A business that has achieved World Class Manufacturing (WCM) status, as defined by Steven C. Wheelwright and Robert H. Hayes of Harvard Business School, has invested in process improvements, developed novel equipment, paid attention to integration across the entire manufacturing infrastructure and linked product design and the manufacturing process.
As a result, manufacturers who are prepared and primed to position themselves at the top of their game and claim WCM status all share some common attributes: they have invested in integrated systems and shared data procedures.
This article examines what World Class Manufacturing is, how it is a staged approach and how migration toward automation is key.
This article examines the following:
- A definition of World Class Manufacturing.
- Attaining World Class Manufacturing status.
- The relevance to wire and cable manufacturing.
- How dedicated software can help manufacturers achieve World Class Manufacturing status.
The 1980s saw the western world’s academics and manufacturers cast their eyes eastward to the miracle of Japanese manufacturing. Specifically, its low cost, high quality, and low stock. As a result, Japanese products were successfully flooding the western world’s market and were seen as World Class.
Defining World Class Manufacturing
In January 1985, a seminal article, “Competing Through Manufacturing,” by Steven C. Wheelwright and Robert H. Hayes of Harvard Business School, appeared in Harvard Business Review. It proposed four stages of evolution for the strategic role that manufacturing played in the business.
The first three took manufacturing from being, at best, a function that did not restrain an organization’s competitive advantage (Stage 1) to one planned in a manner that supported a business’s growth and development aspirations (Stage 3). The migration from stages 1 to 3 is seen as “manufacturing fixing itself.”
Stage 4 provided foundations for attaining World Class Manufacturing (WCM) status. The shift from stage 3 to stage 4 was identified as “requiring an effort substantially greater both in kind and degree.”
In contrast, the move to Stage 4 “involves changing how the rest of the organization thinks about manufacturing and how they interact with it.” A Stage 4 manufacturing operation will bring “automation into focus to boost process precision and product quality,” not solely as a source of reduced cost.
Management in Stage 4 businesses has a solid technical backbone and understands how products, markets, and processes interact and how to manage these interactions across functions. Four variables provide a litmus test for a company’s attitude to the competitive advantage that manufacturing can bring to bear in Stage 4:
- Investment in process improvements
- Development of novel equipment
- Attention to integration across the manufacturing infrastructure
- The link between product design and manufacturing process design
Characteristics of a business that has attained Stage 4 include:
- Customer loyalty — as a result of superior manufacturing performance.
- Staff being in complete control of their processes, having greater flexibility to run several different machines, managing the material flow, and executing work order deliveries visually.
- Fewer breakdowns.
- Designing for manufacturability is assured.
- Manufacturing leadership has equal weight in developing a strategy.
Achieving World Class Manufacturing status
Much of the 1980s focused on shop-floor-based tools that could be applied by middle managers and operators to improve controls and to highlight and react to non-conformance. For example, in 1982, Richard J Schonberger, a manufacturing researcher and author, published his observations of what made Japanese manufacturers successful. He underscored the need to move beyond the basics of “just making the numbers” by providing data where the root causes of problems could be understood through interrogation.
Schonberger, in his “Good Management of Manufacturing” principles, concluded that good management is working out what those responsible for manufacturing should do and ensuring they can do it excellently. Ultimately, this is the root of attaining WCM status. Furthermore, he identifies integrating the closely related manufacturing, marketing, purchasing, and design strategies into a unified strategy as the key enabler.
Integrated systems and shared data
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the computerization of various business processes was gaining traction with developments, for example, finance, materials requirements planning, and computer-aided design. Production machinery was also becoming more sophisticated and controlled by computers. However, these were essentially standalone in that they did not communicate with each other or share common data.
A 1987 book by Thomas G. Gunn, entitled “Manufacturing for Competitive Advantage — Becoming a World Class Manufacturer,” sought to provide standard terms for the various systems-related technologies that were evolving and showed how these were or would be, integrated — referred to as Computer Integrated Manufacture (CIM).
CIM was defined by the product and process design, planning and control, and the manufacturing process. The elements that form the three processes are:
- Product and process design – product design (CAD and CAE), process design (CAPP and CNC/NC), group technology, engineering control (documentation release, change control, configuration management).
- Planning and control – Production and material planning and scheduling (MRP, DRP, Kanban). Cost management, manufacturing planning, and support (simulation and optimisation, preventive maintenance).
- The manufacturing process – Production equipment (NC/CNC/DNC, FMS, Group Technology/Cells), material handling (robots, AGVs), quality and process control (PLCs, SPC, devices).
These processes are linked with process data in database management systems to convey information. A manufacturer can define, gather, store, manipulate, and communicate data to form information through this.
Operating a manufacturing facility with a backbone of integrated systems using shared data accessed and used by all the business’s functions sits at the heart of a 21st century strategy for attaining WCM.
