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Key Performance Indicators and How They are Used in Manufacturing

Monday, June 6, 2016
posted by IMT-Webmaster

If, like me, you work in manufacturing, you may have a lot of questions about BPM, or business process management. To learn more about performance analytics in manufacturing, keep reading.

Performance Analytics in Manufacturing

It may go without saying, but performance analytics are extremely important in manufacturing. While analytics may be important for any serious business, especially ones dealing with large quantities, they are arguably the most important in manufacturing circles, as having a large amount of data is essentially a requirement for manufacturing businesses, especially those that don’t want to go bankrupt.  Poor analytics can result in a loss of profits, or worse- so it’s fairly important for manufacturers to perform thorough business process management in order to stay on top in their business.

A key part of proper business process management (BPM) can be found in using KPIs, or key performance indicators.

KPI-webWhat are KPIs?

A KPI, or key performance indicator, is a term used in business process management to describe how well a business is accomplishing its objectives. KPIs can factor into multiple parts of the business, and there are hundreds of popular models to use for them- in general, however, it’s important for businesses to actually use the analytics available and take actions based on them.

Different KPIs work for different types of businesses, and too many businesses are working with the wrong KPI, or simply not taking action with the data that KPIs should be giving them. This is poor business process management. In order to help you avoid this, I’ll identify popular, key KPIs and what they mean.

Examples of KPIs

  • Cycle Time. Cycle time is the time from the beginning to the end of a business process. This can apply to an entire operation, or simply one cycle of one- cycle time is used to separate the duration of a process from the run time of a process.
  • Yield. Yield is the income made from an investment. In manufacturing, this is referred to as Throughput Yield, which is the number of units coming from a process divided by the number of units going into it. In short, your yield is what you’re getting from putting in your time, money or resources into something- is it worth it?
  • Throughput. Throughput deals with the productivity of a person, machine, process, etc over a certain period of time. Throughput can be measured however you like, but popular measures are usually hours or days, as opposed to larger periods of time, which can be harder to pin down.
  • Uptime and Downtime. Uptime is when your equipment is working optimally and as expected. Downtime is when this equipment does not work- whether for maintenance or due to failure. In general, downtime is something you want to avoid if possible, but it’s also an inevitable part of business- it’s important to factor in downtime when measuring the productivity of your business and its employees.
  • Cost per Unit. Cost per Unit measures the total cost per unit, and is measured by adding the fixed and variable costs, then dividing those costs by the total units produced. Measuring costs per unit is a vital KPI for most businesses.

All of these KPIs, and more, are used in manufacturing, as well as many other businesses being run all over the world. To get the best out of your business, you too should be using KPIs and other performance analytics in order to measure your business’ productivity- failure to do this can be disastrous, especially in today’s fast-paced economy.

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Why Iowa Manufacturing is So Important

Monday, May 23, 2016
posted by IMT-Webmaster

why-iowa-is-so-important-webWhen I was growing up, I basically had the impression that the state of Iowa did not have much to offer compared to other states. Of course, no kid pays attention to how well the manufacturing industry is doing while he or she is growing up. Honestly, I am quite impressed by what I have seen written about the Iowa manufacturing industry over the last few years! I found a great article on the manufacturing footprint ranked by state:

EPI.org – Click here for the article

In this article it states that, “Manufacturing plays a particularly important role in supporting jobs in a core group of states in the upper Midwest (East North Central and selected West North Central) and South (East South Central) states. The top 10 states ranked by manufacturing’s share of total state employment in 2013 are Indiana (16.8 percent, 491,900 jobs), Wisconsin (16.3 percent, 458,400 jobs), Iowa (14.0 percent, 214,500 jobs)…”

USA Today also listed Iowa’s Manufacturing share of output at 16.7%, which is a pretty good percentage for Iowa considering the other states. Also notable was that the unemployment rate for Iowa is low compared to other states.

USAtoday.com – The Article

What Does Manufacturing Mean To Various People?

People who go through their normal lives each day do not seem to think about the products they use or where they even came from. For example, some goods that they use such as metal or plastic products are certainly processed by someone or some company, but once the consumer buys it and uses it he or she probably does not think about the origin or process of how it got to the finished form laid out before him or her. Believe it or not, Iowa’s manufacturing Gross State Product has grown at an impressive inflation-adjusted rate of 9.2 percent. For those that work in the manufacturing industry, that is very good news! Check out what economic professional Debi Durham had to say:

why-iowa-manufacturing-is-important-web“Iowa’s economy is very strong, thanks in large part to the success of the advanced manufacturing industry in our state. It’s obvious that we have the right tools in place to attract and grow manufacturing companies. From our logistics advantages to our highly productive work force, Iowa has a proven track record in helping manufacturers succeed.”

