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The word “escape” should make any manufacturer frown. Whether they come as complaints from your customer or failed quality checks, product escapes impact the company’s bottom line: directly through the cost of materials and labor in the reworking process and indirectly through the loss of customer satisfaction and trust.
Plant managers never want a defective product to get out of the factory’s door, nor do they want to see a constant rework of finished products. For luxury goods manufacturers, preventing escapes is even more critical. A unique characteristic of luxury goods manufacturing is the costly materials involved in the production process and a high-mix, low-volume production line. Product rework incurs a waste of resources, slows the production line, and delays product releases. On top of that, maintaining their reputation and customer satisfaction with every product is a fundamental requirement–for luxury goods customers, the quality expectation is nothing but perfection.
The world of luxury goods manufacturing is changing. With a 76% increase in the cost of raw materials in Q3, 2022 alone, a looming supply chain disruption and a changing workforce, luxury goods manufacturers need to reduce scraps, waste and reworks while strengthening their customer base. Operational excellence is more important now than ever, and a simple first step is preventing product escapes.
How do product escapes happen in the production process?
There are two main reasons why a manufacturer may have escapes: a quality issue in their production line, and a lack of material and production data to detect these quality issues early on and implement process improvements to mitigate them.
Quality issues occur in your production line when your workers follow inconsistent manufacturing practices and turn out variances of the same product. This is extremely common in luxury goods manufacturing where digitization is still low and operators rely on paper-based instructions, which are slow to update. Due to the high degree of manual labor involved, operators sometimes keep their own version of instructions-they learn it from the person sitting next to them, or the one who trained them during onboarding, and pass it on to the next operator when it comes to their turn to do the onboarding. A lack of control and standardization of work instructions breeds inconsistencies, limits visibility and circumvents efforts to improve processes.
Another reason why escapes occur is the inability to detect quality issues early on, most commonly due to a lack of operational and material tracking data. Without digital tools, production data is recorded manually, which is both inefficient and error-prone. The lag between data capture, data transfer, and data analysis eliminates any opportunities to detect quality issues in the moment without the involvement of a quality-control person. On top of that, the limited amount of production data prevents process engineers and plant managers from identifying bottlenecks and hot spots for quality issues in the production line, rendering them unable to make the much-needed process adjustments in time.
Luxury goods manufacturing distinguished itself from other sectors by the highly manual production process. It’s the handmade quality that attracts buyers and justifies the premium price. While manufacturers need to maintain the human element in their production process, they also need to solve the challenge of inconsistent quality and late detection of defects. This is a tough quest, but fortunately, not unsolvable. By adopting digital tools such as digital work instructions, luxury goods manufacturers can start building human-centric operations in which technologies serve as augmentation tools for their workers’ powers and enable them to work faster, better, and more efficiently.
Error-Proof Production with Digital Work Instructions
Digital work instructions are the most efficient way to keep your manufacturing practices standardized and up-to-date. Unlike paper-based instructions that are prone to errors and loss, dynamic instructions can easily sort out your new sequences when there is an update and always give out the most updated sequence of tasks to operators.
Digital work instructions simplify instruction management in high-mix environments like luxury goods manufacturing. They eliminate the need to manually arrange tasks for each build or print out multiple pages of the same instructions for repeat tasks, and instead allow you to create a ‘bank’ of tasks, pull them into sequences, and work up to building your final product.
With the help of visual indicators, such as rich media materials included in the work instructions or guiding light through Vision integration, operators have more references to complete their build and a better chance of catching defects during the work process.
Digital work instructions also work as an in-line quality check for operators. Automated data capture and processing means your system can verify that the tasks have been completed correctly before moving on to the next step through integrated hardware, such as a barcode scanner or a digital scale. This will allow manufacturers to truly error-proof their operations and bring back operators’ confidence.
Quick Identification and Mitigation of Quality Issues with Full Traceability
Automated data capture with digital work instructions also provides another layer of error-proofing by creating a combined source of truth throughout your multiple systems. No more inconsistent production and materials data regardless of which system you are looking at-connected machines eliminate data silos and reduce data entry burden on humans. Moving away from manual data entry with the help of devices such as scales, sensors, and machines ensures that the right data is captured at the right time and provides full traceability for any audit or root-cause analysis.
Full traceability also means plant managers can identify by whom, where and when actions take place and quickly identify any quality bottlenecks on the shop floor. This is critical in learning how the errors happen and what changes need to be made to prevent such errors from happening again.
Traceability from raw materials to finished products also opens up opportunities for operators to get involved in decision-making. With data readily available, operators now have another tool to communicate with both plant managers and system engineers and propose any improvements to existing processes.
Replacing paper with digital work instructions is the most popular use case of digital tools in luxury goods manufacturing, but it is only one of the many apps that can help up-level your production line. When built on a single operations platform, the apps connect machines, humans, and systems to augment your workers’ abilities, increase productivity and efficiency, and most importantly create a continuous improvement loop within your operations.
Your workers remain at the center of any digitization effort–they are both the drivers and users of technology, and systems are built around resolving their most critical pain points. Free from the manual data entry burden and with a boosted confidence in production quality, workers can now engage in more impactful tasks, such as decision-making or process improvement.