The relevance of World Class Manufacturing status to wire and cable manufacturing
Many manufacturing examples used to describe World Class Manufacturing fall into a handful of industries:
- Computer manufacturing
- Domestic appliances
- Home entertainment
Historically, the end products within these categories primarily involved the manual assembly of components that may have been manufactured in-house or sourced from third parties.
Many examples focus on simplifying layouts and flows in cells operated by multi-skilled staff using simple controls to manage inventory — an example of a commonly used workflow management method is Kanban. When workflow management is coupled with involvement and supervision, these practices form the fundamentals for attaining Word Class. Over the last few decades, as robotics and automation have become more sophisticated, technology has played an increasing role in production.
Wire and cable manufacturing is not that straightforward
Wire and cable manufacturing factories consist of a series of discrete, complex, often expensive manufacturing processes, each having specific technical attributes that are interrelated in as much as the output from one process forms one of the inputs to the next.
Managing all the data and process constraints in a way that ensures designs are manufacturable, processes are operated compliantly, required data are recorded with full traceability, and quality parameters are met with minimum waste presents a complex environment often fraught with problems.
Wire and cable factories are set up to manufacture specific product types: optical, data, low voltage, medium voltage, and high voltage. Some factories can contain specific product cells for these product types, and some production processes can be shared. However, all factories typically comprise the same functions: finance, IT, sales, marketing, cable design, process design, procurement, production, quality, warehousing, and despatch.
Each cable and facility type has specification standards, machine capabilities, and constraints. This complex set of interacting data can be managed in specialist cable design and process design systems such CableBuilder.
Over the years, computerization has evolved to create islands of automation with paper systems, design sheets, job cards, operator black books, process sheets, drum tickets, and inspection reports providing the data flow and recording. The amount of data is substantial, and their inaccessibility limits managers’ ability to manage, resulting in inherent delays due to the manual nature of communication. This creates inefficiencies and allows errors and non-conformances to occur easily. As a result, an experienced, skilled work force is required — in fact, it is necessary — as much of the knowledge resides outside the direct control of the business’s processes.
Materials typically form 70%-80% of the cost of producing cables which is problematic, especially when it is easy to waste raw materials through non-conforming products. Therefore, control of materials and quality must be one of the fundamental requirements of any investment in systems in a wire and cable factory.
Providing a facility for Statistical Process Control for recording product dimensions and all scrap and waste is essential to provide production management and engineering with the data required to identify and resolve issues. The stand-alone, often manual nature of much of the data infrastructure surrounding manufacturing is a fundamental weakness that, if left unaddressed, will constrain a business to be, at best, at Stage 3 of the Wheelwright and Hayes model mentioned above.
The three CIM processes proposed by Gunn (product and process design, planning and control and the manufacturing process, and their sub-processes) have to be operated in an integrated manner utilizing a single source of data for all of the product and process parameters to achieve WCM performance. The degree to which the sub-processes need to use sophisticated software, e.g., finite production scheduling, depends on the products produced and the benefits achieved.
The specific approach adopted to data capture, operator entered, capture from line PLCs and devices, scanning of barcodes, or a combination thereof, should form part of the manufacturing strategy of the business; it should undoubtedly influence the procurement policy for all capital assets.
One of the critical duties of production management and production operators is utilizing expensive capital assets to their fullest. Therefore, data on downtime, process speeds versus planned speeds, and the proportion of good versus bad production are vital for monitoring and managing asset productivity.
Providing an integrated infrastructure for the business facilitates the “Good Management of Manufacturing” and “Involvement” flagged by Schonberger are crucial to attaining WCM. This, in turn, ensures all the supporting actors he identified are provided with the information they require to solve problems and improve performance. A system enabling manufacturing workers to execute their duties promptly and effectively is key to attaining WCM.
Only through this approach to CIM for wire and cable businesses can a move from Stage 3 to Stage 4 of the maturity matrix proposed by Wheelwright and Hayes can be attained.
The four variables identified that provide a litmus test for a company’s attitude to the competitive advantage will have been achieved:
- Investment in process improvements
- Development of novel equipment
- Attention to integration across the manufacturing infrastructure
- The link between product design and manufacturing process design
A wire and cable business will then be in the position where:
- Customers buy from it because of its superior manufacturing performance.
- Staff are in complete control of their processes and have great flexibility to run several different machines, manage the material flow and execute work order deliveries visually.
- Breakdowns are rare.
- Design for manufacturability is assured.
- Manufacturing leadership has equal weight in developing the strategy.
WCM is attainable for wire and cable manufacturers — it is not a dream.
Why CableBuilder and CableMES?
Control and flexibility
Implementing a customizable and flexible cable design and quotation software solution, such as CableBuilder Enterprise, ensures that the solution is tailored to meet the specific demands of the factory. In addition, modular licensing across design, quotation, manufacturing, and QA modules makes certain that manufacturers have a system relevant to their daily processes.
