Operational Excellence: Working Remotely–Redesign Your Information Systems

Thousands of professionals have been working remotely since the 1990s when computers and internet access was introduced in the workplace. In the early 2000s, remote work was primarily practiced by information systems, software development, and customer-facing roles where getting on the phone or on the computer was the core requirement of those activities. In the past 10 years, remote work has increased considerably. According to one source [1], “At the end of 2016, more than 26 million Americans—about 16% of the total workforce—worked remotely at least part of the time, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Between 2005 and 2015, the number of U.S. employees who telecommuted increased by 115%.”  

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every organization and forced companies to rethink who needs to be on-site to effectively do their jobs. Working remotely has suddenly changed to the preferred work option for many professionals. Service organizations that rely on electronic data delivery have the infrastructure to quickly adapt to remote work environments. However, manufacturing organizations are in a hard spot. The majority of employees need to be on-site to support manufacturing operations where assemblers, technicians, and inspectors work on processing or assembling parts to deliver products that meet customer requirements.  

Manufacturing organizations have been forced to quickly adapt to provide remote work options for manufacturing support employees. Here is a model to help your organization keep remote work employees fully engaged in supporting manufacturing operations.  

Robust IT Infrastructure 
Make sure the right infrastructure and immediate online technical support are available for all remote employees. The communication platforms should be designed to withstand a large amount of data transfer within the organization. Have the necessary cloud data storage platforms in place to make data sharing seamless.  

Standardize Collaboration Tools 
Establish a common collaboration platform for online conferences. Common applications that work well and used by many organizations include Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Cisco Webex, and Google Hangouts. There are many other options, as well. The objective is for the organization’s management team to have a consistent common application that meets the manufacturing support needs.  

Redesign Your Information Systems With AI  
The implementation of AI will rapidly accelerate to support operations. The objective is to attain real-time data from manufacturing operations via process monitors and dashboards. All these outputs need to be accessible remotely by manufacturing support personnel. A common platform that manufacturing organizations can use to achieve this is by the implementation of a manufacturing execution system (MES). MES software options have been available for a number of years, and with the new work environment, the implementation of these software solutions will be a necessity for organizations to provide an effective platform for remote work.  

Before you select software, prepare a configuration of your design plan for your MES needs. The design plan needs to consider three data collection requirements from your manufacturing process(es) that manufacturing personnel should review when working remotely: enterprise requirements planning (ERP), verification of product attributes, and process controls. 

ERP System 
Most organizations have already established ERP systems where all business requirements are entered from sales orders, planning files, BOMs, inventory transactions, work orders, and material tracking steps throughout the production life cycle. These systems can already be accessed remotely. As the majority of the organization’s ERP users will be working remotely, it will be necessary to upgrade the ERP system to be cloud-based supported.  

In addition, consider the interaction of the MES software with the ERP system. Often, there will be an overlap of data collection entries. The MES system design plan should complement the established ERP system to minimize duplicate or non-value add data collection activities.  

Verification of Product Attributes 
Verification of product attributes is done via inspection and test methods. These verification activities are done in the production process by inspectors, technicians, or operators where measurements are taken and collected in paper logs or databases. These activities may already be automated in some work environments. MES applications can collect these measurements across all necessary processes for your product manufactured and have these measurements be available for immediate data analysis via cloud-based applications.  

Quality engineers and other customer-facing employees can analyze and determine conformance to product requirements as the product is manufactured. Furthermore, data collection can also include pictures and videos that allow for visual verification of product characteristics. Access to this information allows for remote personnel to analyze and take appropriate actions.  

Process Controls 
AI can be accelerated with process controls. Sensor technology and data bandwidth advancements allow organizations to collect millions of process datapoints if necessary. It’s important not to overwhelm the system with data collection that cannot be useful. The objective is to prepare a process control plan for all key process attributes to help engineers, technicians, and other personnel evaluate process performance to identify trends or out-of-control issues that can be addressed immediately as they occur. Cloud-based process dashboards should provide this monitoring for your critical parameters so that your engineers can not only evaluate your process but also collaborate with customers and suppliers to review process data in real-time.  

Establish a Cadence 
Remote work requires discipline and consistency. Establish a cadence of regular meetings and protocols on how to effectively review metrics and action items. Remote employees have the flexibility to work in their preferred environments but can be distracted and less productive if a well-defined cadence of meetings and deliverables is not established.  

Supporting manufacturing operations also requires immediate corrective and preventive actions depending on events occurring in the production environment. Remote personnel must be available at a minute’s notice to address issues remotely during their assigned work schedules.  

Conclusion 
As we face a new reality in the workplace, manufacturing organizations can continue to operate effectively with the right platforms in place. Various software options are available today, giving manufacturing organizations the ability to select the right MES for their needs. An effective MES will make remote work a seamless transition. 

Reference 
1. Z. Greenbaum, “The Future of Remote Work,” American Psychological Association, October 1, 2019. 

This column originally appeared in the July 2020 issue of SMT007 Magazine.

