Digital Strategy

What Are Manufacturing Operations?

July 8, 2021

Now is the time to learn and adopt a Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) strategy. Discover what an effective MOM strategy looks like and the many ways it helps manufacturers.

The manufacturing factory floor is a dynamic place to be. 

From the first supply of raw materials to hit the plant floor until the end product is in the customer’s hands, a lot more has to go right than wrong in order to produce goods that earn a profit and fill a need. 

Efficient, effective, and collaborative operations across all sectors of a supply chain are necessary to successfully profit from quality products. Manufacturing Operations is the holistic, ongoing process of providing complete visibility into manufacturing processes and production performance; the purpose being to locate, analyze and consolidate data on inefficient areas of production and enact action from a single source. Manufacturing operations management (MOM) optimizes production and improves quality management, manufacturing execution systems, R&D management, advanced planning and scheduling, building maintenance, and more.

Only about 9% of manufacturing companies have fully integrated Industry 4.0 technology into their manufacturing process

The manufacturing industry is in flux right now; digitization is changing everything. Innovative and complex technology like AI, Machine Learning, Internet of Things, etc. are the talk of the town. But the reality is, only about 9% of manufacturing companies have fully integrated Industry 4.0 technology into their manufacturing process. These are the above-and-beyond leaders of various industries.

For the majority, i.e., the rest of the manufacturers, now is the time to learn and adopt a Manufacturing Operations strategy. Key players in your organization will be operators, technicians, engineers, and management. Operators must be trained to handle new technology, technicians must be educated to implement new processes, engineers must be upskilled to master the knowledge of new tech, and management must maintain a fundamental understanding of all new MOM software. 

What is Manufacturing Operations Software and Their Operations?

MOM software exists to optimize factory-floor automation activities. It’s one of the most exciting new modern manufacturing trends offering visible value on day one. MOM software connects, aggregates, and schedules various operational activities with the overarching goal of expediting or improving operations on the manufacturing floor from a profitability standpoint. Good MOM software can provide insights and high-value visibility into the shop floor for operators, supervisors, technicians, or managers. So, to summarize: MOM software makes better manufacturers.

The same computational technology that we’re so excited about is among the same general group of digitized processes that have thrown the manufacturing industry for a loop in the past few years. Industry 4.0 technology like AI, IoT, and more have revolutionized the industry and left many good companies scratching their heads. True, some visionaries or early adopters beat the curve and are rapidly ascending as players in the digital manufacturing space - but the vast majority aren’t. The majority are still lacking a truly comprehensive digital strategy that involves manufacturing operations software, which has put the industry in an odd place. Some groups are what seems like light years ahead, while most of the pack is still learning. 

To add to that particular reality is the awareness that consumers have access to similar technologies, too. Additionally, manufacturing companies have to be ready to respond to disruption at any given moment. An instantaneous change in market supply or market demand can occur on a whim, so there’s this need for just-in-time manufacturing processes aided by insights from MOM software. These operational functionalities must be integrated into the supply chain seamlessly through business process automation. MOM software can facilitate this.

The software utilizes a collection of systems to handle end-to-end manufacturing processes, all with the common goal of optimizing supply chain efficiency during complex manufacturing operations.

What Are the Benefits of Manufacturing Operations Software?

The following core operational activities are the key benefits of introducing MOM software into a supply chain: innovating new products, reducing current operating costs, regulatory compliance, stock control, managing inventory, and maintaining maintenance requirements.

Here’s what good MOM software provides for manufacturers:

Complete shop floor visibility and control

MOM software tracks, aggregates and presents a deep body of information explaining the current status of the manufacturing floor’s operations. Essential information is provided to managers via lean manufacturing principles and operational quality compliance. This data set provides real-time visibility into the ebb and flow of the plant floor including machine diagnostics, inventory data, maintenance needs, personnel status, and more. But more than just providing information, the software is designed to integrate into your systems - so action can be achieved alongside the information. It’s about both visibility and control. Information and action.

Single source of up-to-date processing data

Critical engineering data is maintained in a unique congregation. Plant managers use MOM software to reference their most important data points. Any type of information regarding part specifications, equipment maintenance records, plant assembly instructions, and other physical processes can be viewed and updated in real-time with the software. Major value can be derived from this particular area of MOM software. Some of the most important decisions are the ones that must be made in the moment, on the fly. And a manager who finds themselves in the position to make a major choice with profit or loss on the line would be much more likely to make a good decision if a bevy of situational, critical, real-time data was on hand at that moment. 

