CHINESE MANUFACTURERS: Making A Case For Keeping It Real

I recently made a tour through the burgeoning automobile assembly landscape in China and it was a humbling and thought provoking experience. The rate of expansion is truly awe inspiring, but it also raises an intriguing question. Where will Chinese manufacturers, and particularly the auto makers find the inspiration to achieve the world class quality and efficiency required to empower these products to create demand in more than their local market? Understandably they are looking to North America and others for inspiration. Upon reflection, I can’t help but hope they proceed with caution.

On close inspection of the North American automotive industry there are several ironies and disconnects that ring loudly. The discipline that is most often charged with delivering quality and efficiency to manufacturing operations is the Manufacturing Execution System or MES. After reviewing the ISA-95 standard that defines this space, one could argue that while it identifies the components of MES, it does little to identify how to create value with it. There is nothing in the ISA-95 standard that would indicate to a potential MES customer how to apply it in a way that could create a reasonable expectation of achieving quality and efficiency.

I think it is reasonable to assume that the success of the manufacturing process is critical to companies whose life blood is manufacturing quality products yet MES is often the last system defined in the corporate landscape after staples like ERP, PLM and others. In fact, establishing a coherent approach that creates a reasonable expectation of quality and efficiency often falls into a void between Information Technology, Engineering, Production, Quality and Plant Management. Which silo within a company should own the challenge of defining an approach that co-ordinates all plant disciplines in an effective way?  In most cases the answer is none, so consequently the fundamental values of the culture to support the pursuit of quality and efficiency go inadequately defined.  Each discipline looks after their own and the results are multiple systems functioning as islands with no knowledge of each other. This lack of co-ordination is a missed opportunity and something that is overdue to be solved.

The concept of advanced process control is most common within automotive assembly yet when you look at the major players in America and even Japan, you see strategies that are limited by the technology decisions made over twenty (20) years ago. The cost of transitioning away from these aging architectures is very real but that is no reason for this to be the benchmark in developing markets that have the freedom to make more progressive decisions. Unfortunately, it is much easier to play follow the leader than to invest in the difficult task of evaluating technology and making selections that create a reasonable expectation of achieving your corporate objectives.

Communication is a well documented necessity and challenge within businesses of any form.  In an industrial environment, the mechanism for plant floor communication is the Andon System. Historically the Andon system is a series of pushbuttons or pull cords within an operator station that could flash a light or play an audible tone designed to get the attention of a supervisor. This kind of infrastructure is hardwired so it is inherently expensive and inflexible. In the technological era of 2017, hopefully it is reasonable to assert that this might not be the most effective alternative to communicate across a plant floor that is often the size of several city blocks, yet most assembly lines built today blindly apply the same standard that was prevalent twenty-five (25) years ago. One could muse about the reasons for this, like the control the hardware companies that have a vested interest in propagating this outdated approach have on industry; but I can’t help but think what would happen if a company like Google ever turned their creative energies on a simple challenge like plant floor communication?

The follow the leader phenomenon could not be more clear than in the area of electric fastening tools. In an industrial assembly environment bolting components together with threaded fasteners is one of the most common and most important processes (see Figure 1). This has lead to a large and lucrative market for sophisticated fastening systems that has evolved over the last few decades. The companies marketing these kinds of products have done an admirable job of answering this demand and building a market now worth billions of dollars per year.

The electric tool has become as common place as the pushbutton on the assembly line and in most companies this is a significant but accepted cost that comes with setting up a modern assembly line. You would think that an investment that is often measured in millions of dollars would come with an expectation of delivering a specific result and a corresponding value, yet this is typically compromised by the same ambivalent approach that deploys pushbuttons or prints paper instructions as a means of communication in a chaotic industrial environment.

 

chinese manufacturers

Figure 1: Heavy machinery bolted joint fastening operation

Electric fastening systems are highly sophisticated devices with endless capabilities (just ask the vendors promoting them), but the ability of companies today to deploy them in an intelligent  way that creates a reasonable expectation of achieving their intended goals is lacking. Finding a vendor to furnish these systems anywhere in the world is simple. Having a vision for deploying them to a positive end is an entirely different matter.

