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Manufacturers in competitive industries must prioritize finding ways to satisfy customers and staying ahead of their competition. One of the key strategies for optimizing production is addressing inefficiencies in manufacturing workflows in an effort to maximize productivity and minimize waste.
Historically, the traditional strategies surrounding manufacturing workflows involve a significant amount of paperwork and human intervention at nearly every stage of the operation. Today, many modern businesses leverage the power of Industry 4.0 to help digitize workflows.
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Benefits of digitizing manufacturing workflows
It’s difficult to argue that shifting manufacturing processes and workflows to next-gen, digital platforms enables businesses to make their operations more efficient. Consequently, businesses that do adopt new technologies reap benefits including improved production visibility, detection and prevention of bottlenecks and quality issues, and minimized burden associated with regulatory compliance depending on the given industry.
To better understand the opportunities that digitizing manufacturing workflows can present, let’s dive in to a few examples:
1. Standardize operator guidance and automate data collection
For most manufacturers, production processes are made up of a series of steps that lead to the final product coming off the line. To achieve success, manufacturers need to streamline and automate operator workflows to ensure that they can complete each step quickly and consistently while preventing quality defects.
Digitizing manufacturing workflows takes the burden of repetitive, menial tasks off the employees. This allows them to channel their productive energies towards other vital aspects of the production process that require more cognitive human input, making them more effective.
Additionally, digitizing operator workflows enables businesses to automate data collection so they can better track production and receive real-time feedback on any issues that may arise across their facilities.
2. Increase data security and integrity
An operation that relies on physical paper and spreadsheets to handle their documentation faces many challenges related to data security and integrity. Manual, paper-based data entry is prone to human error and can be incredibly cumbersome and inefficient. Additionally, production data recorded on paper can be difficult to sort, reference, and analyze, forcing manufacturers to reactively respond to yesterday’s issues.
Digital workflows, on the other hand, enable manufacturers to streamline data collection, giving supervisors the ability to analyze and respond to production data in real-time. Additionally, cloud-based manufacturing solutions prioritize security, preventing unauthorized access and eliminating the concern of data breaches.
3. Improve data sharing for boosted employee productivity
Successful manufacturers strive to eliminate information siloes that make real-time production visibility difficult. After all, if people in different departments keep their data to themselves, it prevents other employees in other sections from benefiting from that information.
This can lead to a situation where a significant amount of time is wasted trying to piece together different information originating from the various departments. In other words, non-digital workflows are a breeding ground for tangled processes and reduced employee productivity.
Enter digital workflows. These allow for more distributed and convenient information sharing, allowing employees to execute their tasks efficiently. Better yet, they can easily access information relating to their tasks without having to run down paperwork from various departments or locations enabling decision-makers be more proactive and agile.
4. Improve customer experience
Digitized workflows enable manufacturers to satisfy their customers more efficiently. With the help of today’s tools, manufacturers can better service customers throughout their entire customer journey with up-to-date information gleaned from digitized processes.
For instance, customer-facing personnel can provide handy information to clients’ order inquiries. Digitizing the process allows easy access to relevant information, significantly improving customer service efficiency.
5. Reduce overall production costs
Manufacturing processes contain several inefficiencies that can significantly reduce productivity and increase production costs.
Take quality control, for example. This process requires real-time data to track processes and products on the line, ensuring that businesses don’t lose money due to rejects and damaged items.
Digital workflows enable quality management and control personnel to easily track defective items, preventing the costs incurred due to material wastage and non-compliance.
Optimize production with digital workflow software
Based on the benefits discussed, it makes perfect business sense for companies to adopt digital workflow software. As businesses evaluate practical solutions for their specific needs, they should consider the following:
Auditing existing production processes and management structures: Manufacturers need to carefully assess and identify the areas that are ripe for digitization to make the production process more efficient.
Auditing existing processes allows businesses to identify areas of inefficiency as well as manual, paper-based processes that can benefit from a more optimized, digital approach.
Starting with one workflow: Businesses might feel the need to tackle their digital transformation initiatives across as many manufacturing processes as they can in one go. As you may guess, we’re big proponents of digitization across many, many different use cases.
However, trying to tackle all of your digital workflow needs in one go can cause significant headaches for operators, managers, and supervisors alike. It’s more prudent to identify one or two potential use cases and digitize workflows on a more progressive basis. This allows management to see how practical this approach can be.
And if it shows positive results, this method can be replicated gradually across other areas of the business.
Keeping all employees in the loop: Reaping benefits from digitizing workflows can be more complicated than it should be if there’s poor communication from management. Some employees might oppose the new way because they see technology as a threat to their jobs and create short-term frustration as new solutions are ramped up.
However, adequate and clear communication from the start enables executives and managers to gauge employees’ sentiments towards the proposed changes. In fact, receiving employee feedback can often help identify some of the core, underlying use cases for digitization given the operators are the ones actually conducting the work. We encourage this type of bottom-up digital transformation.
So, when it comes down to it, manufacturers can leverage workflow management software to plan and implement their digitization efforts. These digital tools utilize increased connectivity and data collection across their entire operation to provide insightful analysis that informs business digitization decisions.
Additionally, the software allows for better communication between different parties and promotes accountability. In doing so, workflow management software makes the digitization process more efficient with more straightforward execution.
Improving workflows with digital work instructions
Using Tulip, manufacturers are able to build digital work instructions and SOPs to help guide their operators through daily tasks, minimizing cognitive load and eliminating quality defects caused by human error.
Additionally, digital workflows help automate data collection, providing a real-time view of what's happening across your operations.
To learn more about how Tulip can help digitize and streamline your workflows, reach out to one of our team members today!
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