Reduction of wastage

A good MOM software can trigger a noticeable reduction of waste by enacting certain systems at specific, defined moments. Typically, you will see this in an area like inventory management. Software enacted to aid in managing inventory can accurately estimate when a product runs low, and automatically order a new batch in order to ensure continued operability and success. Conversely, that software will recognize the trend in over-ordering a material and ping the operator with a warning. You can ensure your inventory is always at peak performance with good MOM software; reducing excess inventory and planning automated orders. This is the type of tool that saves major time in your day.

Manufacturing agility

Like we mentioned earlier, digitization is taking over manufacturing. So you’ve got to be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice, or maybe even manufacture at the edge of the market. Despite ever-changing demand cycles, manufacturers are able to control shop floor performance while managing cost and quality thanks to good MOM software. If the market for one particular product takes a sudden nosedive, the MOM software will recognize that, present the data and facilitate in shifting priorities to increase production of a product that is in high demand. This provides a quick adaptation in the face of change, at the point of action while saving time, money, and effort in the process.

Optimizing operational efficiency and profitability

Industrial operations cover a large part of manufacturing, therefore it’s a point of major potential for efficiency upgrades. MOM software exists to target time-consuming human processes and improve the business’ bottom line by automating those tasks. Significant profitability increases can be seen with this major benefit of manufacturing operations software. You’ll be surprised how many tasks can be truncated with MOM software.

Real-time quality data and application

Possibly the most exciting reason for the software is this real-time capability. No longer are Monday meetings the only time to analyze performance and change course. Now, real-time data related to operation steps, inventory, products, labor, etc. is processed alongside relevant insights and then reports are readied via Enterprise Quality Management Software (EQMS), Six Sigma, or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. The manager or operator can make a quick, informed decision without needing to take it up the line.

Types of Manufacturing Operations Management Software

Just like everything in this industry, MOM software is continually evolving and expanding. It is not a set in stone series of functions, but rather an ever-innovating collection of technology that is poised to grow robustly in the coming years. In its current era, the primary types of manufacturing operations software exist as production management software, performance analysis software, quality and compliance software, human interface software, and manufacturing execution software.

Production management software - This type of MOM software provides real-time data regarding critical operations like labor status, workflow, ordering, materials, product shipments, delivery schedules, logistics, and more. Production management software prioritizes and details the particular order in which materials are used, and how, so that you can optimize order fulfillment. This optimization occurs by leveraging the data set of materials and the equipment tracking information and providing easily enactable solutions.

Performance analysis software - This type of MOM software provides data at the physical point of action. Performance analysis software exhibits accurate metrics, situational data, and historic analysis to the operator of a physical machine at any given moment on the factory floor. This is a customizable software that can be enabled to provide various reports to various manufacturing operations managers. This is the type of software that will accelerate manufacturing-floor operations, especially with an easy-to-use interface.

Quality and compliance software - This type of MOM software allows for increased operational compliance in relation to set industry standards for manufacturing procedures. For instance, the automotive industry has myriad intense standards that must be upheld. Companies like GM rely on this MOM software daily to flag any errors or misalignments in their production processes. Deviation in any regard is tracked, measured, and reported which allows for the business to enact corrective measures early or on time by managers. Ensuring regulatory compliance and enhancing adherence to strict quality standards from governing bodies like the International Standards Organization is the whole goal of quality and compliance software. So in this regard, MOM software isn’t just an investment or an augmentation - it represents a type of insurance as well.

Learn more about Propel’s quality management solutions here.

Human-machine interface software - This MOM software is all about coordination. Plant operators and managers can coordinate production processes and engage with specific process control machinery using a digital interface with human-machine interface software. This interaction exists via a graphical user interface that oversees information exchange and coordination between multiple types of HMIs (supervisory and machine level). Basically, you can control machines without physically controlling them with your hands. It’s an amazing software that accelerates production and can dial back operating costs.

Manufacturing execution system - This MOM software increases manufacturing quality, productivity, and agility by allowing operators, plant managers, and production engineers the proper, insightful data points to both act and maximize. Plant efficiency, productivity, and flexibility are all enhanced with information systems aggregated from manufacturing execution system software.

Who Benefits from Manufacturing Operations Management?

The importance of manufacturing operations software, and the reason it is so alluring, is that it truly offers something for everyone. An effective MOM strategy benefits operations workers and plant managers equally. The day-to-day operations are easier for the floor workers, and the day-to-day decisions are more informed for the managers. It’s the rare, but highly desired “win-win”.

For plant engineers, factory-floor workers, and operations personnel, a high-quality MOM strategy will reduce manual grunt work, quicken operations, and increase the output quality. The reduction in manual work is possible because of the large-scale automation that MOM software provides; reducing bottlenecks by eliminating dependency on repetitive, low-value work. Faster, leaner operations are possible because workers can easily manage and execute work orders by employing digital work directions and monitoring continuous improvement of product quality without the emphasis on unnecessary communication. This allows for uninterrupted production and fewer decision points. The increased quality of output is possible because plant engineers have a heightened awareness of which materials are needed for the proper output, thanks to MOM software. This increases overall quality and reduces the potential for product variance.

