Influence of SMAC over Shop floor Systems Part IV

This is my fourth and last part of the series related to SMAC influence. In this I will be focusing on Social Media and its influence on manufacturing not exactly on shop floor systems.

Social media continues to play a pivotal role in day-to-day commerce. It offers shoppers valuable resources, from product evaluations and opinions to advice and trends to watch.

Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, slideshare – there’s no shortage of social media tools that manufacturers can use to get their market message across. Manufacturers are using social media at a rapid pace. What is the influence of Social media in manufacturing? Source of consumer satisfaction? Manufacturers want to tap into valuable customer opinions, preferences and desires. They also want to encourage collaborations between employees, partners and suppliers in order to create variety of social business platforms, otherwise known as Enterprise 2.0, promise the possibility of company-wide interaction via wikis, blogs and related social media tools. They offer an equalizing platform for the workforce and leadership to exchange ideas, troubleshoot problems and generally interact to make organization-wide improvements.

Based on some inputs the approaches that can be taken by manufacturers using social media is listed below.

  • Leverage LinkedIn ,Facebook, RSS feeds for research and development.
  • Use YouTube, Picasa, slideshare for product training and to create product awareness.
  • Rely on Facebook and Twitter to gain customer feedback and input into product improvement.
  • Make use of LinkedIn groups, Word Press to collaborate with customers and suppliers and to research technical and systems issues.


By 2020, IDC predicts that 80 percent of Information & Communications Technology industry growth will be driven by social media, mobility, analytics (big data) and cloud media technologies. For manufacturing, such projections reveal where the next wave of change will come from. Manufacturers view social media driven solutions as critical tools for integrating data and content with people and systems. Increasingly, they’re identifying ways that these technologies can be applied to a broader range of elements that include customers, partners and suppliers.


  1. Various Internet and Other Sources.

Influence of SMAC over Shop floor Systems Part III

This is my third part of the series related to SMAC influence. In this I will be focusing on Cloud computing and its influence on shop floor systems.

Cloud computing, services hosted over the Internet, offers a number of advantages. The service is usually completely managed by the service provider there by eliminating quite a few overheads. Customers pay for only the services they use. Updates and maintenance are handled remotely. The service can be quickly scaled up or down on need basis. Changes and updates are made globally, ensuring speedy rollouts.

Cloud computing hold tremendous promise for the future, and will continue to grow as businesses adopt the new technology. It is a powerful tool. Data protection and recovery is one of the key strengths of cloud computing. This drastically brings down the cost and time for disaster recovery. Almost all data in the cloud is encrypted, which will significantly improve security. There are cost savings in the cloud, and the ability to scale resources to meet current needs can significantly improve a business’s ability to overcome some of the current challenges. However coming to using Cloud in shop floor systems, I think we are getting close but not there yet. There are quite a few challenges which need to be addressed to get there.

Service Unavailability

Cloud services are hosted over the internet and are managed by a provider. With high usage of cloud services, the chances of services getting failed due to various reasons are high. Internet connectivity, band width, Cloud services going down might bring down the system. Significant downtime is not an option for most shop floors, failure of service is a risk to operations.

Trust and Data Security

With cloud services, the customers are entrusting data to another company. Theft from the service provider is one potential risk. Inadvertent mistakes by employees of the service provider, such as unsecured apps on a work device connected to the information, is another potential risk. Since the data moves through the internet, securing the data is a challenge. Accidentally or otherwise unauthorized users can access data they shouldn’t. The risk increases with increase in Cloud usage. Shop floor systems usually contain sensitive information related to the product being manufactured. The reality is, with any new technology it takes time to develop standards, and the operational standards for cloud computing are still a work in progress.

Data Loss

For a shop floor, secure information and data management is necessary, especially in heavily regulated industries like medical devices, life science facing potential audits. Effective paperless manufacturing relies on secure data management. Cloud computing has high risk of data loss. A recent survey by Symantec found that 43% of the respondents using Cloud services admitted to data loss. Some data loss could be attributed to user error, including misplaced or misfiled information.


As mentioned earlier, cloud computing hold tremendous promise for the future.
The cloud is an emerging technology, still struggling with growing pains, which may impact the ability of a provider to deliver the level of service, speed, security and accuracy necessary to provide paperless manufacturing for the modern, dynamic and constantly changing shop floor. As service providers find better solutions and tools for enterprise cloud services, I am certain that it will become a viable option for the shop floor.


