, despite the advantages of outsourcing your manufacturing process, you should be aware of some of the risks that are involved. For example, you would not have the same control over the quality of the product that is being produced because you are not present during the manufacturing process. This is especially true if the outsourcing company you hire is new or if it has never produced the kind of product you are asking them to manufacture for you.

    You might observe that most of the companies that take advantage of outsourcing are usually the larger companies instead of the small and medium scale enterprises. But in fact, outsourcing could be more advantageous for small and medium scale enterprises. This is because even though manufacturing outsourcing may cost a larger company more money per unit produced, outsourcing can enable small and medium enterprises the chance to sell more products at a profit. Instead of paying the costs for using your own production resources, this overhead can be absorbed by the business you outsource to.

    Outsourcing the manufacturing process is also a good strategy for business start-ups that do not have the initial capital to build an entire factory by themselves. In the long run though, if your company is large enough to achieve economies of scale, it is recommended that you produce all your products yourself to maintain the quality standards that your company is known for.

    Obviously, manufacturing the products yourself can produce more money because you eliminate the overhead for using the outsourcing company and derive all of the profits for your own company. Overall though, the outsourcing of your manufacturing process can be advantageous if your profit margin is more when you outsource the process. It is a complex and difficult choice that should be considered very carefully.

    Any decision that is made to improve your business requires research, examination and caution. If your business has developed to the point where outsourcing is a possibility, consider the disadvantages as well as the advantages. The choice you make could propel your business to a new level.

    “When you cannot make up your mind between two evenly balanced courses of action, choose the bolder.”

    If you’re looking for the right manufacturing team, you have to start with the right recruiting team. Let WH Meanor put our experience to work for you.   Register now for a free ten minute assessment of your search efforts by clicking the link https://whmeanorassociates.as.me/


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    Intelligent Manufacturing Part 5: 3-D Printing

    Intelligent Manufacturing: 3-D Printing

    The Factories of the Future-Already Operational and Making a Difference
    There isn’t a technology out there that has had more buildup and more hype than 3d printing. The reality is that quite likely three dimensional printing is all that the hype says it is and quite likely more. 3 Dimensional printing has the ability, over time, to change the way that we accomplish things and to make lives easier.
    3 Dimensional Printing-an Overview

    Three-dimensional printing is by no means new to us. It’s not yet commonplace, but it’s been working for us for years and has changed the way that we do some things already. For about thirty years, 3 dimensional printing has been used by engineers who used it to create fast prototypes of things that they were building. It was, and to some extent remains cost prohibitive for the average person.

    Not only is 3 D printing innovative, but it has the capacity to change how we accomplish medicine and even marketing.

    What is 3D printing?
    From a purely technical standpoint, three dimensional printing is a printer that can make literally any object. It creates those objects out of plastic, composites, carbon fiber or even metal. They’ve been in use for many years but are not yet low cost enough to be common place. That’s about to change.
    The Future of Smart Machines like 3 D Printers
    Today three dimensional printers are going well into the range where the average consumer may be able to afford them. Factories and other places are already using them. Technology has changed and advanced to the point where 3D printers are becoming more and more affordable. The technology has the capacity to change the way that we do things from the creation and design of automobile parts down to making your own jewelry at home. The expectation is that pricing will continue to drop, putting 3D printers well within the realm of affordability for everyone and allowing them to change the way that they do things at home and in the office.

    The Present Day Use of 3D Printing

    3D printing is becoming very popular with small business owners because of the time and labor that it can save them. It isn’t only the small businesses who are reaping big dividends from 3 D printing however. Huge companies like General Electric and even aircraft companies such as Boeing are gaining steam in using 3D printers and finding big benefits from them. The two companies named here are finding that the 3D printers have the capacity to change their manufacturing methods and to help them to build their products. These companies are using 3D printers to help them to make parts for jet aircraft and for airplanes as a whole. In addition to Boeing & GE we have seen Amazon express interest and even NASA for use on the ISS.

    The need and desire for a 3D printer is becoming so rampant in the general public that crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter are finding that they are a top growing category for people trying to raise money. They are also, coincidentally one of the categories that reap the most funding.
    While not yet in the “anyone can afford one” realm, 3D printers are rapidly dropping in pricing and their availability is rising. You can now find them in places like Amazon and even in stores such as Home Depot. They have become a real fixture in nearly every new startup office and are a real godsend for new companies in manufacturing.

