This article is sponsored by Tetra Pak.
Smart manufacturing offers new production advantages that come from the flexibility and productivity working hand in hand, which is made possible by digital technology. However, not every company is taking advantage of increased efficiency to become future ready.
When the Industrial Revolution brought forth the ability to design and operate large manufacturing facilities with planned labor and spatial organization, factories were able to make products more quickly. The production variety increased, and costs gradually dropped. But on the way to faster, cheaper production, some factories themselves have become very inefficient.
Because many manufacturers today operate with outdated technologies, efficiency has taken a back seat. It’s not uncommon to see plant use rates hover around 30 percent, meaning facilities are routinely sitting idle 70 percent of the time. Many manufacturers have had to operate by choosing one goal: greater productivity (to make the same product cheaper and faster) or greater flexibility (to make a bigger variety of products). With smart manufacturing, both goals are possible at the same time.
Here are three ways food and beverage brands can leverage smart manufacturing to make their businesses future ready.
1: Embrace the data revolution
Most often, when well-functioning factory equipment sits idle, it’s because teams are waiting for either raw materials or updated production plans. When these factories were designed, intelligent packaging didn’t exist. Big data wasn’t available. What’s more, if the data was available, the plant didn’t have the technological capabilities to actually harvest the information.
Now that the data is available in droves in manufacturing environments and can be processed more easily, the productivity potential is tremendous. Efficiencies are multiplied. Market demand data can be harvested and instantaneously available. A brand manager has visibility into what products are selling, where they’re selling and how much they’re selling for. This intelligence empowers companies to make adjustments in production in near real time.
2: Use technology to increase sustainable practices
Not only has technology become more sophisticated, it’s become cheaper and more accessible.
The technology used for smart manufacturing, specifically sensors and related internet of things (IOT) components, can break down silos by linking corporate systems and functions together. Manufacturers can enable communication between warehouse databases, enterprise resource planning systems and manufacturing execution systems.
A traditional plant will produce according to a schedule, even if that means overproduction, which often ends up as waste. The same thing happens if raw materials aren’t used before expiration: the abundance is also waste. Smart manufacturing processes enable better resource planning to avoid overproduction or underuse. This translates into greater cost efficiency and sustainability.
My team recently completed a project where we helped our customer increase its plant’s throughput, so that the company was able to produce more products in five days vs. what it used to produce in seven days.
The solution involved a combination of Total Productive Maintenance techniques and several digital enablers, which enabled our customer to receive the right information to make precise decisions at the right time. By leveraging technology and proven improvement methods, the factory increased productivity by more than 25 percent over the course of 12 months.
3: Unlock your people’s potential
Although machines and computers make manufacturing possible, every business is a people business. Job duties may be shifting, but human creativity and imagination are the drivers for innovation.
It’s true that smart manufacturing processes have made some jobs obsolete. In the same way we don’t need typists anymore, these techniques have opened the door to robotics and automation. But if a robot can do your job, why would you want it?
Jobs become more interesting and relevant because human beings unlock the creative potential within a particular role and evolve its duties and capabilities. Using smart manufacturing processes, people will do what people do best: use imagination, creativity, analysis, communication and teamwork to innovate.
Smart manufacturing strategies are made possible because of better data, more accessible technology and human creativity. These changes have led to economic growth and increased productivity, while reducing waste and improving sustainability. Using smart manufacturing methods, a business becomes more scalable, agile and designed to align with its mission for growth — the right formula to evolve a company to a future-ready state.