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Communication Is Holding Back the True Value of Automation

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Enterprise adoption of automation is on a steep upward climb across industries. According to Gartner’s 2019 CIO survey, organizational use of these technologies has increased by more than 270 percent over the past four years, with no sign of scaling down. Digital transformation has the potential to thrust enormous value across industries — and the manufacturing sector is no different. But as a recent study by Nintex revealed, manufacturing organizations face many industry-specific issues that are slowing the momentum of digital progress. By strategically addressing these problems, manufacturers can come to realize the benefits automation offers. The Hurdles to Realizing Transformation Value According to Nintex’s 2018 Enterprise Digitization Progress Report, there are two roadblocks actively keeping manufacturers from realizing the value of digital transformation: unprepared IT departments and a lack of top-down communication. The starting point to a effective enterprise digital transformation strategy is having the internal capabilities to carry it out — primarily, a prepared and proactive IT department. At the moment, that doesn't exist in the manufacturing sector. Nintex’s digitization report — which surveyed 650 line-of-business employees and 450 enterprise decisionmakers — found that among manufacturing employees, only 29 percent felt their IT department was exceedingly prepared to manage the needs of digital transformation. By comparison, almost half of employees in the financial sector were very confident in their IT teams’ digital preparedness. What accounts for manufacturing workers’ low level of confidence in their IT departments? Part of it is likely to be due to a sense of disconnect from transformation efforts and from the IT department in general. As Nintex’s study found, the remarkably majority of employees — 77 percent — want to be involved in transformation efforts. When they do not feel like they are, they begin to view digital transformation and automation not quite as resources that will augment their work, rather as active threats to their jobs. Insufficient training of frontline workers is a separate (though related) issue that is impeding manufacturers from seeing a return on their digital investment. Of the enterprise decision makers surveyed by Nintex, approximately one-third indicated to lack of training of line-of-business workers on new technologies as one of the top difficulties standing in the way of digital progress. And indeed, the survey discovered that fewer than half of frontline employees are even familiar with the concept of digital transformation — a number that highlights an awareness gap between the c-suite and the frontline. Bridging this gap is important to digital progress. The Value of Digital Transformation for Manufacturing For manufacturing leaders, the very first step to realizing the benefits of digital transformation is to address the internal issues keeping it back. What that means is making a more concerted effort not only to improve frontline awareness about digital transformation planning, but also to proactively include these workers in the process. And on the IT side, departmental leadership need to consider an approach to IT that prioritizes cross-departmental engagement over the traditionally siloed role into which many IT workers are many times boxed. Once manufacturing leaders have strategically addressed issues surrounding poor top-down communication and inadequate training, they can start to experience the far-reaching benefits of a considered transformation strategy: •           Increased productivity: By strategically applying automation technology, manufacturers can more properly regulate production and better delegate tasks according to priority order.  Consider HillPhoenix. A manufacturer of large refrigeration units, the company needed a solution to streamline its daily evaluation efforts. Before digitalizing, the inspection process was totally paper-based — employees used handwritten notes to record quality findings. This manual procedure increased the risk of errors, wasted inspection time with paper forms, minimal tracking records and developed more cumbersome processes. After deploying workflow automation solutions, nevertheless, the company transitioned its inspection process from a system based primarily on memory and handwritten notes to one supported by a digital platform. The implementation of this platform not only decreased production-line errors, but significantly improved productivity. •           New levels of innovation:By driving greater productivity and alleviating the burden of lower-level tasks on the human workforce, automated answers lay the foundation for more innovation.  Companies like New Belgium beer show how automation can drive greater innovation. The company usually relied on Outlook and SharePoint to track and handle tasks related to product launches. However, this system created communication gaps and scheduling delays, which set it behind as new competitors were being introduced daily. The company needed a better way to manage task management, increase communication among team members, and shorten launch timelines. By implementing no-code workflows to schedule and coordinate tasks, the company had the ability to notably speed up lower-level processes and therefore channel more time and resource into innovation. By better prioritizing top-down and cross-departmental communication at the outset of a digital transformation plan, manufacturing leaders can lay the groundwork for successful long-term strategy. And after they do that, they can make new jumps in productivity and innovation. This article is originally posted on manufacturing.net more

