Improving your Integrated Manufacturing with Location & Data Analytics
Data-integrated manufacturing is a big step up in productivity in the manufacturing world. At least, it’s supposed to be. By allowing technology to handle greater amounts of your manufacturing process, you cut down on labor costs, reduce human error, and can manufacture your goods more quickly than you can in more human-focused manufacturing environments.
This manufacturing utopia can only be reached if the technology that you used doesn’t end up getting in your way just as much as it helps you out. The switch to integrated manufacturing brings with it some challenges that can often still require human intervention. At Kontakt.io, we aim to solve some of those problems for you with the aid of BLE tracking and software powered by machine learning algorithms.
As you move to automate more of your process in an integrated manufacturing environment, there are still some areas that can function as bottlenecks to your efficiency. These problems are not unique to integrated manufacturing, they exist in manufacturing environments of all types. Their impact, however, will become that much more obvious when everything else is being smoothly automated. Let’s talk first about what these problems are, and then about how our solutions can help you overcome them.
Lack of real-time work-in-progress (WIP) monitoring
There are often several steps in a given manufacturing process that require work-in-progress parts to be stored somewhere until the next phase of production is ready for them. Inefficiencies in how and where these parts are stored can make them hard to find later. This difficulty decreases your productivity, and your profits, in a number of key ways.
- Overproduction. The inability to find WIP parts when you need them increases the chance that you will end up producing more parts than you need in order to compensate for the lost pieces. This problem becomes even worse if the lost parts sit long enough to become unusable. In this case, you’ve also increased your scrap rate.
- Missed scrap revenue. Turning lost pieces into scrap because they couldn’t be found in time is bad enough. It becomes even worse when you realize that scrap which could be sold to make some money back could be sitting lost in your storage areas for long stretches of time. Scrap that you don’t know exists cannot bring in any money.
- Wasted storage space. If you are using your storage space holding on to lost items, then you do not have the space for items that are not lost. This means you will not be able to repurpose that space for something more useful. Over time, the domino effect of such poor storage space management will severely degrade your efficiency.
Increased stock-taking costs
If you are producing more than you need because lost materials give you a false impression of your inventory, then you are also ordering more materials than you need. This downside to improperly tracked parts goes beyond missing work-in-progress parts and extends throughout your entire manufacturing process. Anytime you order or produce a part and cannot find it later, it must be replaced. That replacement deducts from your bottom line in ways that should be entirely avoidable.
Paper-based order and material traceability
If you are still placing orders and tracing materials using paper, then you are leaving money on the table. The obvious disadvantage here is that it takes more time and effort for a human to do the paperwork than it does to let a computer handle the work for you. Moreover, humans are more prone to error than computers are, which can add an extra layer of frustration and inefficiency to your processes.
In an integrated manufacturing environment, paperwork also has the disadvantage of not being digital. This means that in order to get that data into your system, it must first be digitized in some way. This further adds to your labor costs and reduces your time to a completely manufactured product. If you choose to leave the data undigitized then you are missing out on one of the big advantages that computers have, the ability to use big data to increase efficiency.
Inaccurate contractor billing
Most companies switched from paper punch cards for employee time-keeping to digital time management systems long ago. But even these digital systems can bring with them headaches when you have a large enough workforce. This is especially true when there are contractors working on the site that aren’t as familiar with the locations of the clocks or the procedures in place for time management.
Any time you have to go in and adjust someone’s start or stop time because they forgot to clock in or out is time wasted. Worse, there may be delays between when a contractor stops working and when they clock out. The same can be true of their clock in time. It is fairly easy for an employee or a contractor to steal time from your company, even if they are not doing it intentionally. These largely unseen labor costs can be hard to account for and rectify.
How Kontakt.io’s Simon AI Can Help
Simon AI is an end-to-end, hardware-agnostic platform that integrates with a range of technologies, including BLE, RFID, UWB, and Wifi. The software uses real-time tracking, big data analytics, and machine learning to make it easier to track assets at your company and give you valuable information to improve your workflows. Let’s take a look at how Simon AI can team with BLE tracking devices to address each of the problems that we mentioned in the previous sections.
An Overview of Tracking with BLE
Although Simon AI can work with a variety of technologies, Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) tracking is what gives it the most power. Unlike RFID tags, BLE trackers do not need to be scanned. This means that, as long as they are in range, you will always be able to track and locate a BLE tag. The tags work using a low energy consumption version of the same Bluetooth technology that powers your wireless earbuds or computer peripherals. These Bluetooth devices triangulate with base stations to provide a precise location to the Simon AI system.
Real-time WIP monitoring
With RFID tags, you either have to rely on a human to scan them or funnel everything through a checkpoint. BLE tags can be tracked anywhere on your property. Every part, every tool, every WIP can be tracked for both its current position and its historical positions. Finding the asset is as simple as going to a computer capable of running Simon AI and searching the system for it. The computer will give out the exact location of the exact asset that you are looking for.
Better still, Simon AI can use that historical data in its powerful machine learning algorithms to detect inefficiencies that are costing you money. The system will detect things that human oversight would miss because it can crunch far more data than would be practical for a human. When it’s done, it will provide you with actionable insights to increase your productivity.
Reduced stock-taking costs
Simon AI can help ensure that parts are never misplaced again. The system can be programmed to send an alert to someone on your staff anytime an item sits for more than a given amount of time. This will prevent forgotten WIP parts from becoming outdated and ensure that scrap parts are sold off promptly rather than wasting space in your storage areas.
Because you always know exactly where every part is, your inventory management will never have to suffer from inaccuracies again. Even better, you’ll no longer have to waste money ordering parts that you don’t need.
Digital order and material traceability
BLE tags can contain additional data about an asset. Combined with the ability to track assets anywhere in your facility without the need for human scanning or checkpoints, this is a powerful tool for keeping your operation transparent. By marking where each part is in the production process, you’ll always have a complete and granular view of what parts you have and which ones you don’t.
Simon AI can be programmed to alert someone on staff whenever something unexpected happens in the production process. This allows you to correct problems quickly and gives you even more real-time information about where parts are and why they might not be where you expect them to be when delays happen. You can also use this information to provide more prompt information to customers when delays are expected.
Accurate contractor billing
BLE tags are not limited to tracking inanimate objects. By giving ID badges equipped with BLE tracking to your employees and contractors, you can greatly simplify your time management workflow. Simon AI can detect the BLE tags on the employee and automatically know when they arrive and work and when they have left the workplace. This automatic timekeeping saves your staff time spent on correcting improperly clocked timesheets and eliminates the long wait times that can sometimes for as people queue up to clock in or out.
Take your Integrated Manufacturing to the Next Level
Simon AI can help take your integrated manufacturing to the next level by removing even more of the tedious work that humans don’t like doing and replacing that work with something more efficient and better at analyzing the data it collects during the job. What we have given you here is just a small taste of what Simon AI is capable of. If you’d like to learn more about how our software can help improve the efficiency of your business and have it running like a well-oiled machine, contact us today about getting started with a free trial of Simon AI.