10 opportunities to cut costs in Custom and On Demand manufacturing – Cost Saving 5: Machines

10 opportunities to cut costs in Custom and On Demand manufacturing – Cost Saving 5: Machines

Automation and making dumb machines smart

When people think of workflow automation, this area of machine automation is often what first springs to mind. It’s unfortunate because automation rather than being a way of thought, gets associated with hardware and potentially large capital expenditure. That creates a blocker for a more structured approach to workflow automation and a view that automation is about removing people from processes.

Going straight to a new level of machine driven automation is an immediate productivity win and a variable cost saving albeit with a (potentially large) capital requirement. Whether it’s loading, inserting, folding, casing, cutting or packing there’s a machine that at a cost will get the job done faster. Most of the current generation of new machines offer either direct integration ability or the pulling of logs to directly observe the work being done on the machines. The integration of smart machines into workflow is a single focussed piece of work that can unblock workflow in a particularly impactful way.

In order to make sure that the capital is focussed at the most impactful function in the facility, I recommend reading into the Toyota Manufacturing Method and in particular the project they mounted to unblock die change and the factory wide impact this had. It’s a really interesting case study in where to focus effort.

Having said that, focusing on a single piece of hardware obscures a broader factory wide opportunity to reduce cost by seeing all machines in the factory as a whole and taking an ‘no-islands’ approach to the work that is being done by the machines.

By taking any machine and converting it into a work recording station, critical insight can be gained into how work moves through the factory – we’ll take a closer look at this in Cost Saving 8.

The best way to do this (and able to be done easily and cheaply) is to attach a scanner and either a Raspberry Pi or a cheap Windows Mini PC to record every unit of work that goes past a machine. This method even works up to high speed laminators.

This gives the ability to remove staff from a barcode scanning task or additionally the data can supplement existing insight and build out an even more complete picture of the movement of product and how the cost is being incurred.

Next > Materials: (Almost) eliminate waste

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Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith is the CEO of ZenSmart, a leading workflow automation platform that streamlines manufacturing in On Demand plants across the world.

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