Technology Is the Key to Bringing Millennials Into Manufacturing

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Technology has the power to change the way we think. It has the power to improve the way we create, and the way we communicate with our world. It has completely altered our products, our work environments, and our modalities of communication. And it has fashioned entire generations, defined cultures, and reimagined industries. Today, technology is the power behind change in the manufacturing industry. We see it in every-where we look. Paper has been replaced by touch screens. Meetings are conducted via Skype in the place of face to face. Factories are more measured, more data driven, more agile, and more nimble than ever before. Artificial intelligence and robots are now included in our daily lives. There is no doubt that these improvements have brought disruption, and cost to manufacturing. But the rising of technology in our industry has been a must in keeping us competitive and essential for maintaining the industry in the future. Manufacturing is more effective, profitable, and adaptable today compared to it was twenty years ago. There’s a greater comprehension of what takes place on the plant floor, with more real-time data to assist decision making. With new software and technology, we are seeing our industry achieve new levels of performance that we couldn't have imagined even a decade ago. Today, many factories are improving their performance by operating like video games. Gamification is taking the industry by storm, with systems designed to align with the natural motivations that people have to make a difference, and be recognized in how they drive plant floor performance. Increasing transparency and tracking achievements by individual user or teams has resulted in huge increases in efficiency for some companies. When contributions are seen by associates and executives, this motivates those people to carry on to problem solve and innovate. When correctly designed, gamification is making employees more engaged, productive, and happier. But most significantly, gamification and technology are opening the door to connect with a younger generation, who quite frankly, never have shown much interest in the manufacturing industry to date. When we look at the data on available jobs in the manufacturing industry, it's sobering to say the least. According to The Manufacturing Institute, 3.5 million manufacturing job opportunities will need to be filled for the following ten years. Two million of those jobs will go unfilled. Not thousands but two million. This is a wake-up call for our industry. At my company, we read the statistic from The Manufacturing Institute and wanted to figure out why more Americans are not pursuing careers in manufacturing. We were also keen to see if there were any differences in views by generation. We commissioned Engine, a research provider, to poll 1,002 Americans demographically representative of the United States at a 95 percent confidence level. Answers were then grouped by generation, Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964), Generation X (born between 1965-1980), and Millennials (born between 1981-1998). We were shocked by how notably the responses diversified by generation. When asked whether respondents agreed or disagreed that manufacturing jobs are important to the U.S. economy, 86 percent of both Baby Boomers and Generation X consented. In comparison, only 68 percent of Millennials agreed that manufacturing is important to our economy. We then asked respondents about the supply of competent workers in the U.S., and again observed differences by generation. Sixty percent of Baby Boomers and 63 percent of Generation X agreed that there is a shortage of skilled workers in the U.S. In contrast, only 51 percent of Millennials agreed that there is a shortage. And lastly, we asked respondents if they agreed that the manufacturing industry provides fulfilling careers. Fifty nine percent of both Baby Boomers and Generation X agreed. To our surprise, only 49 percent Millennials agreed. That’s less than half of the younger generation who believe our industry offers desirable or satisfying opportunities. This is a test for our industry, because our future workforce is dependent on what we do today to reach the younger generation. The truth is, our industry has not done a great job at connecting with younger audiences about what makes manufacturing engaging or enjoyable. Other industries have, such as the tech sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information jobs are expected to increase by 12 percent during the period of 2014-2024. This is the fastest growth rate of all other occupations for that time period. It may shock Millennials that besides manufacturing offer opportunities to work with cutting-edge technology, but it also provides competitive pay to the tech sector. According to Glassdoor, the ordinary base pay of a Manufacturing Supervisor is $64,118, and for a Manufacturing Engineer, the average is $71,679. For a Director of Manufacturing, the average base pay is $146,412. For a generation known for its record-setting student debt, this is a powerful information to convey. As an industry, we need to be more vocal in sharing the exciting technology opportunities in manufacturing. Ongoing developments in artificial intelligence, robotics, automation, integration, gamification, and real-time data are what interest Millennials and what will link our industry to younger generations. We must exchange the facts and data at the seminars we attend, on our websites, in our presentations at schools and universities, and in all of our recruitment efforts. Two million unfilled jobs is no small matter. This is the time to shout from the rooftops. Technology is leading the manufacturing industry to newer frontiers. If we do it properly, we can bring the younger generation together with us in being a part of expanding manufacturing in the U.S. And if our technology can join forces with Millennial interests and skillsets, our industry will likely prosper. This article is originally posted on manufacturing.net more