 

Back

2020

Operational Excellence: Working Remotely–Redesign Your Information Systems

08-04-2020

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, manufacturing organizations have been forced to quickly adapt to provide remote work options for manufacturing support employees. Alfred Macha shares a model to help your organization keep remote work employees fully engaged in supporting manufacturing operations.

View Story

Operational Excellence: Update Your Business Contingency Plan

05-26-2020

With the unprecedented events with COVID-19, companies are facing worst-case scenarios and looking at ways to manage work stoppage or limited production for essential manufacturing needs. Alfred Macha provides a practical guideline to create or update your business contingency plan to help you manage your business during a crisis situation.

View Story

Operational Excellence: The Gemba Transformation of Manufacturing With AI

04-24-2020

Operational excellence managers have been leading organizations’ transformation with Lean Six Sigma methods for the past two decades. Alfred Macha looks at how AI can redefine gemba to accelerate changes in your operations, including covering the fundamentals of Lean and how traditional gemba works and introducing ideas on how AI can enhance improvements.

View Story

Operational Excellence: Hiring and Retaining Top Employees

02-12-2020

The economy is booming, and this presents challenges for manufacturing organizations. Your top-performing employees are prime targets for competitors that are not only willing to offer a higher wage but can also offer a more attractive work environment and career growth path. Alfred Macha shares a strategic approach to hire top talent and retain your best employees.

View Story

Operational Excellence: Sharpening Your Organization’s Competencies

02-03-2020

Successful organizations invest in developing their employees into high performers and continuously recruit top talent to join the organization. These actions require effort and commitment from the organization’s leadership, given that employee development and strategic recruitment is a journey of growth and long-term sustainability where a positive return on investment may take years to realize.

View Story

Operational Excellence: Take Your CAPA to the Next Level With 8D

01-29-2020

Quality professionals understand that the strength of an organization’s quality system can be determined by reviewing the corrective and preventive action (CAPA) system that has been established. ISO auditors and regulatory inspectors will assess an organization’s CAPA to evaluate the effectiveness of the quality system. Customers often use the mechanism of a corrective action request (CAR), which is part of the CAPA system, as the mechanism to request for a supplier to address a recurring quality issue. Alfred Macha explains.

View Story

Operational Excellence: Hiring and Retaining Top Employees

01-02-2020

The economy is booming, and this presents challenges for manufacturing organizations. Your top-performing employees are prime targets for competitors that are not only willing to offer a higher wage but can also offer a more attractive work environment and career growth path.

View Story
Back

2019

Operational Excellence: Are CMs Ready to Embrace Project Management?

11-29-2019

Project management does not have to be complex, nor costly; on the contrary, project management can help create a culture of operational efficiency, enhanced customer engagement, and employee self-accountability and enable data-driven decision-making. Alfred Macha introduces a recommended approach to project management in a contract manufacturing environment.

View Story

Operational Excellence: Transform Your Operations With Nadcap

09-11-2019

Obtaining Nadcap certification can be an overwhelming endeavor for suppliers that don’t have proper guidance. In this column, Alfred Macha provides guidelines that companies have used in the past to successfully achieve Nadcap accreditation.

View Story

Operational Excellence: Becoming the Preferred Supplier, Phase 3—Re-engineer Your Quality System

08-26-2019

The final phase of becoming a preferred supplier is to apply a business process re-engineer approach to your quality system. Before you start with this phase, the company should have implemented Phase 1 and Phase 2, which are focused on changing its leadership mentality to embrace LEAN Six Sigma and the pillars of operational excellence. It’s paramount to have the right mindset before you re-engineer your quality system.

View Story

Operational Excellence: Becoming the Preferred Supplier, Phase 3—Re-engineer Your Quality System

08-05-2019

The final phase of becoming a preferred supplier is to apply a business process re-engineer approach to your quality system. Before you start with this phase, the company should have implemented Phase 1 and Phase 2, which are focused on changing its leadership mentality to embrace LEAN Six Sigma and the pillars of operational excellence. It's paramount to have the right mindset before you re-engineer your quality system.

View Story

Operational Excellence: Becoming the Preferred Supplier, Phase 2—The Six Pillars

07-26-2019

Your Lean Six Sigma program needs to be rightly sized to your organization’s structure for it to be sustainable. The second phase involves establishing the six pillars of operational effectiveness. Attaining quality systems certification to a base standard of ISO 9001 or industry specific QMS standard for medical devices, automotive, telecommunications, or aerospace will provide you a solid foundation to your operations.

View Story

Operational Excellence: Becoming the Preferred Supplier, Phase 1—Transform Your Company's Culture With Lean Sigma

06-25-2019

In the first part of this column series about becoming a preferred supplier to your customers, Alfred Macha provides the fundamental concepts to transform your company's culture with Lean Sigma. The approach introduced in this column can be adopted by any manufacturing organization. Read on.

View Story

Process Validation Can Lead to Higher Performance Levels

05-21-2019

In this first column from Alfred Macha, which appears in the May issue of SMT007 Magazine, the author provides a practical guideline on how to effectively implement a sustainable process validation program for contract manufacturers.

View Story
Copyright © 2020 I-Connect007. All rights reserved.