In fact, 13.8% of the total employment in the state of Iowa is made up of manufacturing, according to this data from NAM.org

Aside from those that work in the manufacturing industry who need a source of income to make a living, there are certainly companies and businesses that need a manufacturing company to assist them with various needs. One recent study said this:

“It is important to note there are a variety of industries available such as: industrial metal processing, automation precision machinery, environment control systems, digital and electronic devices, and power generation equipment. Other top sectors are aerospace, defense, industrial chemicals, construction components, commercial and industrial motor vehicles, food ingredients, printing and packaging, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices and products.”

For more info on the study I mentioned above, you can visit this article.

A Place For Manufacturing

Iowa is not only a great place to call home for our families; it’s an excellent home for business.  The economic environment, the Midwest work ethic and many more factors is why KRYTON Engineered Metals has flourished and continues to grow.

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Virtual Reality in the Manufacturing Industry

Monday, May 9, 2016
posted by IMT-Webmaster

virtual-reality-webTo some people, the manufacturing industry may not be the first place they would look when it comes to technological innovation. I’m not one of those people, and chances are if you’re reading this, you aren’t, either. Ever since the announcement of products like the Oculus Rift, virtual reality has entered the mainstream. Outside of the enthusiast’s gaming circles that VR is usually touted in, virtual reality is also being spoken of in other circles, too, due to the possibilities it introduces for things like training, in addition to immersive educational/entertainment experiences.

Virtual reality has also become more prominent via things like Google Cardboard and Samsung’s Gear VR. One of the more mainstream usages include CNN airing the first Democratic Debate of 2016 Election in VR, which was described as an immersive, but strange experience. As time goes on, utilizations of VR technology like this will increase, and it’s already beginning to see usage in manufacturing circles.

A primary usage that VR sees in other circles is in training applications. The United States military has been using VR applications to assist in training their soldiers for quite some time, in addition to Pilot Training.

More prominently to this article’s topic, VR has seen usage in manufacturing, too. For instance, training courses via Superscape (a VR application) were being used as early as the late 90s to train for things like water inspection, cleanroom procedures and more. These applicatiosn also allowed evaluation of performance in a safe, consequence-free environment.

Other applications made possible with virtual reality in manufacturing circles includes virtual assembly. Virtual assembly is performed through a computer, made to help with assembly decisions via simulations and other advanced calculations. This was primarily used by the auto industry, pioneered by Ford in their creation of the Ford Mondeo, the first Ford to be made using virtual assembly.

Ford is also notable for using the Oculus Rift to create VR simulations of driving around in their vehicles, via the Immersion Lab project. As covered by Forbes (I highly recommend reading the full article), Ford created an incredibly high-specced virtual reality environment to help its manufacturing and design departments test out the look and “feel” of their vehicles in early stages of development. In addition to the internals of the car, things like weather and lighting conditions are also simulated, offering a wider picture of how customers might feel about the car.

The above examples are the most prominent that come to mind, but there are more out there. Virtual reality has had its place in manufacturing for a few decades now, and as the technology evolves and enters the mainstream, I can only see it becoming even more prominent and powerful in the future.

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New Energy Means More Opportunity for Manufacturing Sector

Monday, March 28, 2016
posted by IMT-Webmaster

Energy Boosts Manufacturing

New developments in the science and technology have and will spell out a massive influx in business for manufacturers. Thenew-energy-more-opportunity-web concept of control science is emerging as the probable next step in the process of ensuring longevity for future generations whose livelihood depends on renewable or sustainable energy utilization. As the focus on new sustainable energy globally gains momentum, so manufacturing businesses are caught up in the upheaval as demand for energy-efficient products sky-rockets. Control science is bringing the idea of controlling energy at molecular, atomic and electronic levels to the “green” movement. What does this mean for manufacturers?

Containment in Complex Materials

Technology & Manufacturing is a cyclic combination. As more technology solutions emerge to contain and sustain energy, manufacturers will reap the benefits when orders for specialized materials that can hold large amounts of energy roll-in. This cycle will fuel the technology sector as they search for better more innovative designs to create energy-efficient options with higher storage capacities. Manufacturing businesses will garner solid profit margins via increased need of production in specialized materials. Homes and businesses are becoming increasingly energy-efficient and energy conscious, as the need for energy-saving additions such as solar panels or effective smart grids is trending.

Innovative solutions are establishing new and exciting frontiers for the manufacturing industry to explore. With 3-D printing on the up and up and Nano materials and advanced robotics making names for themselves across continents, the opportunity for high profit margins, job acquisition and economy-saving production lines are endless. Outsourcing for energy is no longer an issue as wind power, solar panels and high-grade batteries can be manufactured in the United States. Imported energy has cost the country nearly 700 billion a year but using our available resources to sustain and renew our energy sources will eventually eliminate the need for outsourcing. Fossil fuels are slowly being edged out in favor of better, more cost-effective solutions.