  1. Various Internet and Other Sources.

Influence of SMAC over Shop floor Systems Part II

This is my second part of the series related to SMAC influence. In this I will be focusing on Business Analytics and Intelligence as one cannot really expect to improve manufacturing performance unless you can measure at least some of the key variables impacting performance.

Analytics was part of shop floor solutions from the beginning but in various forms. With the revolution in technology, the way critical information is presented in relation to other items makes analytical solutions far more effective. Real time information, critical decision making data in finger tips, analytical models that help in predictive analysis have become a reality. The SPC solutions which are part of analytical solutions also serves as the primary resource for identifying areas of improvement and eliminating quality issues within the production environment. As a result, one can drive greater consistency within the manufacturing operations and enhance the productivity and profitability of a company.

Several Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are used in shop floor systems are Line View to check the utilization, Tool or Equipment Performance, Feeder Performance, Overall Equipment Effectiveness(OEE), 1st Pass Yield, Performance to Schedule (On time shipments vs. all shipments), the Rate of successful NPI. But these KPIs are not sufficient for decisive decision making. It is also crucial to be able see the impact of specific machine ID, operator (tester) ID, tool used and feeder used and vendor materials used on any KPI which indicate a poor or declining performance. Earlier days it was difficult to get all the related data together and present them as useful information.

The good news is that the shop floor is more “intelligent” than it has ever been. Devices such as RFID, remote sensors, real-time location systems (RTLS) and use of wireless networks, hand held devices have created sophisticated shop floor networks. The reporting tools have also become sophisticated to show the information in an effective way. One can slice and dice the information in various ways using these tools with not much technical help. Business intelligence in the manufacturing companies nowadays is capable of real-time visibility through automatic data capture from the shop floor. It provides analytics on KPIs to optimize business performance and enables a real-time collaborative enterprise (from other business units to supply chain partners).

Business Intelligence and Analytics at shop floor is only part of the bigger picture. Supplier Intelligence /Analytics along with inter factory information within the enterprise completes the equation. Real-time data is useful for real-time management. Predictive data is useful for managing company’s strategies and objectives. Hence there is demand for forecasting software applications and what-if scheduling in ERP and MES applications. Forecasting and predictive analytics are no longer specialty applications with nice-to-know information. Real-time manufacturing intelligence enables a company to manage using realistic what-if projections running weeks or months down the road. A general architecture diagram is shown below.

General Architecture Diagram

Intra-Enterprise Collaboration is the happening thing now. The classic “four-wall operation” is on the decline. Even a self-contained company may have multi-site and global operations, thus involves an extended supply chain in and of itself. Having a good, effective Business Intelligence and Analytical system is key to the success of any manufacturing company.


In the past because of various reasons like Internet connectivity, non-availability of lower-cost automated data collection systems, poor Work-In-Process visibility hampered business.

Trusted data result in better decision making and increase the ability to be more responsive to the market and the environment. Analytics provide manufacturers with a basis to evaluate and optimize business processes. Further applying business intelligence and operational analytics to real-time shop floor metrics transforms reactive processes into predictive and proactive manufacturing operations.

On-time delivery can only be achieved through accurate production forecasting and process visibility based on real-time shop floor information combined with early warning systems and exception reporting. Until now, monitoring supply chains was an expensive process, and largely ideal.

Together, real-time trusted data, process visibility and analytics bring cost containment, production improvement and revenue growth. We now have the ability to monitor supply chains, distribution methods and WIP not just monthly or weekly, but real-time, remotely, round the clock, and weeks and months ahead.


  1. Various Internet and Other Sources.

Influence of SMAC over Shop floor Systems Part-I

Recent days, SMAC (Social media, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud computing) has become a buzz word and they are supposed to have big influence on all industries as well as our day-to-day activities. I will try to putdown my thoughts on the influence and involvement of SMAC on shop floor solutions in my next set of blogs. In the first one I will highlight the involvement of mobility solutions in the shop floor, mainly focusing on where and how mobility solutions can be deployed.

Global manufacturers, in the current economic environment, are constantly under pressure to save cost, improve quality and deliver quickly. These scenarios and fierce competition push manufacturers to embrace lean manufacturing process and achieve the desired results. Effective utilization of resources in the shop floor is very much essential to achieve this objective. Most of the manufacturers realize that adapting cutting edge technology to reduce manufacturing costs at various stages of the production is the way to go.

Mobility has come out as one such technology which allows people to access information while “on the move” and take decisions. Mobile applications built on Smart phones and other mobile devices offer features like camera, location identification, voice recognition and data connectivity that helps manufacturers address productivity and visibility issues.

