Find the Hidden Factory Lurking in your Manufacturing Operations

Caucasian business man and Factory engineer talking about hidden factory potential at Heavy Industry Manufacturing Factory. worker in safety hardhat at factory industrial facilities

Find the Hidden Factory Lurking in your Manufacturing Operations

In today’s industrial world, there are many challenges that are creating pressure to accomplish more with existing resources. From continued onshoring to labor shortages and supply chain challenges, U.S. manufacturers look to increase capacity, improve efficiency, and enhance reliability and safety. It may seem daunting, but it’s within reach. That’s because there is a Hidden Factory lurking in your facility that will help you take steps toward greater productivity.

What is the Hidden Factory?

The Hidden Factory consists of all of the untapped potential in your current operation. While some of this potential may be hiding in plain sight, much of it may not be so apparent. Regardless, identifying operational challenges in the machines, on the devices, and across your industrial plant floor allows you to raise the ceiling on your production capacity – and that’s how you unlock your Hidden Factory. Here are the common opportunities that lie in your Hidden Factory:

  1. Increased machine and equipment uptime. A key component of unlocking the Hidden Factory lies in maximizing uptime on your production lines. Whether it’s due to a planned maintenance shutdown (which in many cases are arbitrary points on a calendar) or an unexpected equipment failure, downtime costs money and eats into your production capacity.
  2. Insights from data and technology upgrades. There is great power in the data being generated by various devices and sensors in your factory. That’s why it’s important to ensure that your network, and the devices on it, have the ability to capture data close to the edge, and then communicate and translate it in a way that is usable. Latency, which is lag time in your network, lack of access, and disparate languages can hinder your ability to make real-time decisions and cause interruptions in production.
  3. Consistent, reliable quality. The insights and data that emerge as you unlock your hidden factory deliver peace of mind to you and your customers as you deliver products that they can count on. When machines are improperly calibrated, or a measurement sensor malfunctions, products may become damaged or not manufactured to spec. That product either makes its way to the trash or even worse, leads to a product recall. The time spent addressing the problems is lost production time and lost revenue.
  4. Reliable inventory. Smooth production happens when the right materials are available, and in stock, to manufacture your product. How can you ensure this steady flow of inventory? Through the data analysis and communication that’s possible inside your Hidden Factory.

These are just a few examples of where capacity may be hiding – capacity you need to excel in your industry.

Unlocking your Hidden Factory Through Digital Transformation

The professionals at Tri Tech know that unlocking your Hidden Factory is possible through digital transformation. In fact, it’s the goal of all our digital transformation activities.

When it comes to this concept, you likely find yourself with one or more of these thoughts:

  1. I’ve been reading about digital transformation for quite some time, but I’m not sure where to start.
  2. Digital transformation seems like an arduous endeavor that takes a long time to implement, and I need results now.
  3. My factory is way too old to take on digital transformation.
  4. We’ve already implemented some digital transformation initiatives. Are we finished? If not, what is the next step?

The good news is: the Tri Tech team meets you on your journey, wherever you are. In fact, we use the term “journey” because digital transformation is a process, one that is unique to every situation, and that may follow a different path depending on your needs and goals. And because we leverage an agile methodology, we break the initiative into small phases called sprints to accomplish swift incremental successes and reprioritize based on continuous learning and the introduction of new technologies.

The first step is typically what we call a Digital Transformation Maturity Assessment, which reviews all pertinent areas of your operations, business systems, infrastructure, stakeholder alignment, and status of your overall digital transformation strategy. After all, it’s important to know where you are so that we may develop the roadmap for where we are going.

Your digital transformation will break down silos, making data accessible and actionable, empowering you to implement the diverse automation initiatives synonymous with Industry 4.0. These involve things like predictive maintenance, inventory control, quality control, and safety measures.

As we begin execution and begin achieving those early wins, you’ll start seeing incremental productivity improvements. Many are small improvements that add up over time, and others are larger, long-term initiatives that we identify as we begin to dig in.

How Much Capacity is in Your Hidden Factory?

In our experience, manufacturers typically create their budgets at far less than their actual capacity, and that number is impacted by what’s called Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). OEE can vary from corporation to corporation, and from industry to industry but leaves a lot on the table when it comes to your ability to produce product. That’s because to accomplish 100% OEE means that you’re producing 100% usable product running to your fullest capacity – no downtime, no product spoilages, and no machine outages. This isn’t a mark that’s attainable, so budgets are based on the percentage of uptime that a company anticipates it will experience. For many manufacturers, that number is 60%, a figure that leaves a lot of room for uptime improvement through digital transformation.

In terms of cost, it’s been estimated that downtime can cost a facility several million dollars per facility per year, or in some industries, hundreds of millions per year.

While we’re not suggesting you can chip away at all of this and reach 100% productivity, tapping into your Hidden Factory can make a dent and significantly add to your bottom line even by improving just a small percentage. It becomes simple math. Adding just 1% or 2% production can easily justify a digital transformation initiative, but if you can reveal huge numbers like 5-10%, then you company becomes even more resilient and stable for the future.

But doing so is good for business in many other ways. Automation, ushered in by digital transformation initiatives, leads to greater employee satisfaction as their workplace safety is enhanced and their time can be spent on more meaningful tasks. Customer satisfaction also increases because your products deliver the quality and dependability they expect. Operating an efficient plant is more environmentally friendly. And finally, you’re delivering value to shareholders.

Your Hidden Factory can be the gateway to a future of sustainable success. The team at Tri Tech can help you do the math to determine just how much you can benefit from unlocking it. Reach out to us today with any questions you may have, or to get started on the process.

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