Technology & Manufacturing in Iowa

Everything runs on electricity or so it seems. Manufacturing companies need electricity to create, fabricate and bring quality products to consumers. Using the newest technology to capitalize on the benefits renewable energy provides to manufacturers in the production sector is a smart move for any business to make. Companies that support the environment, strive for energy efficiency and create job opportunities establish their reputation as concerned and business-minded forces in the manufacturing industry. KrytonMetals.com is one company that recognizes the benefits that the effective combination of Technology & Manufacturing presents to those who take advantage of it. With state-of-the-art technology, numerous specialists in the field, and a consummate mission to stay ahead of the technology curve, the company emulates what it takes to be successful in a constantly changing industry. The need to remain current and relevant in a world that is racing to conserve and promote longevity is an environmentally-beneficial and business-profitable ideal.

Feeling Renewed

Damaging and energy-sapping “innovations” have whittled away at civilizations’ resources and the atmosphere for centuries, to think there are ways to conserve and protect natural energy resources through advances in Technology & Manufacturing is truly ground-breaking. The application of control science through natural energy containment in chemically altered materials will shake and shape preconceived notions of what energy means for its users. Every time I turn on lights, plug-in an appliances or start-up vehicles, I am expending precious energy. The ability to contain energy in such a way that I can use it, and counter-act the negative effects of pollution is an exciting concept to me. Renewable energy is saving the environment and revolutionizing the manufacturing industry through inventive containment and scientific application.

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Wearable Technology in the Manufacturing Industry

Monday, February 15, 2016
posted by IMT-Webmaster

wearable-technology-in-the-workplace-webWearable technology refers to the integration of computer and wireless technologies with jewelry, clothing, and accessories. The existence of some elementary forms of wireless technology, like the calculator wristwatch, can be traced back to the 1980s. Nonetheless, the advances in wireless tech and miniaturizing circuitry have significantly increased the current, as well as the potential applications of the wearable concept. Here, I explore the potential of the application of wearable technologies in the Manufacturing Industry.

Wearable Technologies in Manufacturing Industry

Examples of modern wearables include:

  • Google Glass
  • Pebble
  • FitBit
  • Jawbone
  • GoPro

The technology has widely been portrayed as a consumer trend with notable applications in the entertainment, and Health & Fitness Industry.

Google Glass 

This head-worn device is the most popular wearable technology. It can enhance reality by displaying contextual and location-based information, as well as taking hand-free photographs and videos. Google markets the device to a consumer audience, highlighting its capability for enhancing lives.

Personally, I think wearables will soon become an integral tool in the manufacturing environment, delivering several significant benefits. I envision the technology transforming the manufacturing process, increase productivity, enhance efficiency, and even augment employee engagement.

To understand how wearables would benefit the manufacturing companies, let us examine the following situations.

The Workforce

In a busy factory, workers will be wearing location-aware smart wristbands when they go to work. As they enter the factory premises, the wristband automatically logs them in for the day. It also gives them respective work instructions.

For the field-based workers, the wearable device will allow them to connect to other workers for advice to solve daily problems. The use of video technology will help fast-track the job and ensure it is done perfectly.

The Executives

With wearable devices, production managers and supervisors would be able to access important work-related information in real time. They will also be able to monitor other essential metrics like:

  • The total amount of goods produced
  • What is needed for rework
  • The amount of scrap

Moreover, with just a few taps on their wearable device, a supervisor would adjust worker schedules to ensure duty allocation matches the labour demand.

Machine Breakdowns

Sometimes, a machine may malfunction, interrupting the output on a primary production line. With a wearable device, the manager will instantly receive an alert on his device, and with a single tap on the screen, he can reassign employees to another line until the faulty machine is fixed. They may also immediately dispatch maintenance to fix the machine. Consequently, employees would receive notification on their wearable device to move back to their working stations. This minimizes downtime and maintains productivity.

As all of these occur, the wearables track the employee’s location, detects that they have switched to another production line, generates a job transfer, allocates a new work program, and automatically begins tracking their work. Employees would not need a computer or time clock, as the wearable technology will have taken care of everything for them. They will be able to fully concentrate on their work.

Conclusion

Wearable technology encompasses many forms, such as watches, glasses, bracelets, and smart badges. It has a tremendous potential to transform how we get work done, how we make decisions, as well as how we engage with our customers, employees, and partners.

Personally, the technology has spared me some situations where logistics, etiquette, or even safety prevented me from using smart-phones and laptops. While consumer wearables are rapidly growing in popularity, I expect the manufacturing industry to fully embrace the technology and use it in transformative applications.

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