For operations managers and plant supervisors, a high-quality MOM strategy will reduce production cycle time, increase document compliance, increase operational excellence, and integrate business processes. The reduction in production time is possible because of the excellent and critical operational data that managers have at their fingertips. MOM software enables leaders to make quick, educated decisions on important sectors of manufacturing, which improves the time it takes for the production cycle. Increased documentation compliance is possible through MOM software which tracks, measures, and reports any deviation from code. This ensures that products meet the necessary specs and all documentation of manufacturing operations is accurate. An increase in operational excellence is possible through MOM software because a good strategy can provide end-to-end supply chain forecasting, which buttons up various efforts across the entire system. Lastly, business integration is a major boost to managers. Managers can now integrate key manufacturing processes with other crucial business functions while taking advantage of opportunities that could enhance capacity planning.

Manufacturing Operations in Relation to Artificial Intelligence

While the number of manufacturers who have successfully integrated disruptive technologies like AI, IoT, or ERP into their entire operations hovers around 9%, the number of manufacturers who are relying on those technologies to some degree in their operations is growing, and fast. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), the number of manufacturers who rely on embedded intelligence to some degree within their operations will reach 20% by the end of 2021. And that number is only going up. Additionally, the IDC suggests that using AI and IoT to boost execution times, automate processes and integrate business operations do so by up to 25% of their prior output.

AI takes in a wide array of data from machines, touchpoints, sensors, and individuals and then seeks to apply it to algorithms created to enhance production, or even reach the lofty goal of “lights out manufacturing”.

As of current writing however, most groups lack the data scientists, infrastructure, skill sets, and know-how to achieve any true differentiation by solutions in their digital strategy relating to Industry 4.0 technology integration. Odds are, most manufacturers are still reliant on paper and operating on computer systems disconnected from one another. The infrastructure to create a technology-literate roadmap simply doesn’t exist for most manufacturers yet. Key word: yet.

Just like anything, it’s going to take time to educate and upskill current employees as well as the future workforce. In this regard, the manufacturing industry has a long road ahead of it. But the desire is there and the goals are as attractive as ever, so we’re confident that AI in manufacturing is here to stay.

Artificial intelligence is absolutely changing how the world manufactures. Its primary deliverables are found in demand planning, quality control, production, product development, product innovation, logistics, inventory management, maintenance, and others. User-defined roles and algorithms are integrated easily into a MOM system embedded with AI. This allows the manufacturer to quickly analyze massive sets of supply chain management data, enabling informed decisions, in real-time, without human intervention. An AI-enabled supply chain coupled with the right MOM software results in optimal outcomes. There are several reasons for this:

  • AI focuses on only the essential data points and not any others, which reduces total data capture time and incites action much sooner than without it.
  • AI prevents errors and legal trouble by adhering to the set standards and getting the users’ attention regarding potential mistakes.
  • AI can act as a real-time tracker for operations and manufacturing operations managers as well as supervisors and customer support teams - this allows a massive reduction in time spent tracking delivery schedules and order statuses. Traceability is key.
  • AI can automatically and accurately schedule jobs via a production schedule that has rules and parameters pre-set by the manager or management system.
  • AI enables real-time prediction of any inventory surplus or shortage, which aids managers in forecasting material needs - directly resulting in customer satisfaction. This is a critical tool for start-ups that can't afford wasted energy.

The overarching benefit of AI in MOM is the clearing out of bottlenecks as they occur. Because of its ability to accurately deliver data-driven visibility onto the manufacturing floor, AI allows manufacturers to get closer to predictable outcomes, transforming their business operations and maximizing profitability along the way.

Summary

Unless your industry is completely for handmade goods, local, and adverse to computing of any kind, it’s easy to see how integrated digitization already is across manufacturers. It’s the future of manufacturing, and yet it’s also the present. Manufacturing a product is faster, better, cheaper if you have a good digital strategy (which could include a manufacturing consultancy) on your side. This is where knowing the latest manufacturing trends comes in handy.

Manufacturing operations software is not only infiltrating the shop floor in warehouses all over the world, it’s doing so with ease. Gone are the days of circling back with a product engineer at EOD. Gone are the days of dark spots and the unknown. MOM software shines a bright light on your supply chain and manufacturing operations. What was once a weak spot may become your biggest strength. If you know that your business would be better with the integration of a good MOM software strategy, let’s talk.


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Skylar Reddy

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