Siemens describes digital manufacturing as ‘the use of an integrated, computer-based system that plays an integral role in the complete manufacturing process.’
However, can the dawn of digital on the factory floor really play a part in improving manufacturing productivity? Armagard explores…
It’s apparent that there has been a shift in the way manufacturers are manufacturing. You only have to look at the landscape of manufacturing floors worldwide to realize that more and more plants are abandoning manual processes [performed by us, humans] in favour of computer-automated systems.
The use of cost-intensive computer equipment on factory floors has boomed as manufacturing firms continue to pursue the formula for peak productivity. There’s a real sense across the manufacturing industry that ‘computers can improve manufacturing productivity.’
So, if computer-integrated manufacturing has become the ‘holy grail’ of improving manufacturing productivity, the final piece in the jigsaw, then maybe manufacturing firms can divert their attention to other matters, would you agree?
After all, we’re led to believe that computers can handle multiple aspects of the manufacturing process, be it administrative tasks, tooling, machining and assembly, the list could go on.
However, we disagree with the idea that manufacturing firms should stop seeking ways to improve productivity. Here’s why:
- The tiniest improvement could lead to huge benefits.
- You, as a manufacturing disciple, are an innovator. Improving productivity is in your blood, therefore you will always go with what your experience tells you and never let an opportunity to improve productivity pass you by.
Yet, it has been known for manufacturing firms in the digital age to become complacent and too reliant on their computer systems, taking digital processes for granted which could have dangerous consequences.
Why you can’t totally depend on computers to improve manufacturing productivity
Using computers to improve manufacturing productivity must be done with careful planning.
You see, over time, something happens to computers used on the manufacturing floor that cannot be foreseen. There’s a multitude of forces at work with the potential to cause a complete computer crash on the manufacturing floor.
Granted, a computer itself is replaceable. After all, they’re not designed to last and replacement should be expected at some point. However, what’s not so easily dealt with is the aftermath of a computer failure.
The knock-on effects include:
- Extended periods of downtime
- Idle staff
- Reduced production
- Increased lead times
- Customer dissatisfaction
- Reputational damage
- The final blow – loss of market share
Dust build-up in manufacturing floor computers is a key cause of downtime.
These knock on effects don’t even include the cost implications and financial losses likely to occur too. The reality is, and it’s a reality that shouldn’t be ignored, digital equipment downtime is costing manufacturing firms millions of dollars per year.
Incidents of unplanned computer downtime on the manufacturing floor have increased year-on year, according to a report published by Industry Week, with each incident costing an estimated $17,000. Consequently, downtime has an adverse effect on profit margins, which - sadly for some manufacturing firms – has left them unable to recover.
What’s worrying about the Industry Week report is that 30% of manufacturers said they had experienced unplanned downtime for one or more computer applications within the first four months of installation.
What’s causing those computer applications to fail so quickly? The ‘multitude of forces’ we made reference to earlier, that’s where they come in:
- Moisture in the air
- Extreme temperatures
Gruelling manufacturing environments represent a threat to digital manufacturing.
The very thing destroying manufacturing floor computers is the manufacturing floor. Regardless of whether computers are installed in harsh manufacturing environments or clean room facilities, there are just some elements – lethal to computers – that cannot be stopped without help.
Computer downtime on the manufacturing floor is the equivalent of catching a cold. You don’t see it coming, but you feel the symptoms and it can leave you feeling the effects for days or even weeks.
The fix to improve manufacturing productivity in the digital age
Avoid repeat downtime incidents caused by computer failure with computer enclosures.
Ongoing incidents of computer downtime on the manufacturing floor highlight a need for a solution. While digital technology is improving manufacturing processes, what’s improving the performance of digital technology?
The answer, environmental computer enclosures. Computer enclosures offer a safe-zone for manufacturing floor IT equipment, keeping them out of the way of the threats posed by all types of manufacturing environments and allowing them to do the job they’re meant to do – maintaining production continuity.
In view of computers being designed to fail, enclosures offer manufacturing floors a lifeline that not only protects IT equipment, but enables it to last longer. Computers can now meet the demands placed on them, minimizing the risk of unexpected downtime.
An enclosure offers benefits beyond those of computer protection, they’re the first line of defence for digital manufacturing. After all if a computer stops, it’s likely to cause chaos on a manufacturing floor that relies heavily on digital technology.
Enclosures offer great value to all types of manufacturing floors. In cutting incidents of downtime, they sustain production continuity, which allows you to keep on schedule with manufacturing projects, resulting in happy customers and boosting your credibility across the industry sector.
For now, downtime isn’t going away. Equally, computer use on the manufacturing floor is here to stay. To make the stay a more permanent one, computer enclosures give you the flexibility needed to sustain manufacturing in the digital era.
For further insight into improving manufacturing productivity on your manufacturing floor, help yourself to the Improving Manufacturing Productivity Handbook.