Everyone is currently facing high costs, including companies. In an effort to keep operational costs low, manufacturers may assume they have to take drastic measures to make sure they are profitable. But manufacturing operations don’t have to be complex. In fact, there is a tool you can use to simplify operations to cut down operating costs while increasing productivity. That tool is asset tracking. Asset tracking has been taking nearly every industry by storm, drastically improving the way companies are operating at an affordable price point. Let’s dive into how utilizing asset tracking is changing the way manufacturers operate.
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The Complexity of Manufacturing Operations
There are many moving pieces in a manufacturing plant. It makes sense, then, that staying organized is a top priority for managers who are striving to meet their quarterly goals. Without organization, processes get messy and production levels decrease. Without a real grasp on their daily operations, managers will be stuck constantly playing catch up instead of working to get ahead. The specific complexities of a given company’s operations often dictate what a manager needs to focus on. Here’s a few ways that managers can take common complexities head on.
Production Planning & Scheduling
Demand is ever-changing in manufacturing operations, making planning ahead crucial to your company’s success. Part of this planning is anticipating rises and falls in demand. Using historical data is one way to plan for the future. For example, every year during the holiday season, you know there will be an uptick in the amount of demand consumers have. Meanwhile, the weeks following the holidays will slow. Having documentation that shows the ebbs and flows of this demand is important, although documentation can be difficult to obtain depending on the way you operate. If you don’t have an automated system, keeping tracking for you makes collection and analysis significantly easier than relying on manually filled out documents. Having it is not enough, either; you need to use it correctly. When planning how many people to staff around the holidays, look back on the demand you’ve had in previous years to determine how many products were ordered. You should also look at how much increase in demand you’ve had throughout the year. If there has been an increase in overall demand, take that into consideration when planning for holidays and other events.
You also need to plan your operations to be flexible. With rapidly changing demand, you need to be prepared for anything that could happen. To do so, you’ll need to follow the trends happening in your industry. For example, this year, many companies are anticipating a dip in demand compared to previous holidays due to economic conditions. While you want to be prepared for the demand increase that typically occurs during this time of year, you also need to be aware of any external factors that might affect your predictions and be prepared for those as well. It’s a very thin line to walk. This is why documentation and research is essential to navigating the complexities of managing manufacturing operations.
All of the moving pieces in manufacturing means that there is more to keep track of. This includes quality control of products being produced. During the busy season, it can be easy to let things slip. This is not a habit that you want to fall into. For example, you want to make sure that the tools you’re using are properly calibrated, not just cutting corners because the tool you need is unavailable. When corners are cut for convenience, quality suffers. When quality suffers, customers are unhappy, you risk losing money and what could have been a lifetime customer. Quality control requires a more hands-on approach, which could potentially take up significant time. To avoid a seemingly meaningless task that will only cost more, companies entrust their employees to operate properly. There can be a balance between saving time and ensuring the quality of products is consistent and safe to use.
When demand fluctuates, it can be difficult to have the exact amount of inventory you need. This goes back to what we discussed earlier surrounding the importance of using historical documents to plan ahead. Unfortunately, just looking at records won’t solve every problem associated with inventory management. One problem it can’t solve is the loss of inventory. If you plan ahead to order a certain amount of raw materials and you lose a portion of that inventory, historical records won’t help you find it. Regardless of the reason it’s lost, you need to get it back, or you need to spend more money on repurchasing the lost items. Discovering that something you need isn’t where it should be is a frustrating feeling. Instead of spending days searching, it’s typically easier to reorder the piece you need to prevent too lengthy of delays. That’s not a sustainable approach to take, you need a way to find the lost material or prevent it from getting lost in the first place.
Fluctuations in raw material prices, energy costs, and labor expenses create an environment that requires constant adaptation. Raising the price of what you’re selling is typically not your first choice. Instead, you look for areas where you can reduce costs, often resulting in reduced labor, which isn’t fun for anyone involved. Instead, it’s worth considering increasing production so that you can sell more. It doesn’t have to be a costly change if you take the right steps to streamline your processes. You don’t have to hire more employees to do so, instead optimizing your processes with what’s currently available based on data and predictive planning.