The flexibility and power of CableBuilder put complete control in the hands of the engineers and designers. As a result, engineers and manufacturing departments understand what it takes to make a cable before the manufacturing process begins.
CableBuilder helps to accurately create and cost designs using real-time data, helping avoid over, or under-pricing. What if scenarios on individual designs allow end customers to see the impact under different scenarios, such as a material change or routing.
The ability to produce mass updates across all designs adds additional benefits, as does the “design once, manufacture anywhere” capability of CableBuilder Enterprise.
When CableMES, designed specifically for the wire and cable manufacturing industry, is introduced, more significant benefits and superior control abilities are achieved.
Order Execution means CableMES will manage and control the progress of all production orders at various stages throughout the plant, from raw materials to finished goods. This complex set of tasks relies on considering many factors, but the biggest challenge is the management of lengths.
Wire and cable plants without an MES will have their methods of managing Order Execution, which could be paper systems or a home-grown solution. However, whatever the current solution employed by the plant, the aim of introducing CableMES is to improve the Order Execution process to ensure:
- Delivery on time
- Avoid short-lengths
- Minimise work in progress (WIP)
- Minimise waste
Assured product quality
The all-in-one CableBuilder Enterprise system provides full functionality to create and maintain designs, quotations, quality records, and manufacturing simulations with personalized rules enabling engineers and designers to:
- Accurately design and quote in one system, negating the need for multiple design tools.
- Perform mass updates quickly and with ease.
- Link technical reports and data sheets to customer quotations ensuring quick and complete responses to customer queries.
By preconfiguring set-ups and having automated rules within a user-friendly system, quick and accurate design creation is easily achieved, resulting in a faster design process.
Technical details and datasheet reports can be set up and automated against international design standards, negating the need to generate these offline. In addition, product brochures can be set up against product types, removing the need to use external companies for brochure production.
Improved efficiencies, in turn, directly impact the speed taken to respond to the customer. Speeding up the response time creates the perfect environment to forge better customer relationships, adding significant value.
CableMES presents a real opportunity to help manufacturers achieve the next level of product quality and savings in materials, time, and cost.
CableMES provides a single repository for all quality checks with a complete audit trail, ensuring the manufacturer’s reputation is never compromised. The Quality Assurance module enables users to systematically track and audit production quality, manage non-conformance, and generate test certification.
With increased competition, the margin for profitability may already be slim, and a manufacturer can ill afford any issues that add to the sale cost through rework or late delivery penalties. Furthermore, without an MES, the production team has little opportunity to identify non-conformance issues until later in the process and sometimes only after a product has left the building.
The loss of a customer’s trust and confidence in a supplier’s ability to meet contractual requirements is perhaps the most costly and long-lasting.
Along with its non-conformance alerts, CableMES’ prioritization of WIP allows the factory to concentrate efforts on the most time-critical and profitable production, quickly identifying bottlenecks, maintenance issues, and under-utilized resources and hidden capacity. CableMES also ensures full accountability for all shifts ensuring seamless shift handovers.
Quality benefits gained from CableMES:
- Quality plan auto-generated from CableBuilder Enterprise
- Full traceability of non-conformance
- Automated quality recording
- Real-time alarms and historical trending
- Full accountability for all shifts
CableMES batches orders together
Production controllers will batch production orders for similar products to maximize efficiency, make longer machine runs, and reduce start-up and changeover wastes.
To increase throughput, production controllers may also split production orders across machines. In some cases, the machine operators will themselves decide how best to batch together production orders from the schedule to make more efficient machine runs.
CableMES provides all the tools required to ensure only good-quality product moves through the factory.
Through its integration with CableBuilder, CableMES controls the Quality Plan at each production stage. The parameters required to be tested/checked, with upper and lower tolerances if relevant, are all presented to the operator automatically at the correct time and frequency. Furthermore, through integration with the AVEVA System Platform, Quality Plan results can be captured automatically if the equipment on the machine has such capabilities. Through CableMES, the consistency of Quality Plans across all processes is ensured, and the collection of Quality Plan data is enforced through best practice.
Also, through its integration with CableBuilder, CableMES will provide direct access to the machine operator to the latest Manufacturing Specifications for manufacturing products on a specific machine. This means the operator will always have the most up-to-date technical information on how to manufacture every product on his machine.
In wire and cable manufacturing, many different types and grades of materials are used. These are often specific to a particular product and cannot be interchanged.
CableMES knows the bill of materials required at each stage, and barcode scanning of input Materials means CableMES can prevent incorrect materials from being used.
