Whilst ‘zero waste’ and ‘zero loss’ are aspirational targets for manufacturers large and small, some leading UK manufacturers are now reporting achieving these impressive standards using World Class Manufacturing (WCM) methodologies. Traditionally a manual approach, WCM requires buy-in from key decision makers and the persons responsible for the manufacturing process. This can mean significant investment and can prove very resource intensive, which is likely the reason why WCM is not more widely adopted. However, some pioneering plants are now utilising the latest advances in technology to support the WCM methodology with specially designed software. John Roberts, operations director of Idhammar Systems explains how – with the right commitment from the organisation, and the right software to expedite processes and support improvements – every manufacturer can strive for world class manufacturing standards.
Leading UK businesses across a range of industries are already working to embed WCM initiatives, including Unilever, Rolls Royce and Jaguar Land Rover and it’s predicted that many more will soon follow suit to achieve their increasingly ambitious targets.
Devised by Professor Yamashina in Japan in 2005, WCM has its foundation in TPM (Total Productive Maintenance). It works to achieve zero loss with zero defects, a concept that’s becoming increasingly more important as more organisations turn to focus on the environmental impact of their production. Ultimately, it’s a set of concepts, policies, techniques, and principles for operating and managing a manufacturing company. There are 10 key technical pillars of WCM including: safety, the environment, cost deployment, focused improvement, autonomous maintenance and workplace organization, professional maintenance, quality control, logistics and customer service, early equipment management; and people deployment. All require individual consideration in order to be truly effective and all require the attention of the entire organisation. In order to address all 10 technical pillars, it’s now considered necessary to use software; but this is a controversial subject.
How does the IIOT complicate things?
The IIOT, set to become a $225 billion market by 2020, didn’t exist in 2005 when the theory of WCM first originated. After all, today’s processing power was not available over a decade ago – instead, the data available from machines, systems and devices was usually gathered, processed, distributed and analysed by people (not computers). However, even in the smallest manufacturing sites today with increasingly connected machinery, systems and devices, this level of analysis is simply not possible at a low cost without smart technology. This is why organisations such as Idhammar Systems are playing a pivotal role in developing IT solutions dedicated to allowing manufacturers to work towards their zero-defect targets faster and more efficiently than they could without such systems.
Introducing Smart Technology
Although WCM is heavily reliant on personal engagement, there are fundamental building blocks to which technology proves crucial. For example, as well as improving efficiencies, with robots able to perform the work of three to five people depending on the task, introducing smart technology can help to free up time and resources within your team. By automating data acquisition, analysis and reporting processes, technology can allow your skilled people to engage in more complex, technical tasks. Additionally, this resource can prove pivotal when it comes to acting on the data that the systems provide – particularly if the insights are served up in an easily digestible format.
As well as gathering vital information, digital systems like Idhammar’s can also help to decide what to do with the data, routing it to the right people whilst displaying it in an acceptable manner. In turn, creating a measurable operational process. The smartest technology also helps to make this process even more streamlined, utilising resources such as voice technology for time saving and increased accessibility. For example, manufacturers are able to recruit the help of Siri, Alexa or Google, telling them what’s happened, and a remedial course of action can be initiated on the factory floor almost immediately – particularly useful when dealing with any Emergency Work Orders.
Additionally, with increased data being input into the systems, algorithms are becoming more intelligent, with many systems utilising AI technology to update their algorithms based on historic outcomes and learnings. Many organisations are also looking at AR so that technicians will not only be able to see the equipment they’re working on through HoloLens, but they’ll also be able to call up essential maintenance instructions and safety advice when needed the most.
Is this all possible now?
This technology may seem quite futuristic, but the short answer is yes, this is certainly achievable now. However, for WCM standards to be truly achieved, this smart approach requires sustained engagement from senior level management. The deployment of a wide range of new IT systems may be deemed necessary to make it possible, and it may also require a cultural shift to change attitudes of production directors, technicians and all those engaged in the production process.
Technology is evolving at an incredible pace and is becoming more intelligent as each year passes. Yet despite advances in digital capabilities, without the backing of senior leadership, WCM standards cannot be achieved. After all, the benefits available from the introduction of WCM will not be obtained solely by developing technology. It is not a software project nor is it a technology project. Committing to WCM is usually the catalyst for major cultural change within the organisation and therefore requires cooperation from members of the team. If this can be achieved, your organisation is set to reap the benefits with improved efficiencies, reduced waste and a fast return on investment in any technology that supports the methodology.