Visibility: I think significant drive for mobility is propelled by the increasing need of key decision makers to access mission critical information on the move. In the complex global supply chains, the need to monitor production data is of equal importance for the stakeholders in the supply chain. Mobile applications that provide easy access to critical production data like WIP (Work in Progress), scrap, defect and rework rate, equipment utilization, inventory levels etc. can facilitate faster decision making and better co-ordination among various stakeholders of the manufacturing supply chain. Introduction of e-signatures in the approval process along with access to decision making information over mobile devices helps in improving the productivity as well.

Productivity: Another factor influencing manufacturers for implementing mobility on the shop floor comes from the need to increase productivity. Applications that facilitate significant time-saving for the users find high rates of acceptance in the industry. Some examples of such applications are the one which automates the processes, reduces manual entry; allow quick access to job-specific instructions.

Process Improvement: In a world moving towards lean manufacturing, the next generation of mobility based solutions can be used to optimize the manufacturing practices to reduce or eliminate waste at every stage of the production process. Mobility based solutions can be used to enhance operational efficiency by better utilization of man, machine and materials.

At Dhruv, we have developed few mobility applications and POCs around shop floor applications. These simple applications which are implemented at couple of our customer sites have given them lot of flexibility and quite a bit of above mentioned advantages.

Areas of Concern: There are some impediments in implementing these innovative solutions. Some major ones are,

a) Security: Mobile devices are highly prone to information leakage, by means of both physical access (loss or theft) and man-in-the-middle attacks. Smart phones also support short range communication protocols like Bluetooth and Infra-red which can be ideal avenues for stealing business critical data. In addition, Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) from mobile devices can cause disturbance to the working of electronic equipment inside the shop floor.

b) Automation: Integration of mobile devices with control systems like SCADA, PLCs and DCS is expensive as many of these control systems support only proprietary communication protocols. Direct integration with hardware-based sensors and actuators to provide close-loop control from mobile devices is also equally challenging.


I am sure; as the technology is moving forward at a faster pace the above mentioned concerns will be addressed. I strongly feel, mobile solutions for the shop floor can be an effective tool to streamline manufacturing processes which results in efficient utilization of work force, equipment and materials. Mobile applications can communicate with various IT systems to provide means of increased visibility which in turn leads to faster and more effective decision making.


  1. Various Internet and Other Sources.

Lean Manufacturing

History and Background
Lean manufacturing is a Japanese approach to management that focuses on cutting out waste, while ensuring quality. This approach can be applied to all aspects of a business – from design, through production to distribution. It is a management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System (TPS).The term was first coined by John Krafcik in his 1988 article. The TPS has two pillar concepts: Just-in-time (JIT) and Autonomation (smart automation).

Just in time (JIT : “Flow”) is a production strategy that strives to improve a business return on investment by reducing in-process inventory and associated carrying costs. To meet JIT objectives, the process relies on signals or Kanban between different points in the process, which tell production when to make the next part. Kanban are usually signals, such as the presence or absence of a part on a shelf. Implemented correctly, JIT focuses on continuous improvement and can improve a manufacturing organization’s return on investment, quality, and efficiency. JIT is making only “what is needed, when it is needed, and in the amount needed!”

Another concept, Vendor-Managed Inventory (VMI) employs the same principles as those of JIT inventory, however, the responsibilities of managing inventory is placed with the vendor in a vendor/customer relationship. Whether it’s a manufacturer managing inventory for a distributor, or a distributor managing inventory for their customers, the management role goes to the vendor. Advantage of this business model is that the vendor may have industry experience and expertise that lets them better anticipates demand and inventory needs. The inventory planning and controlling is facilitated by applications that allow vendors access to their customer’s inventory data. Another advantage to the customer is that inventory cost usually remains on the vendor’s books until used by the customer, even if parts or materials are on the customer’s site.

Autonomation (“Tools”) may be described as “smart automation”. This type of automation implements some supervisory functions rather than production functions. At Toyota this usually means that if an abnormal situation arises the machine stops and the worker will stop the production line. Autonomation prevents the production of defective products, eliminates overproduction and focuses attention on understanding the problem and ensuring that it never recurs. It is a quality control process that applies the following four principles.

  1. Detect the abnormality.
  2. Stop.
  3. Fix or correct the immediate condition.
  4. Investigate the root cause and install a countermeasure.

Traditional Manufacturing Approach

Traditional manufacturing is often called mass production or batch-and-queue production. In traditional manufacturing, similar processes are grouped together and a large batch of parts is processed and then held in a queue waiting for the next process. In this system a batch of parts is put through Process A and set aside. They are then moved to the next area where Process B is done to the batch. The parts then wait in a pile for the next process. After a while they are shifted to another area where Process C is completed on the batch. This batch-and-queue process is continued until the part is completed and shipped.

