AT A time when economic markets are becoming more integrated, moving towards smart manufacturing is the way forward.
“Smart manufacturing can mean many things, but in essence, it is about being able to make use of information to provide solutions,” IME Group technology business consultant Teoh Kajin told Metrobiz.
He was a presenter at the conference Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) ICT Conference 2016, organised by FMM, with the theme “Enhancing Manufacturing Competitiveness Globally with Cloud Computing”.
He elaborated that manufacturers face the challenge of not knowing what goes on in their value chain, from customer request and manufacturing processes to delivery of the products.
“Implementing smart manufacturing will allow the owner to know what goes on in the whole value chain and anticipate what would happen and do the necessary preparation,” Teoh said.
Ideally, everyone should know and understand the whole process of a value chain. However, most factories are set up in silos, he added.
This could result in chaos whenever customers change their orders, such as delivery time or product specifications.
“With smart manufacturing, the floor supervisor would know at what stage a manufacturing process is for a specific product and are able to relay the changes to his team immediately, while being able to provide alternatives to a customer,” he said.
It may seem daunting for SMEs to take the first step to adopting smart manufacturing, but Teoh said a company could start by being receptive to changes and subsequently begin with data migration.
“The process could take from three months to a year, depending on the size (of the company and data migration),” he said.
When the data is in digital format, he said it would be easily shared with the relevant personnel and the SME could achieve cost savings of up to 50%, including the value of time.
“It is very common to misplace documents, or have people using documents that are not updated and hence creating wastage. Even if their manual filing system is effective, one still needs to do many duplication work such as filing in information in different forms,” he said.
Additionally, when a staff resigns, the handover process becomes easier as the new staff would be able to access relevant information in the company’s database, as opposed to being passed rims of documents and files.
“Another area is approvals could be done digitally, and the manager need not be in the office (to make the approvals).
“Besides, the risk of the documents going missing or misplaced is reduced,” he said.
There are many other possibilities of what manufacturers could achieve with smart manufacturing after taking the first step to digitise their data.
“With the data, they can move on to cloud-based solutions which allow the managers to make decisions without being in the control room,” he said, adding that more automation could be implemented as well.
This is because the system could be programmed to make use of the information and take necessary steps, from sending a message to the manager to providing alternative solutions of what to do, allowing manufacturers to respond faster and more accurately.
“We see more manufacturers moving towards this,” he concluded.