Collaboration Through New Manufacturing Technologies

With our cellphones in hand or pocket, most of us are rarely cut off from the rest of the world. The same holds true when you are on the shop floor, but despite ubiquitous handheld internet connectivity, most operators, machinists and engineers just use the internet to Google and email.

When a problem arises, a good engineer won’t need to do much beyond their own research to concoct a solution. They’ll use whatever technology is available and affordable, but the cowboy approach to engineering isn’t always what’s best for the business. People on the shop floor have a tendency to focus on solving a specific problem immediately rather than taking a long-term oriented, collaborative approach for greater effect. Too often, individuals on the shop floor are silo’ed off from one another. New manufacturing technology is trying to break the mould. There’s so much more you can do with internet connected devices.

Manufacturers are ripe with new technologies for machinists, but the technologies that empower groups face more obstacles. Collaborative technologies require buy-in from everyone, and they can be much more difficult to implement successfully. Getting everyone on board with a new process or system can be painstaking, especially if it interrupts a flow or makes people feel less efficient. But increasingly, people on the plant floor are leveraging the following tools to boost productivity.

ERPs are rolling out to more shops over time, and the trend seems to be accelerating. In years past, the hardware required to collect, aggregate and disseminate all the data was too steep a hurdle for small and midsize manufacturers to overcome. Then, there was also all the training and interruption. Now, prices have come down and integrators have a history of implementation successes. Large internal networks have been outsourced to the cloud as more manufacturers choose cloud ERPs and infrastructure-as-a-service. Good IT departments don’t hold projects back. They figure out how new ERP solutions can serve each and every person from the plant floor up to the C-suite.

Machinists are understandably excited for a more connected work environment. An ERP can monitor wear and tear so that new consumables are ordered before a problem arises. Proactive maintenance powered by ERPs is a game changer.

As ERPs provide the digital toolset necessary for data sharing, agile work environments provide a real world framework and process to better achieve goals. Agile lets cowboy machinists do what they need to while making sure a larger goal is always the focus. Shops don’t need to adopt new technologies to assist in creating an agile work environment, but there are project management apps designed to facilitate agile that will help. So far, we’ve mentioned Cloud ERPs and Cloud Apps for Agile, so you might notice a trend.

Cloud Apps
Outside of the shop, we all use cloud apps. Maybe, we use them to connect with friends on Facebook, or to play Sudoku on the phone. Consumers like you have made cloud apps viable business tools and they are becoming indispensable on the plant floor. Our app, MachiningCloud, saves machinists 50% of their time or more in finding the right tool for a job. Most of our downloads come from people who just want to find a tool even though it’s only one part of what the app can accomplish. Cloud apps provide collaborative tools that make standalone desktop software look ancient.

Since tools can be saved in MachiningCloud, they can also be shared with a workgroup. Anyone who downloads the app and has an account can connect with your tool library or specific jobs. As a result, a machinist’s tool selection can be accessed in real-time by other machinists, maybe to download a 3D model, or even accounting and procurement for purchase. A process that once took catalogs, email, calls, Google searches and printouts is done in a few clicks with everyone on board.

Manufacturers who adopt cloud apps and the connectivity they bring have a competitive advantage. If you are a machinist with a tablet or PC, you might want to ask what the cloud can do for you and your team when a problem arises because if you don’t, a competitor will probably beat you to it.

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