    There is, according to ZDNet, a plethora of 3D printers available to the general public for under $100K. Allied Market Research says that the 3D printer market will hit 8 and a half billion by the year 2020. This is not small time, and the world is finding that 3D printers are more mainstream currently than anyone expected them to be by this time. Consumer and manufacturing markets are embracing what 3D printing can do for them and how it can change what they need to accomplish.
    The expectation is that the small hurdles that these printers need to overcome to become even more commonplace, such as high energy use and the unstable material problems will be overcome fairly soon and make 3D printers even more useful to us in areas such as manufacturing, medicine and engineering.

    James Kemper is the president of W. H. Meanor & Associates, an executive placement & training company specializing in engineering & manufacturing careers. He can be reached at: jms@whmeanor.com or 704-372-7640 #102 or visit at www.whmeanor.com

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    Intelligent Manufacturing Part 4: The Industrial Internet

    The Factories of the Future-Already Operational and Making a Difference

    The industrial internet is a phrase that is being used quite a lot lately, but one with which many people are not conversant. What is the industrial internet? The answer is found in a lot of the new technologies being created and used to facilitate a diverse array of manufacturing and online use. New technology is allowing us to create amazing machines that are made possible by intelligent data and machinery in concert. This cooperative effort of machine and data are changing the way that we work, live, and even the way in which we approach medicine.

    What Does the Industrial Internet Offer?

    GE, who is actively pursuing and increasing the way in which the industrial internet can help us to solve problems, says that “New ecosystems of connected machines have the potential to increase efficiency, minimize waste, and make the people operating them make smarter decisions. See how the Industrial Internet is changing the way we work.” In short, the industrial internet makes people work smarter, not harder and allows industry to get more for less expense, less personnel and less effort. It provides ways for us to gain an advantage over our environment, lowering the space that we need, the finances that we need and the resources that we use.
    GE says that we will accomplish more by the use of Intelligent Machines that are helping us to work faster. These machines will provide us with improved sensors, increased control, additional software applications to allow us to connect the machinery around the world in networks.

    Advanced methods of analysis will help us to combine the power of “physics based analytics” to provide for better results from our efforts. Included will be predictive algorithms, automation and even deep domain expertise.

    The industrial internet will also provide for a better work method and a more productive work force. They will help to connect people whether they are working or on the go, supporting faster and improved methods of operation, design, maintenance and allowing us to work to a higher standard and with greater safety than was previously possible.

    The industrial internet is predicted to save billions every year on wasted energy, resources and personnel.
    Right now the use of the industrial internet is on the rise in Aviation manufacturing facilities but not just there. The Oil & Gas, Healthcare, Power and Rail industries too are getting in on the action. GE Hospitals is currently busy developing new systems. One of those under development is an intelligent hospital robot system. That system will sort and sterilize surgical tools to provide for increased safety to the human workers as well as to the patients.
    The world that we live and work in is being made safer, cleaner and more productive, thanks to the rise of technology and the advent of the industrial internet. New jobs and new careers are also arising from those changes that will require less effort and more intellect, making your work days shorter and your labor less. That’s just one of the advantages that the industrial internet has to offer.
    If you’re as curious about the rise of intelligent manufacturing and the industrial internet as most people are, there are some great places to find a little more information. One white paper that offers some solid predictions on the intelligent manufacturing process and the industrial internet is found here. The image used above is from this white paper: Pushing the Boundaries of Mind & Machine

    James Kemper is the president of W. H. Meanor & Associates, an executive placement & training company specializing in engineering & manufacturing careers. He can be reached at: jms@whmeanor.com or 704-372-7640 #102 or visit at www.whmeanor.com

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    Intelligent Manufacturing, Part 3: The Factories of the Future

    The Factories of the Future-Already Operational and Making a Difference

    The factory of the future appears to be making its way into the here and now. Just as Captain Kirk and the trusty team of the Enterprise had their own method of recording and analyzing all of the data that was available to them, the factory floor of today has the same capabilities and they are growing by leaps and bounds.

    The Factory floor of an intelligent manufacturing factory may look a good deal different than what many of us are accustomed to seeing. Personnel moving here and there, machine noise, shouts for assistance on a given machine may all be factors that are missing in the near future. The shop floor of yesterday, replete with dozens of personnel necessary to operate the machinery required may be gone in the very near future, replaced by just one or two people who are carrying a tablet computer or a small hand held device that can offer them all that they need to know about what’s happening on the factory floor.