If a bright light was shone on many of the common practices of the most sophisticated industrial manufacturing processes in the world, there would be many red faces and this would not be more true than in the area of Big Data. This is a trendy subject and like electric fastening systems most manufacturers accepted long ago that being dedicated to the advantages of data analysis is a staple for success in any manufacturing operation. Every assembly plant and engineering office has a host of graphs and charts proudly displayed to tell the stories that are somehow vital to those making the critical game time decisions daily that drive world class quality and efficiency. While this data may provide some useful trending information most is limited to telling part of the story of what happened yesterday. Sophisticated data analytics cannot make up for lack of resolution or timeliness of the source data.

This reality is yet another by-product of manufacturing systems that often lack a common-sense approach to solving everyday challenges of manufacturing. Data that is manually collected after the fact, impacted by subjective influences and not properly correlated because it resides in multiple stand alone systems compromises the value that truly focused data can provide.

To witness the luxury of Chinese manufacturers being able to build new manufacturing facilities today with the latest and greatest technology one just needs to look around in the major cities of China. Technology is on display in everything from architecture to mass transit systems. The exploding demand for automobiles in China has lead to a corresponding expansion of local Chinese manufacturers. They are looking at leaders in America and Europe to learn from their experience. Can Chinese manufacturers do more than play follow the leader? We have endeavored to help them with their “Made in China 2025” objectives by providing the Chinese market the most innovative manufacturing process control and error-proofing technology available today.

MANUFACTURING EXECUTION SYSTEM (MES) SOFTWARE FOR CHINESE MANUFACTURERS

PINpoint Information System’s manufacturing execution system (MES) / manufacturing operations management (MOM) software is meticulously designed and tested to ‘Information Technology Infrastructure Library’ (ITIL) standards before any official version release. Their MES/MOM and Andon communications products have been developed since 1997 and continue to be evolved and pushed-forward by their customers (Version 4.x available now; V5 scheduled for release this Summer 2017).

Thoroughly proven the software is in use daily around the World in multiple languages by leading manufacturers. Headquartered in Burlington, Ontario, PINpoint services Chinese manufacturers from their offices in China, Canada and the United States. For more information, please call: +1 (905) 639-8787, email: sales@pinpointinfo.com or visit: http://pinpointinfo.com/

 

PINpoint_Made-In-China-2025_Sheet (pdf download)

CHINESE-MANUFACTURERS_Making-A-Case-For-Keeping-It-Real_July-20-2017 (pdf download)

 
RELATED LINKS

See the “Why PINpoint?” prezi here:
https://prezi.com/adp9dhp3vgn0/why-pinpoint-manufacturing-execution-system-mes-manufacturing-operations-management-mom-solutions/

MES Systems:
http://pinpointinfo.com/mes-systems/

Andon Communications Software:
http://pinpointinfo.com/andon-3d/

 

Author:

Rob MacMillan, President, PINpoint Information Systems Inc.

Mr. MacMillan is an entrepreneur with 30 years of experience in industrial manufacturing.  PINpoint Information Systems is a software company that promotes the vision of a configurable product to manage manufacturing process in a co-ordinated, intelligent way. PINpoint software is the global standard for some of the largest industrial manufacturers in the world.

Excerpt:

“To witness the luxury of Chinese manufacturers being able to build new manufacturing facilities today with the latest and greatest technology one just needs to look around in the major cities of China. Technology is on display in everything from architecture to mass transit systems. The exploding demand for automobiles in China has lead to a corresponding expansion of local Chinese manufacturers. They are looking at leaders in America and Europe to learn from their experience. Can Chinese manufacturers do more than play follow the leader? We have endeavored to help them with their ‘Made in China 2025′ objectives by providing the Chinese market the most innovative manufacturing process control and error-proofing technology available today.”