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Issue Date: November 2006

Production at the speed of business

1 November 2006
Zach van der Walt, SAP Africa solution manager, industrial business unit

The point about adaptive manufacturing systems - that tie what is happening on the production or plant floor back to an organisation's administrative, financial and supply chain systems - is that they enable the shop floor to run at the speed of modern business. They make the shop floor more responsive. They prevent the business being limited by the shop floor.
Zach van der Walt, SAP Africa solution manager, industrial business unit
Zach van der Walt, SAP Africa solution manager, industrial business unit
For instance, without an adaptive manufacturing system in place, when a production line goes down for whatever reason, sales people do not know until some time afterwards that there will be a delay getting product to customers. Also, they rarely know how long it will take to bring the line back on and therefore what to tell customers in terms of when product can be expected. At the same time, any delays on the shop floor have a direct impact on the supply chain and therefore on inventory management and procurement processes.
But in most current manufacturing environments that is just the way it is. The old green screens used on the shop floor are considered enough - mainly because they appear to be simple to use or to provide the kind of information shop floor users are thought to be capable of assimilating. Which is both naïve - and insulting to those working on the shop floor, many of whom are running extremely sophisticated and complex equipment with a high order of expertise.
More importantly, the élitism of keeping sophisticated organisational information for the executive suite and letting the shop floor limp on, on mostly, a less than need-to-know basis is profoundly destructive to the organisation. For one thing, not knowing in realtime what the implications are for the business of events on the shop floor erodes competitive advantage. For another, it is punitive to shareholders, who could be getting a great deal more value out of the organisation if there were no disconnect between the plant and the boardroom.
In the end, the argument about whether or not to go with adaptive manufacturing has to come down to profitability.
And companies like Kumba, Lonmin and SA Breweries in South Africa and Kellogs, Dale Corning, Colgate Palmolive, Air Products, Eastman Kodak, Philips, and Procter and Gamble in the rest of the world are proving that adaptive manufacturing gives them the ability to profitably replenish the supply chain while dynamically responding to unpredictable change.
It enables them to run manufacturing at the speed of business and deliver performance through high visibility and responsiveness. They can reliably produce to target with year to year cost reductions and quality improvements. Why? Because adaptive manufacturing gives them a central view of manufacturing right from the shop floor through the supply chain and external partners to the executive suite.
And that is possible because adaptive manufacturing is not a one-way street. Certainly, information coming from the plant includes realtime alerts, order status, equipment efficiencies, downtime tracking, reworking, and scrap rates - all of which impact the overall administration of the company.
But information flows down to the shop floor, too. Production orders, material inventory level, inspection data, master recipes, material details, and maintenance works orders can all be pushed through simplified user interfaces back into the manufacturing execution systems (MES) - putting the shop floor in a position to synchronise its operations to the needs of the business.
Also, through relevant analysis of shop floor data, both the shop floor and the executive suite can make decisions on the cost implications of changes to the business or changes to the shop floor. Why would any manufacturing executive and shop floor manager not want those kinds of capabilities? Where is the profit in hanging on to the green screens?
For more information contact SAP Africa, +27 (0) 11 235 6000.

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