Robust business strategy via integrated manufacturing and connected data
CableBuilder Enterprise integrates into various ERP systems, from industry leaders such as SAP, Oracle, Aptean Metals and CableERP to more niche deployments and custom-built systems. The integration uses various methods depending on the host system’s capability and the customer’s requirements.
Through its integration with ERP systems, CableMES collects Process Alarm data for every length of cable produced. The drum’s start and end lengths are stored for each Process Alarm, and Process Alarms can be configured to fail the Quality Plan automatically.
CableMES features Operator Inspection, allowing the operator to manually report suspected non-conformance of cable lengths and defects identified by Quality Plans and Process Alarms.
In CableMES, the bad product is immediately identified, and any drums containing the bad quality product will be quarantined. A quarantined drum is unavailable for consumption by subsequent processes. Therefore, the bad product is blocked and cannot progress through the factory, saving additional processing costs and materials and ultimately preventing delivery of the inferior product to the customer.
CableBuilder Enterprise — for the design, quotation, and cost of cables
CableBuilder Enterprise was born out of the demand within the cable industry to simplify the complex management of cable design data from the initial design concept to delivering the full bill of materials directly to the ERP system.
CableBuilder Enterprise enables wire and cable manufacturers to seamlessly manage cable product data through the typical workflow milestones of design, customer quotation, ordering, production, quality assurance, and ERP system. This enables significant productivity gains through efficiently handling product data, ensuring continuity and data integrity throughout the cable lifecycle.
It is a feature-rich application that helps you to reduce design and maintenance time, produce professional 3D/2D drawings, datasheets, and catalogs, improve manufacturing instructions, and reduce rework and scrap.
The software is modular and segmented based on functionality. A key aspect of CableBuilder Enterprise is flexibility. It allows you to deploy the core Designs module and introduce additional modules as needs and requirements dictate.
CableMES — dedicated manufacturing execution system for managing the entire cable production process
CableMES is a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) specifically for the wire and cable manufacturing industry, which is proven to provide a rapid return on investment. It maximizes plant production, improves product quality, reduces inventory and ensures on-time delivery.
Key benefits include:
- Effective management of resources through accurate production orders, taking account of customer order dates, length, availability of stock, and manufacturing production capabilities.
- Stock movement and availability are tracked through barcodes to provide visibility to ensure accurate stock management by location or item and complete traceability of raw materials to the shipped product.
- Track production progress by length produced and materials consumed.
- Automatic data capture from test equipment highlighting non-conformance issues.
- Users can construct their dashboard of machines that reflects their area of responsibility, managing production issues in real time from a single screen.
- Monitor real-time and long-term Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).
Conclusion and key takeaways
The three distinct processes that define manufacturing (Product and Process Design, Planning and Control and the Manufacturing Process) comprise several elements that must be integrated, utilizing a single data source for all product and process parameters.
Providing a single source of data facilitates the execution of duties in a timely and effective manner by having access to accurate data that can be used to solve problems and improve efficiencies and productivity.
Operating a manufacturing facility with a backbone of integrated systems using shared data accessed and used by all the business’s functions sits at the heart of a 21st-century strategy for attaining World Class Manufacturing status.
A guaranteed competitive edge and World Class Manufacturing status can be achieved through exceptional order execution, efficient material management, and assured product quality, all gained by implementing cable design and quotation software and cable-specific MES systems.
Smart factory software solutions to help achieve World Class Manufacturing status:
|Design and quotation
|Accurately create and cost designs using real-time data, helping avoid over, or under-pricing.
|Manage and control the progress of all production orders at various stages of production throughout the plant, from raw materials to finished goods.
|What if scenarios on individual designs allow customers to see the impact of different scenarios, such as a change of material or routing.
|CableMES radically improves the Order Execution process to ensure delivery on time, avoid short lengths, minimize WIP and minimize waste.
|Design once, manufacture anywhere.
|A single repository for all quality checks with a complete audit trail, ensuring the manufacturer’s reputation is never compromised.
|Full functionality to create and maintain designs, quotations, quality records, and manufacturing simulations with personalized rules enabling engineers and designers to accurately design and quote in one system, negating the need for multiple design tools, perform mass updates quickly and with ease, link technical reports and data sheets to customer quotations ensuring quick and complete responses to customer queries.
|Systematically track and audit production quality, manage non-conformance, and generate test certification.
|By preconfiguring set-ups and having automated rules within a user-friendly system, quick and accurate design creation is easily achieved, resulting in a faster design process.
|Non-conformance alerts and prioritization of WIP allow the factory to concentrate efforts on the most time-critical and profitable production, quickly identifying bottlenecks, maintenance issues, and under-utilized resource and hidden resources capacity.
|Technical details and datasheet reports can be set up and automated against international design standards.
|Ensures full accountability for all shifts ensuring seamless shift handovers.
|Integrates into a host of ERP systems.
|Provides all the tools required to ensure only good quality product moves through the factory.
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