    Software today assists many more modern factories to cut the need for more than half the personnel, making the factory able to be run more efficiently, manufacture better products and provide for a far lower space than is currently necessary to accommodate many human workers.

    The tablet or pad computing systems today can provide for a full representation of every machine and every process and product taking shape on the factory floor. The different areas on the tablet can help to you to efficiently and immediately determine if the factory is humming along as scheduled and allow you to review alarms that may be warning you of imminent problems or machines not functioning to capacity. It may even tell you how to correct those problems, lowering your need for troubleshooting in the factory to get it back to peak efficiency operations. With one or two taps of the screen you can lower the speed of a machine, evaluate the estimated time to completion of a given process and even halt the process if necessary to correct a problem in the machinery.

    You can determine down time, temperatures, pressure and many other aspects of the operating machinery without being anywhere near the area in which they are located.

    In short, the factory floor of the future is something directly out of a Star Trek movie and it’s closer to being reality than you might think. Imagine being able to control it all from where you stand in your office, to protect people and products from injury and from unnecessary labor, all while cutting costs and providing a better product due to machine diagnosing machine. Imagine operating machinery more rapidly, more precisely and more cheaply than you can today.

    The factory floor that you’ve just seen in your mind is the factory floor that is rapidly approaching, thanks to intelligent manufacturing and new software designs that let us do more with less effort and less money.
    James Kemper is the president of W. H. Meanor & Associates, an executive placement & training company specializing in engineering & manufacturing careers. He can be reached at: jms@whmeanor.com or 704-372-7640 #102 or visit at www.whmeanor.com

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    Intelligent Manufacturing, Part 2

    Intelligent Manufacturing: Machine to Machine (M2M) Communication

    The manufacturing industry has been changing dramatically over just the past few years. Advancements in technology have been rampant and the newest machines being built require absolute precision. The only way that we can get that today is by the use of intelligent manufacturing.

    Absolute accuracy and efficiency are required by many of today’s factories. The existence of the automotive industry as an example is dependent on their ability to provide for safety and accuracy in their automotive manufacturing and building. Who is, after all, going to buy an automobile that isn’t guaranteed to be safe and well built? The electrical systems and many other components need to be–in some cases– a level of perfection that cannot always be achieved by human hands. Enter the use of intelligent manufacturing & Machine to Machine (M2M) communication.

    One great example of intelligent machines in current use is the Machine to Machine communication platform used by CNC machinery that is used today to create high end machines & products for use in the aerospace, power generation & automotive industries. Another would be the automotive and the programmable logic controller manufacture. These intelligent machines in use today can not only manufacture more cheaply, but they can manufacture machinery in a far smaller space and can save money by telling you when or if the machine is liable to breakage or is having some problems that could lead to down time. Applications and software being used in the factories today can offer dramatic savings in time, in money and in headaches.

    Companies in this economic climate are under increased pressure to have their machinery running to capacity yet to provide for and produce increased number of nearly perfect goods. Due to that pressure

    the machinery that is running is usually running at peak capacity and as such can be prone to breakdown.

    Mechanical breakdown can cost a company plenty. Not just in the financial losses that take place when the company is experiencing down time, but also from lost contracts or orders due to that down time.

    The challenge then is to ensure that there is a nominal amount of down time and minimal breakage. Today a wide range of applications are being used in manufacturing that can help to lower stoppage or breakage as well as to provide nearly personalized information sent to the operator to assist them in diagnosing the issues that may be taking place. The machines are being diagnosed by other machines or applications that can help to keep them operational and to warn the operations manager when there is a problem and prevent the breakdowns by suggesting fixes before the breakage or down time even takes place.

    Machine to Machine (M2M) provides for the means for machines to operate at peak capacity.

    Today, companies who have embraced this type of manufacturing include the CNC industries, Ford Motor Company and multiple other automotive manufacturers and, surprisingly the oil and gas industry. The refineries for a wide range of different oil and gas companies have embraced intelligent manufacturing wholeheartedly.

    Machine to Machine (M2M) has given the oil and gas industry the ability to improve their planning, their overall operations and improved the maintenance taking place in refineries today preventing a wide range of problems such as mechanical failure that might have led to spillage and other issues, saving both the companies and the public as a whole from the problems to which refinery errors can lead.