ASI Technologies Focuses on the future as ASI Drives, and New AGV Pallet Robot, FRED2500

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ASI Drives, a premier producer of custom engineered gear drives since 1985, has announced a major rebranding, the improvement of towing functionality with its breakout FRED2500 AGV, and an upcoming opportunity to meet FRED in person. After almost 35 years, ASI Technologies recently rebranded itself as ASI Drives. The change captures the company's emphasis on supplying world-class gear drive solutions to its target markets and providing excellent product value for customers. ASI will not simply design and manufacture battery-powered gear drives for machines up to one ton; ASI Drives solutions, value, and gear technology. "ASI has developed an industry-leading ability to resolve problems and offer value to our customers," said Doug Fastuca, CEO. "We continue to innovate our gear and motor technologies with AGMA Standards, and with the introduction of our FRED AGV, we're driving new areas of performance and automation." The change further sets up ASI within the AGV and warehouse automation markets, as does the introduction of FRED, ASI's innovative, self-driving, material-handling vehicle. FRED is not your typical AGV. It's simple to set up, productive, flexible, safe, and budget friendly. And with the addition of new towing capabilities, there are a numerous methods and opportunities to move material around your facility. Using empty dollies, a detachable handle, and a quick-release tongue, FRED can easily move between multiple pickup locations with ease.  This article is originally posted on roboticstomorrow.com more

Tips for Keeping Warehouses and Distribution Centers Safe, Compliant, and Productive

