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Including everyone in the digital manufacturing plan prevents workers from feeling blindsided and more likely to work with, rather than against, changes and new technology

Starting a Digital Manufacturing Plan, Part 2

Sept. 25, 2019
Learn the who, what, when, where, and how of digital manufacturing with Six Sigma and engineering fundamentals.

In Part 1 we covered how to start a digital manufacturing plan with a modified Six Sigma DMADVV format. To review…

  1. Define who is at the table
  2. Define what they bring to the table
  3. Define what are their objectives and concerns
  4. Measure and analyze where analog and digital workflows connect

Part 2 continues with when you need data, checking your pain points, and how to find product that can amplify and support the people in a company.  

Step 4: When

Managers will probably want to know when they can expect an ROI, but you’re not there yet. “When” refers to data. When do you need data—every tenth of a second, every second, every hour? Part 1 mentioned to have a detail analog and digital workflow. You will see the value and how well the analog and digital flow chart helps when you are looking at different cycle rates.

A simple example might be with machine vision. If your conveyor belt moves 35 parts past a camera every second and the camera has a frame rate of 30 frames a second, there way to change the camera or software to be able to scan every part. You could slow down the conveyor, but that will add cost—the vision system—while slowing down production.

This isn’t the end of the road. If you can show that there isn’t much variance in the process and you’re not regulated to inspect every part, maybe 30 out of 35 will work. But how would you know if this is acceptable or not? This relates back to step 1—make sure you have the engineers and workers sitting at the table with you. By creating a relationship with them and having them at the table, you’ll know if inspecting 30 parts out of 35 is acceptable or not.

Don’t let the products tell you what you need. You need to know what you are looking for. Otherwise, finding a solution to your manufacturing goals will be like searching for a needle in a haystack. (Credit: Getty Images)

Step 5: Why

This should also be your first step, as noted in Part 1. However, make sure you know your pain points, and how painful they are. At this point you should start to have a better idea of the root causes of problems and be able to start defining them with numbers. In essence, you are designing the specifications needed to obtain desired goals and objectives. If there is a problem with production volume…

  • How much faster does it need to be?
  • What equipment or software is the root cause of the problem?

Design what the ideal equipment or software specifications would look like that would alleviate the problem. Make sure you remember your targets, and this should be a results driven process.

In addition, don’t let ego get in the way of results. Remember, you might have a fancy degree or title, but are you the person on the floor making the analog work happen? If not, check your ego at the door, open communication to the boots on the ground, and listen to them. They have that data in their head to help you make a more accurate digital model.

You may run into employees that say they don’t know anything; maybe they don’t. But maybe they don’t want to make waves or think information they share might somehow be used against them. If there isn’t a bridge or relationship between the office and factory floor, you will have difficulty getting some of the tribal knowledge from them to make a more accurate digital model.   

“Why” is a checkpoint to see if targets have moved or if you are being distracted by bells and whistles. Don’t integrate and collect everything. Too much information tends to lead people to lose sight of what they want to accomplish and spend more money than necessary. Follow proper engineering design practices and solve the important problem first.

Why are we doing this again? Why is that data going there? Why is that the best data for to collect for this application? Why is one piece of data valuable and other data noise? 

Step 6: How

At this point you should have defined the problems and a clear map of your digital manufacturing plan. Your goals and concerns from the people willing to make the change will show you what you can and can’t manipulate. Finally, you should have some idea where the pain points are and what specifications a product would need to possess in order to work with your people, equipment, and goals.

Now instead of going to the market and asking, what products are out there and what do they do? You can ask, is your product capable of doing this, working with this equipment or software, while not affecting these concerns? Having this knowledge and asking these questions isn’t playing hardball; it’s helping suppliers point you towards the best solution.

Know what technology is available from multiple companies. Keep in mind you might not need all the new top-of-the-line equipment. There might be technology that addresses or circumnavigates concerns. For example, a product with cell connections means you don’t need to use the company’s infrastructure that might put the IT person’s concerns at ease.

Leasing or subscription options might reduce the barrier of entry, decreasing the time it takes to get a return on investment. New strategies like this can ease the concerns of whoever is responsible for the equipment or data, too. Transparency with the company’s digital plan will help workers feel more comfortable and on-board, which will help integration and provide feedback on how to expand more effectively. 

Take what you have learned and verify the products you are looking at align with your specifications needed to meet the company’s goals.

Scaling and Future-Proofing

Moving forward, continue to update the digital manufacturing plan and make sure everyone has access to it. The more transparent you can make the information the more people will continue to support the direction and goals of the company. As product lifecycles shorten and competing means getting to market faster, design, testing, and setting up manufacturing for products will have to happen digitally. Engineers won’t have time to build enough prototypes, even with 3D printing. 3D printing will move further into production and more prototyping will happen digitally.

If your competition is doing this and you aren’t, how much longer will you be able to compete? If they integrated too fast, without reason, without taking into consideration what is shown here, don’t panic, don’t rush, and keep moving effectively with your people and goals in mind. It’s not just a digital transformation, but a human adaptation to adjust to something new.

Technology provides a lot, but it is only as good as the people running it. Anyone not on board, or not understanding the big picture, will yield insufficient results. With 78% of companies that tried to scale its digital plan failing to make expected earnings, it is important to invest in value, not hype.

Product need to be flexible, open-source, and take future development into consideration. Dynamic tools might disrupt a factory floor, but if a product is flexible enough, it should be possible to mimic standard operating procedures while adding value. This might seem like you are trying to fit new technology into the same box, but this can help people not ready to change from rebelling or disrupting advancements. Over time, dynamic tools can take shape and add on features as people or production are ready.

Once a clearer, more-accurate picture can be developed from the new technology, it will be easier and faster to bring more people to the table for larger more dynamic changes. Don’t get discouraged with growing pains. As you reach for more aggressive projects, make sure the technology will scale with your goals. New digital tools should make obtaining results and scaling easier, not harder.

Build your digital plan for people. whether it is the company or the digital transformation, you have to bring people together. Amplify their strengths and support them not because it’s good for the company, not because that’s what makes a good leader, not because it’s the right thing to dodo it because it is what generates value.

This is not value, but a representation of it.

Money is not value; money is a representation of value. If you need money you can use value to get more of it. If you need more connections, value can get that too. If you want employees to care about their job and do it well, value will bring everyone to your table; this is the power of digitalization. Digitalization should bring everyone and everything to one platform.

For a free downloadable template to start your Digital Manufacturing plan, check out this link.

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