    Machine to Machine (M2M) communication is not just limited to manufacturing but also the power generation and smart grid energy sectors. In this report the Carbon War Room goes into great detail on the 1 trillion dollar market that M2M technology will provide not only to manufacturing but transportation, energy and even agriculture. The report is detailed and interesting: Machine to Machine technology

    The wave of the future, the way in which to arrive at precision, cost effective manufacturing is intelligent technology and it is transforming a wide range of businesses and industries now. Some of it is even diagnosing problems and telling the machinist or machine operator how to correct the fault to prevent the down time or to prevent disasters from taking place. Intelligent manufacturing may be a key player in the not too distant future in preventing oil refinery fires, oil spills and preventing environmental problems from taking place.

    James Kemper is the president of W. H. Meanor & Associates, an executive placement & training company specializing in engineering & manufacturing careers. He can be reached at: jms@whmeanor.com or 704-372-7640 #102 or visit at www.whmeanor.com

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    What is Industry 4.0?

    It may surprise you to learn we’re in the fourth industrial revolution. The first is the one we hear most about as it was the shift that countries made from simple farm lands to actual industrial production of products. The world began to thrive and evolve. But the evolution process didn’t stop there. It actually continued and with each upgrade, there are new opportunities for employment.

    Mass production marked the second industrial revolution. It was at this time that electricity helped to propel the process and ensured that more products could be created within a fraction of the time it previously took. This was a golden era that continued until the dawn of the computer. When computers were introduced, industries saw another era. It was during this time electronics and advanced technology could be produced.

    With the invention of digital technology, we’ve entered in what is known as Industry 4.0. This is a time where digital goods are produced and sent to people around the world in a matter of moments. This is a time when employment changed to where people work at home over a high speed internet connection with individuals all over the world.

    Even the devices that are common in our day to day operations incorporate the internet of things to help them function more efficiently. A doctor who is traveling across the country for a conference can check a patient’s pacemaker to be sure it is functioning properly and even obtain vitals from it. An owner of a production plant can review stock in real time, and even review the output of each of his machines without having to go into the plant. The possibilities are endless, and thanks to these cyber physical systems, it is possible to do more with sensors and a wireless internet connection than ever before.

    Industry 4.0 has also introduced us to massive amounts of data, and new analytics that allow better deciphering of information. Many countries are embracing the idea, and have started to promote the Industry 4.0 name. In the United States alone, we find the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition is at the forefront of this, and working to help to ensure that those working within Industry 4.0 are all on the same page. They have also helped to push both software and technology further to ensure that Industry 4.0 continues to meet the growing demand for it.

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    Intelligent Manufacturing, Part 1

    Last week I introduced everyone to our 8 part series on Intelligent Manufacturing and as promised here is the 1st article in that series. As with everything it is always good to start at the beginning and with that in mind we discuss the Plug & Play Factory.

    It may seem that advances in new manufacturing technique are recent, it all began back in 1996 with NEMI (National Electronics Manufacturing Initiative) and from that the Plug & Play Factory concept was born. It is also important to note that the Plug & Play Factory is not a new type of factory or building but a set of manufacturing standards that are needed to achieve interoperability or plug & play capability on the factory floor.

    The easiest way to understand it is think of how your office is now networked. All is controlled more or less at a central point for computer systems, telephony, printers and even building management and when something goes wrong you call IT. This is very much the same way. The entire factory is operating on a set parameter of communication standards, the machines are networked, so that all activity is monitored in real time and can even be managed remotely.

    This is the first article of the 8 part series on Intelligent Manufacturing and many of the subsequent articles will deal directly with the standards set for in the NEMI Plug & Play Factory project. The project provided a proof of concept only and it was then that work began on standardization of protocols. The first of which was produced by ANSI in March of 2003: http://www.fed.de/downloads/IPC-2546.pdf. This is a detailed industry specific document. April of 2003 also saw Motorola proof of concept test and it is easier to follow: http://thor.inemi.org/webdownload/newsroom/Articles/Lessons%20Learned.pdf

    It’s no secret that manufacturing, not just in the US, has been far and away one of the more productive areas of the economy for several years. This has not always been the case with the industry undergoing severe stress due to personnel and manufacturing costs. These are problems that we don’t hear about nearly as frequently as we once did. The reason for that improved productivity and their advances in the market place can– to some extent– be attributed to their embracing the new technology standards that is known as the plug and play factory. It’s being called a Renaissance of sorts in the industry.