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Whilst it was once usual for the bulk of store managers to purchase standard storage racks that could be “quick-shipped” from rack manufacturers’ stocked supply, this is happening less often as racking becomes more professional and regulations more strict. In modern times, storage tray methods are commonly considered a building-like ingredient, so are frequently subject to a wide array of federal, state, and local laws. These ordinances are enduring to develop — possibly none more so than seismic criteria — and can become a pitfall for store managers unfamiliar with them.   As a outcome, facility owners should request professional recommendations from a expert prepare professional whenever the wrenching, foundation, or warehouse infrastructure must allow for special concerns, loading, feature, or other non-standard factors. “Ordering quick-ship palette cabinets is useful, but should be constrained to use with non-flammable, non-dangerous items stored inside properties in low-risk seismic regions,” says Arlin Keck, an engineer at Steel King Industries, a custom and producer of warehouse storage shelves, board racks and product maneuvering/safety products. The company is a registered fabricator in Los Angeles County, which has some of the strictest seismic codes in the country. Often, with quick-ship racks, there is a best pallet bunch restriction that the racking can treat and a optimum bay load restrict that the racking and the existing warehouse floor can handle.  There is also usually a six-to-one height-to-depth ratio placed on the racking,” adds Keck. “Any holder external of all issues for the most part requires a expert form expert review.” Likewise as soon as the fast-transport rack is correct for a facility, there may be a need for expert input if there are special concerns —for example, if rack installment comes about on a sloping ground. Regardless of greater factory complexity and advancing regulation, considering a couple of key variations about wrenching will improve warehouse executives to keep their facilities cost efficiently safe, compliant, and productive.  Some of the leading variations to discover are seismic standards and environmental issues for rack-supported buildings.  Engineered systems such as pick modules, elevated platforms, and automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) also have their own engineering problems like move distance, means-of-egress and means-of-access needs, as well as safety protection and preserving.Seismic and Environmental Issues Now that storage racks are regarded as building-like structures in accordance to the International Building Code, and are represented as that in the Rack Manufacturer’s Institute (RMI) Standard, racks need to be planned to the local seismic requirements just like a building. Since the RMI is the acknowledged U.S. specification for the design, testing and utilization of manufacturing steel storage racks, responsible for warehouse managers will want their racks to meet this recognized standard for seismic design. RMI developed the R-Mark Certification Program as a way for storage rack users to clearly identify those rack manufacturers whose components and design are in accordance with the RMI Specifications. There are a select number of rack manufacturers that hold an active R-Mark License. While all U.S. states have some possibilities for earthquakes, 42 of the 50 states have a reasonable chance of experiencing damaging ground shaking from an earthquake in 50 years, which is generally assumed the lifetime of a premises. An additional reason for facility managers to seek a design professional's input is the concept that seismic zone designations are transforming. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) uses ground acceleration values, referred to as Seismic Design Categories (SDC) from A to F. Along with seismic needs growing in numerous regions of the country and with a better understanding of structural performance during an earthquake event, these standards will continue to evolve, positioning more requirements on the rack design. “Seismic separation is different requirement for racks placed inside of an existing warehouse,” says Keck. “This suggests the shelf demands to be a select space away from the building columns so they will not collide during an earthquake.  In high seismic regions, special examination is generally needed.  An private examiner will observe the installation and verify proper bolt tightening, particularly the anchor bolt, along with checking for rack damage and missing or weak welds.” Outdoor racking as well as rack-supported structures must also be prepared to account for wind, rain, and snow loads.  In hurricane-prone regions, for example, exterior rack and rack-supported buildings must be manufactured to withstand the force of high-speed winds in addition to standard product and dead loads. When heavy snowfall is common, the exterior tray and rack-supported structures must contain the compiled weight of both snow and snow drifts, which take place when wind pushes snow up against bigger structures or towers. In all such unusual environmental conditions, of course, it is a must to consult with a specialized about incorporating essential security factors into the rack design. By definition, an engineered system is any non-standard storage tray that need special design issues. This can include a variety of rack types and safety device that is semi-customized or in fact custom-designed specifically to the store application. Safety In terms of safety, racking of course must be designed for any unusual stresses, loads, or functions placed upon it. It must also match relevant fire codes and insurance requirements.  As an instance, racking loaded with flammable appliances would require specific rooms to assure appropriate fire detection, containment, and suppression. Some of the most really engineered systems actually involve pick modules, increased platforms, and work platforms. In such engineered systems, a number of key elements must also be addressed to ensure safety, compliance, and permitting, according to Keck. In order to provide safe access and fall protection, the placement of appropriate stairs, ladders and guarding should also be implemented throughout the engineered system. Because dropping off pallets or equipment at elevated levels may be needed as well in such engineered systems, providing for safe drop zones, through an opening in the side railing to enable easy receipt, should be properly planned too. Serviceability Ensuring that the engineered system features as designed and that the workers working on an engineered rack structure feel comfortable is another consideration. Generally, this is referred to as serviceability.  The term refers to how certain constructive elements like elevated walkways must provide the desired support and tightness for walking or cart use without unwanted flex (bounce) or sway. While such engineered systems demand significant input from a design professional, AS/RS structures—which can be over 100 feet tall and keep loads greater than 100,000 lbs. per storage bay—require even more planning and integration. In today’s warehouse environment, AS/RS systems are increasingly popular in big box store circulation centers and large freezer companies for their ability to provide very high volume, high turnaround storage with minimal labor. “Since the equipments stop at precise regions, each opening has to be at the exact location,” adds Keck. “So, the racking must be very inflexible and the rack must be straight and plumb.” While there is no denying that selecting quick-ship racking is convenient for many standard applications, the truth is that many bigger, more complex store applications today need expert input from a design professional. This is almost always the case when it is necessary to align with integrators as well as numerous safety and trade professionals under deadline.  Troubles often occur when someone chooses that it is quicker and inexpensive to buy quick-ship racking when the application really requires an engineered system.  So, when optimal storage, material flow, safety and compliance is required in a warehouse, proactive managers will get the help they need beforehand to avoid costly surprises, slow downs, or retrofits.This article is originally posted on manufacturing.net more

