It’s no secret the manufacturing industry has been confronted with major challenges the last couple of years.
Beyond pandemic closures – supply chain breakdowns, labor shortages and rising material costs continue to present major production obstacles. And if that hasn’t been enough to deal with, you can add inflation and economic uncertainty to the mix.
Despite this, manufacturing can bounce back. But to stay competitive during this ramp-up, you must invest in new technology and learn to use it to your full potential.
Let’s take a closer look at the tools and tech your facility needs to stay one step ahead.
Warehouse Management Systems and Enterprise Resource Platforms
Cloud-based technology is becoming less of a supplement and more of a necessity for manufacturers. Paper processes are being phased out as leaders realize that transitioning to digital storage helps keep your vulnerable data safer, organized, and accessible.
Two different tools for this are warehouse management systems (WMS) and enterprise resource platforms (ERP):
- WMS:A WMS comprises software, hardware, and processes that allow warehouses to track each stage of a product’s journey. Centralizing this information makes tracking inventory, pulling goods, and shipping products more efficient. A WMS often provides a comprehensive analysis of a warehouse’s operations, allowing you to make better data-driven decisions.
- ERP:An Enterprise Resource Platform is a system of integrated and centralized applications that manage and automate various recurring tasks. In an industry such as manufacturing, where efficiency is constantly sought yet difficult to find, an ERP allows for unprecedented visibility, coordination, and management across the disparate processes that make up a business (like inventory and shipping) — resulting in greater operational efficiency.
While these systems have proven useful, they need to be used consistently to make the most of your investment. Make sure you provide the proper training for your team, so they feel comfortable with the platform. Plus, as you’re working with WMS providers, make sure you’re paying for features you’re going to use – don’t waste your budget on applications you won’t need.
Real-Time Location Systems
Supply chain delays and issues present significant problems for warehouses. So, the more visibility manufacturers have over the process, the better. That’s how real-time location systems (RTLS) can help.
RTLS gives you the ability to keep track of products and other assets through every stage of the supply chain process. This includes where the product is, what stage of the process it’s in, and its current condition. This system gives you more control so you can make better decisions about your inventory and production process. Plus, it helps you manage customer expectations and provide more accurate product updates and delivery information.
Wearable technology has been trending over the last number of years. As technology advances, its application has spread across the manufacturing industry to develop a smarter and more connected plant floor to attain enhanced quality and greater operational visibility. Current research indicates that the global industrial wearables market is expected to reach $8.4 billion by 2027, from $3.79 billion in 2019.
There are several ways that wearable technology can impact manufacturing and help redefine the way employees complete their tasks. They include:
- Improve Safety: wearable tech will help you make your workplace accident-proof by addressing the potential issues that may be going on around them. For example, imagine someone is walking along a narrow pathway blocked in on both sides by tall, packed shelving. They cannot see what lies on the other side, nor can they know what’s waiting for them when they leave that area. Smart wearables — like connected helmets or eyewear — can tap into a local network and pinpoint exactly where objects and equipment are. This would allow workers to avoid an accident like walking out in front of a top-loader or forklift that’s on the move.
- Increase Efficiency and Productivity: the introduction of voice-first wearable tech has helped eliminate the friction that exists with handheld devices. For example, employees wearing headsets with a microphone connected to voice-activated technology allows them to receive picking information via an automated voice. This way, the employee doesn’t need to circle back or refer to order paperwork, streamlining your picking process.
- Improve Security Planning and Authentication: in specific manufacturing and industrial settings, it’s essential to maintain proper security protocols and authenticate workers or third parties before they access particular areas of a property. Wearable technology can block, allow, and track specific movements of workers. For example, want to provide an employee temporary access to a section of your plant? It’s possible to authorize their mobile device, headset, or wristband to let them in. Then once they’re done with that assignment, you can revoke their access or lock down the area once again.
For wearable technologies to work in an organizational setting, you must ensure they offer workers proper functionality without sidetracking them or placing them in dangerous scenarios.
For manufacturers in particular, the internet has made connecting with distributors and selling products to a widespread audience much easier than it once was. And it’s no secret that today’s architects and engineers want a remarkable customer experience. In fact, studies have found that 73% of b2b buyers are looking for an easy, personalized purchasing process.
Insert: Product Configurators.
Product configurators simplify complex products by allowing users to interact with them before making a purchase. For example, let’s say your customer is looking to purchase corrugated metal roofing and siding products for their next freight car project. They must choose from a variety of metal types, material finishes, decide between painted and unpainted materials, and select the correct product specs. That’s a tough job on paper.
With the help of a product configurator on your website, visitors can customize and visualize products in real time, understand how they work, and easily request a custom quote of their exact product (check out CMI’s new product configurator to see how it works). When you provide this kind advanced data on-demand, it accelerates the design process and delivers immense value to your audience.
Applying technology to your manufacturing business can decrease costs, increase efficiency, and reduce waste. In addition, technology can help you improve quality control while ensuring superior products that will benefit you and the consumers alike.
But going digital in your own facility isn’t enough. It’s also crucial you work with advanced vendors and suppliers who embrace technology to help streamline your processes.
At CMI, we’re continuously innovating and ensuring we stay one step ahead to provide the best value and experience to our customers.
If you’re ready to learn how our unrivaled capabilities and revolutionary new product configurator will fuel growth in your business, get in touch today.