    We are seeing webinars and seminars on the plug and play factory are being given on a regular basis to introduce other industry and factory producing companies to the benefits of plug and play. (http://www.industryweek.com/webinar/advanced-manufacturing-digital-factory).

    Another benefit that the Plug & Play Factory standard can offer us is the ability to do far more in a much more limited space. Some industries particularly that of small businesses are limited by size and funding capabilities, but with higher efficiency due to the interoperability standards can allow for those limitations, even work with them better. This allows smaller businesses to maximize the use of property to achieve higher levels of production with fewer personnel. Many factories are using a third less space to accomplish the same thing that they previously needed far more space to do. This saves the company money on personnel, space, utilities and on other expenses for the production.

    Digital manufacturing is not just the wave of the future; in many cases it has already arrived. It is saving time, saving money and saving energy for manufacturers around the globe. Data driven factories will be the future of manufacturing for nearly every industry in the world. According to Leo Sadovy Performance Management at SAS, “the economy of the future will include a fifth factor: information. Information by itself will come to be seen as a peer, not merely a subset, of capital and labor.”

    The benefits of this system are a dual edged sword. One good example of those benefits is the ability to provide far more goods and services but require far fewer employees in order to accomplish that. In fact, according to SAS, the factory of the future will require little more so far as employees and personnel than a man and a dog and the dog is only to keep the employee company. That is the end game so to speak, a fully automated facility with easily configurable components and equipment. The full scale interoperability will mean manufacturing can flex to meet changing requirements & demands quickly and more efficiently.
    Increased efficiency and productivity is always the goal but as with everything it comes at a cost. Education and job skill development now more than ever are critical for a company’s survival. It is those that can provide quality specialists that will prosper and become a magnet for other companies. These new standards can be a burden or a boon. The difference is who is better prepared to take up the challenges of a real 21st century manufacturing environment.

    Next week: Intelligent Manufacturing: Machine diagnosing Machine

    James Kemper is the president of W. H. Meanor & Associates, an executive placement & training company specializing in engineering & manufacturing careers. He can be reached at: jms@whmeanor.com or 704-372-7640 #102 or visit at www.whmeanor.com

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    The Challenges Of Contract Manufacturing

    In every industry today, organizations succeed by focusing on what they do best and leaving the rest to their partners, agencies or outsourced vendors. Contract manufacturing, while it can be difficult from a supply chain perspective, seems to fit neatly into this scenario. In addition to allowing global organizations to focus more on their core competencies, value proposition, and engineering; contract manufacturers provide several other advantages over manufacturing products internally to include: lower costs, flexibility, access to external expertise and reduced capital expenditures.

    However, the question remains and must be addressed: with so much potential and cost savings that contract manufacturing can offer to their partners, why do so many of these relationships fall short of expectations? Perhaps one reason is that many of those expectations are flawed from the very beginning.

    For example, let’s take the first example of cost savings. The fact of the matter is that many of the cost savings that should be passed on to the customers may go to the contract manufacturer’s bottom line instead. This happens more than you think. Additionally, many contract manufacturers don’t always have the supposed influence with their suppliers since the original manufacturers often select the partners from the very beginning. This lack of influence is a key driver for an increase in costs from the contract manufacturer. Also, flexibility can be compromised by the contract manufacturer’s focus (or lack thereof) on low costs and low inventory. And, although using contract manufacturers often ties up less capital, the dollars need to compensate against the inventory holding costs included in contract manufacturers’ charges.

    Even with clear assumptions on the objectives and expectations, it may be a challenge to realize the benefits. That’s largely because it’s difficult to manage relationships with vendors and suppliers; especially when those suppliers were not selected by the contract manufacturer. Essentially, the parties should create clear objectives and expectations from the beginning that would make it possible to manage the relationship through service level agreements linked to a set of key performance indicators. However, these challenges may tempt businesses to keep manufacturing in house, at the sacrifice of increased costs. Instead, organizations need to take a strategic approach to contract manufacturing relationships; one that will benefit all in the supply chain. WH Meanor knows every aspect of manufacturing. We have our finger on the pulse of the manufacturing world. If you’re looking for a way to improve your bottom line by improving your team, we can help. Let WH Meanor put our experience to work for you.   Register now for a free ten minute assessment of your search efforts by clicking the link https://whmeanorassociates.as.me/

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