The Simplicity of Asset Tracking
Asset tracking solutions were designed to provide a simple solution for optimizing daily operations. The simplicity of asset tracking lies in its ability to provide a streamlined and automated means of tracking and monitoring assets, while integrating seamlessly with existing data collection systems. This integration automates the recording of asset information, reducing the need for manual data entry and minimizing the potential for human error. This not only simplifies the tracking process but also ensures the accuracy and consistency of the asset information stored in the system. Most importantly, these systems are easy to use. All you need to do is place the beacons and access points inside of a manufacturing plant and attach a tag to each asset you plan on tracking. Then you simply connect the tags, beacon, and access point to the UI. From there you have full visibility of your assets at all times.
Integrating Asset Tracking Into Existing Operations
Integrating asset tracking into your daily processes is just as easy as setting up the system. An asset tracking system will enhance the way operations run, not change it completely. By tracking the assets that are most important to you, you can gain visibility of operations. You can then use this data to make decisions and make improvements to the way your manufacturing plant operates, creating benefits in the form of increased production and reduced costs.
From raw materials to finished inventory, an asset tracking system tracks and monitors production at every single stage. The production process for any given product automatically includes multiple steps that run the risk of bottlenecks. Sometimes these bottlenecks go unnoticed for long periods of time, delaying production. The further delayed production is, the less throughput you have. Since an asset tracking system tracks unfinished inventory throughout the production process, you can be alerted of bottlenecks as soon as they occur. This way, you are addressing bottlenecks before they create a significant production delay. This information is also helpful in determining how efficiently your plant is operating. You can analyze how long production takes and any areas of weakness. With this information, you can make adjustments to operations to optimize production, making the asset tracker your tool to increase production without hiring additional labor.
Tracking tools may seem like an obvious way to ease manufacturing operations, but companies seem to struggle with proper execution. Many times, they rely on manual systems to track the location of tools. They’ll tell employees, “This type of wrench goes in work zone A, box C,” and so on. Many they’ll get creative and have a sign out sheet so employees know who last had the tool. Unfortunately, these manual efforts leave room for human error. People don’t always sign out tools or put them away in the right place. The only way to be sure you’ll find your tools is by putting an asset tracking device on each. This way, you have the real-time location of the tool you need. There’s no need to waste time searching the whole warehouse that someone may or may not have accidentally taken home. You don’t have to repurchase tools that seem to have vanished into thin air. Instead, you can quickly look up its location and go retrieve it for use. Additionally, tool tracking helps ensure finished inventory quality. By tracking tools, there’s no risk that differently calibrated tools will be mixed up. Through the same use just mentioned, you can track each tool so you make sure you’re using the proper tool to produce the end product.
Raw Material Tracking
By tracking raw materials, companies are able to collect data to inform decision making. They can track how much material is ordered and compare it to how much is used in order to better inform purchasing decisions. Additionally, when a manager is told by employees that they are out of a certain material, they can look at the UI to determine if there is any extra in a different location. Or, if they are going through more material than they should, they can find out why and make the appropriate adjustments.
A natural byproduct of manufacturing is scrap and other waste. Depending on what you’re producing, the scrap you have may need to be disposed of in a specific way for safety reasons. On top of this, every company has their own system dealing with waste. Some store what they can for later reuse. Others recycle or discard waste entirely. Either way, the proper steps need to be taken when there is scrap from production. If there are two pieces of scrap on a workbench, one to be disposed of and one to be reused, how are you to know which is which if you’re not the one that put them there? Using IoT for asset tracking is a simple way to manage waste. Attaching an asset tracking tag helps you to easily identify where scrap is. This helps keep you accountable and keeps waste levels down.
Finished Goods Tracking
After materials have completed the production process and been transformed into finished goods, the last thing you want to do is lose a completed product and have to remake it. Visibility of these goods is essential. Just because they’re done being produced doesn’t mean you don’t need to pay attention to them anymore. Instead, you need to know their location until they leave your facility. The visibility doesn’t have to stop there, either. When you choose a commercial asset tracking system that seamlessly tracks assets indoors and outdoors, you can also ensure the safe delivery of the product to the end consumer.
Will You Simplify Your Manufacturing Operations?
Manufacturing operations don’t have to stay complex. With the help of our AirFinder OnSite solution, you can track each important asset with ease so that you can reduce loss, address bottlenecks, and increase productivity without raising costs. The visibility you gain from an asset tracking system is invaluable. Once you start using it, you’ll wonder how you were able to operate without it. And the visibility doesn’t have to stop at the manufacturing plant or even the warehouse. You can know where your asset is no matter where it goes. So when logistics takes over and begins the distribution process, you can retain visibility of the assets to make sure the consumer receives it and has a positive experience with you and continues coming back. To learn more about this solution, book a demo with our team of experts.