How Automation Is Transforming the Supply Chain Process

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They say life is a journey, not a destination. That’s also correct when it comes to obtaining a truly digitized supply chain. While many businesses look at a fully digital supply chain as a pipe dream, they can start off their journey through a small and non-intimidating step: utilizing workflow automation. Initiating small with workflow automation allows organizations to streamline simple manual process like contract signatures and work right up up to more complex tasks, such as supplier performance management. Those who take the first step see the organizational payoff rapidly. For instance, IBM and Maersk have robotic inefficient processes to the point of using blockchain technology to reduce documentation problems. Shippers used to spending time on countless hours shipping documentation back and forth across the supply chain, creating a complicated paper trail ridden with errors and miscommunication. In switching to automation and the blockchain, their supply chain friction is significantly eased. It is not just giant enterprises like IBM and Maersk. The potential for supply chain automation continues to increase to meet increased demands for transparency, speed and compliance from across the business world. With automation, providers have the ability to support zero-defect logistics processes and enable new levels of productivity. Challenges Within the Supply Chain Process Supply chain management neckties together lots of siloed processes and departments. However, managing the supply chain is fraught with challenges in joining together so many adjoined entities and processes. Businesses get overwhelmed by massive quantities of information coming from suppliers and customers in varying spots, from pricing to labor agreements to tax documents and more. There are simply not sufficient hours or people to complete carry out the processes quickly and error-free. With so much time focused to marrying countless processes together into one supply chain, customer interactions do not get nearly as much attention and time as they should. Consumers expect to obtain their packages when they want them. They also have the option to buy through several channels at any time on any device. Companies also have to expand or maintain fast shipping lead times to customers who want to receive their products on schedule in spite of the increased complexity in the manufacturer’s supply chains. So where is the happy medium? How can a company meet all deadlines while also give customers service matter the attention they demand? They do so through starting their process automation journey. Supply Chain Automation Empowers Shippers to Meet Increasing Demands Automated technology can work constantly to fulfill orders, assisting shippers meet heavy customer demands and reducing operational costs in the long run. For instance, a warehouse worker loading a truck for delivery can scan a package barcode. This triggers a workflow starting with a notification in that shipper’s order management system. That then spurs an email to the customer alerting them their package has shipped. In a similar vein, UPS has implemented warehouse automation technologies to identify the quickest route for delivery vans as it works to reduce the cost of home deliveries and carry on with with record demand. But your supply chain doesn’t have to function at UPS’s advanced level to reap the benefits of automated processes. Mitchells & Butlers, for example, operates managed pubs and restaurants in the U.K. Previously, it used paper-based forms for just about all of its processes — pre-opening and closure checks, health and safety checks, cleaning up schedules, the general manager responsibilities, and more. In general, their manual processes yielded 3 million pieces of paper per year — that’s a lot of room for error and wasted time. In turning to a process automation, the business was able to save over 20,000 hours of staff member labor per year and permit much earlier awareness of errors in the process. Finding an Optimal Automated Workflow Tool Small to mid-sized delivery operations can’t expect to keep pace with industry giants like Amazon. But by leveraging supply chain automation solutions, they can take a critical step toward decreasing operating spending and strengthening bottom-line efficiency. Nevertheless, that ultimate success depends on finding an effective supply chain automation solution. Here are some of the factors shippers should prioritize when looking for an optimal solution: ● Incremental deployment: developing automated workflow tools can be a big shift for shippers, and it’s important for people and processes to keep pace. Because of this, shippers should look to solutions that can be rolled out incrementally and on an as-needed basis. ● Integration with active solutions: Adopting a cloud-based workflow automation tool shouldn’t come at the expense of jettisoning existing processes that don’t need fixing. In order to facilitate the most seamless adoption possible, shippers should identify solution providers that easily integrate within the company’s existing infrastructure, rather than requiring total overhaul. ● Navigable interface: Lastly, shippers need to ensure that whatever supply chain automation solution they settle on, it highlights a user-friendly and highly navigable interface. Shippers out in the field can’t frequently rely on IT teams alone to manage the solution long-term. That means settling on a solution that’s built with line-of-business workers and intuitive functionality in mind. Workflow automation has the drive to stitch together disparate sub-processes into one cohesive end-to-end journey. It can also automate the numerous interactions that happen in among the separate enterprise systems. In the end, the errors happen in manual spaces at process hand-off points in between steps. Finally, workflow automation offers unambiguous, hi-fidelity documentation of the full end-to-end process and encoded corporate policies. Anybody with authority can peek in to see precisely the process progresses and, if needed, effortlessly make changes that are reliably enforced and executed.  Moving to a digital platform for supply chain processes should render an agile solution to change processes, approaches and strategy as you navigate the transformation journey. The substitution of manual processes with a fully digital workflow starts small by addressing the most critical areas each time. From there, workflow automation makes for the streamlining of processes covering the whole supply chain, freeing logistics pros to depend upon a smooth shipping journey while they focus on the human elements of their jobs.This article is originally posted on manufacturing.net more
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Tuesday, 9th April 2019

Communication Is Holding Back the True Value of Automation

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Wednesday, 3rd April 2019

ASI Technologies Focuses on the future as ASI Drives, and New AGV Pallet Robot, FRED2500

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Friday, 29th March 2019

How Automation Is Transforming the Supply Chain Process

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Friday, 29th March 2019

Tips for Keeping Warehouses and Distribution Centers Safe, Compliant, and Productive

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Friday, 5th April 2019

Technology Is the Key to Bringing Millennials Into Manufacturing

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