Figure 1. Traditional Manufacturing Approach

Lean Manufacturing Approach

As mentioned earlier Lean uses set of “tools” that assist in the identification and steady elimination of waste. As waste is eliminated quality improves while production time and cost are reduced. The second approach to Lean focuses upon improving the “flow” or smoothness of work, thereby steadily eliminating unevenness through the system.

The seven key wastes which are attacked in Lean thinking derive from the original seven wastes defined in the Toyota Production System. These seven sources of waste are:

  • Transportation (moving products that are not actually required to perform the processing)
  • Inventory (all components, work-in-progress and finished product not being processed)
  • Motion (people or equipment moving or walking more than is required to perform the processing)
  • Waiting (waiting for the next production step)
  • Overproduction (production ahead of demand)
  • Over Processing (due to poor tool or product design creating activity)
  • Defects (the effort involved in inspecting for and fixing defects)

The primary difference between Lean and the TPS is the focus of efforts. In Lean thinking, the focus is on the set of tools used to assist in the identification and steady elimination of waste. These tools include Value Stream Mapping, Five S, Kanban (pull systems), and Poka Yoke (error proofing), among others.

Figure 2. Lean Manufacturing Approach

Lean is more than just about cutting costs in the factory. These waste reduction principles that were originally designed with a manufacturing setting in mind may be applied to other aspects of the business such as design, shipping, and customer service. Lean thinking has also been applied in service industries such as restaurants, hospitals, and call-centers.

Lean implementation is therefore focused on getting the right things to the right place at the right time in the right quantity to achieve perfect work flow, while minimizing waste and being flexible and able to change.


  1. Wikipedia
  2. Toyota Production System

Discrete V/s Process Manufacturing


As manufacturing companies grow from small scale production to a large scale manufacturing operation, management starts facing different challenges along with the growth. One of the challenges for corporations as they begin looking at software options is in understanding the differences between the two main types of manufacturing: Discrete and Process Manufacturing.

The challenge in understanding software system differences is that discrete and process manufacturing systems look similar in several respects. They both have an inventory system and bills of material along with a general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, sales orders, purchase orders, and distribution features; they are, however, quite different. It’s common for manufacturing companies to make the mistake of buying a software package when it is most likely unable to address their unique business challenges.

If a manufacturer buys the wrong software package then the company either has to change its manufacturing process to fit the software or it has to pay for extensive customizations to make the software work or even worse both! Usually it is very expensive.

Avoiding this problem starts with obtaining the right information and selection criteria. In this topic, I am trying to put down key differences of the two major categories in the manufacturing process.


Key Differences

The key differences are given below in a tabular format.


Discrete Manufacturing

Process Manufacturing

In Discrete, one can identify the finished goods as individual units.

In Process, it is measured by using different units of measures (Kgs,Liters etc).

The American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS) define discrete manufacturing as “The production of distinct items such as automobiles, appliances, or computers.”

Process manufacturing, is defined as “Production that adds value by mixing, separating, forming, and/or performing chemical reactions. It may be done in either batch or continuous mode.”

Uses Bill Of Materials (BOMs) to build the finished product.

Uses formulations and recipes to build the finished product.

The processes deployed in discrete manufacturing are not continuous in nature. Each process can be individually started or stopped and can be run at varying production rates.

The end product is obtained by a continuous process or a set of continuous processes.

Examples include toys, medical equipment, computers and cars. The resulting products are easily identifiable.

In process manufacturing, the products are undifferentiated, for example oil, natural gas and salt.

The process allows for temporary stoppage of work in one area without affecting the entire unit.

This is a continuous process and requires that entire production process be stopped.

The outcome of discrete manufacturing can be reversed without difficulty.

The outcome of process manufacturing cannot be reversed.

Discrete manufacturing software typically does not allow manufacturers to manipulate their batch sizes based on material inventory.

Process manufacturing software allows manufacturers to manipulate their batch sizes based on material inventory.

In most cases, discrete manufacturers will not be tracking any type of research and development.

On the contrary, the formulas of a process manufacturer are core to the company function.

  • Semiconductor
  • Electronics
  • Medical Devices
  • Automobiles
  • Food & Beverages
  • Brewing Industry
  • Agricultural Commodities
  • Oil and Gas


The only thing these manufacturing methods have in common is that both realize a profit gained from the manufacture of a finished product.



  2. Wikipedia