Thought Leadership

5 Ways to Increase Manufacturing Productivity Through Software

Mar 31, 2022 - 6 min read
Ways to Increase Manufacturing Productivity Through Software

If nothing else, the past several years have underscored the importance of productivity and efficiency for the manufacturing sector. Between supply chain disruptions, fluctuating demand, economic uncertainty, labor shortages, and climbing costs, manufacturers have had to contend with a difficult landscape. And though there is every indication that the industry has slowly begun to bounce back, it’s anything but smooth sailing ahead.

As noted by Deloitte, manufacturing faces a record shortage of unfilled jobs, with an estimated shortfall of 2.1 million by 2030. Unstable supply chains, cyber threats, and an increasing focus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives represent yet more challenges. The solution, according to the analyst, is for manufacturers to embrace digital technology adoption.

“Manufacturers looking to capture growth and protect long-term profitability should embrace digital capabilities from corporate functions to the factory floor,” Deloitte writes. “Foundational technologies such as cloud computing enable computational power, visibility, scale, and speed.” 

In short, when it comes to the question of how to improve productivity in the manufacturing industry, software plays a pivotal role — here are just a few ways you can apply it within your own organization.

Optimize Your Quality Assurance

Quality control represents arguably one of the greatest roadblocks to manufacturing productivity. Failure to apply consistent quality assurance measures across the entire production process is a considerable drain on resources. Each defective, damaged, or faulty product that comes off the supply line leads to either rework or simply a loss as the product is written off as waste.

Even manufacturers with standardized quality assurance may find the process to be a bottleneck if it’s exclusively reliant on manual inspection. A combination of robotics and cloud-based quality management software is more cost-effective, efficient, and accurate. Machines can detect faults faster than any human being, and are considerably less prone to error.

That isn’t to say that human intervention is completely irrelevant. Just that through QMS, manufacturers can both enhance quality assurance and address potential workflow shortages. As always, it’s crucial to remember that automation and artificial intelligence work best when paired with human intelligence.

Improve Maintenance and Reduce Downtime

Quality assurance is not the only arena in which cloud based manufacturing software has a part to play. Even a small facility contains a multitude of moving parts, complex machines which require regular management and maintenance. Unfortunately, even a machine that is by all accounts properly maintained can fail unexpectedly, leading to reduced output or — in the worst case scenario — a costly period of downtime.

Proactive maintenance goes a long way towards preventing this nightmare scenario. Pairing cloud maintenance software with sensors arms your team with a big-picture view of how each machine on your factory floor is performing, down to individual components. The moment that software detects something is amiss with a component, that component can be swapped out, greatly reducing the likelihood of equipment failure.

Routine maintenance and fault prevention are not the only use cases for this software, either. Full visibility into equipment health also allows you to ensure that each of your systems always operates at peak efficiency. More importantly, it helps you determine if a component is improperly installed, configured, or aligned before it creates a cascade of waste.

Leverage Manufacturing Analytics Software

Manufacturing generates an immense amount of data, within which can be found a wealth of insights if one knows both where to look and what to look for:

  • Demand trend forecasts
  • Inventory planning
  • Waste reduction
  • Productivity bottlenecks
  • Customer/client behavior
  • Common errors
  • Issues with a particular make/model of equipment
  • Opportunities for expansion
  • Production and supply chain risks
  • System and process redundancies

The challenge here is one of volume. We’re talking about tens or even hundreds of gigabytes of data generated on a daily basis. No data scientist, regardless of their level of experience, is capable of parsing that much information.

And that’s where analytics software comes in. A solution geared towards the manufacturing sector should ideally be capable of automatic data collection and orchestration, integrating seamlessly with existing systems such as onboard sensors. Guided by the expertise of human analysts, the software can then categorize the data in real-time, allowing your organization to focus on creating tangible value instead of becoming mired in junk data.

Streamline Workflows

It’s not just your production line that requires regular evaluation and review. Employee workflows, both on and off the factory floor, must also be continually monitored and revised. One should be of the mindset that there is always some new way to improve efficiency — some new innovation that can make your people more effective and productive without impacting the quality of their work.

Enterprise resource planning software arguably represents the best starting point in this regard. Wrapping core business functions such as supply chain management and inventory management into an ERP platform allows you to monitor each workflow within your organization. In doing so, you allow yourself to proactively identify and address a wide range of problems, everything from process inefficiencies to shipment delays.

Automation is also invaluable from a process standpoint. If your organization is anything like most, your people likely spend an inordinate amount of time on repetitive manual work. Such busywork could easily be automated, freeing employees up to focus on more complex tasks.

You’ve likely already done this to some extent via robotics on the factory floor. Yet automation can just as easily be applied to back office tasks, as well. Some examples include:

  • Reordering supplies or parts when your organization hits a certain quantity threshold.
  • Managing customer contracts and invoicing.
  • Auditing and reporting.
  • Data entry and migration.

Keeping information organized and accessible is another major challenge facing manufacturing firms. It’s also one that software is perfectly-suited to address through automated orchestration — something we already touched on when we talked about analytics. By keeping data organized and accessible, your organization ensures its people won’t be wasting time fruitlessly searching for a particular piece of information.

Finally, software can be leveraged to promote better communication and collaboration across your workforce. Inventory software can serve as a bridge between sales teams and warehouse staff, allowing the two to confer on demand and availability of product stock. Communication tools, meanwhile, can keep all your departments connected and operating as part of a cohesive whole.

Empower Personnel with Hands-On Training

As you can see, software has enormous potential when it comes to improving productivity in the manufacturing sector. Each of the use cases described above represents one more reason to embrace digital transformation. Unfortunately, each one also shares a similar roadblock — namely, that the software solutions used to enable them aren’t always easy to understand.

In that regard, virtual training software is the glue that holds everything together. It allows you to provide your employees with immersive simulated environments tailored specifically to their training needs. Instead of constantly having to refer back to training materials, they can learn by doing, practicing their skills with each new software platform in a virtual environment.

Of course, this is hardly the only factor that makes training software such a valuable asset for your manufacturing company. It’s also a crucial onboarding tool, ensuring that new hires possess the necessary knowledge and skills to do their jobs effectively. The more effectively you’re able to train people new to your organization, the greater the impact on productivity.

Finally, it also allows you to provide your employees with opportunities for reskilling and lateral movement. An employee could undergo a training course that certifies them to work in a higher-skilled job. Not only does this potentially allow you to fill some of your most pressing skill gaps, it can also greatly improve morale by showing your people that you care about helping them better themselves.

Embrace Industry 4.0 With CloudShare

Passive learning alone isn’t enough for the manufacturing sector. To truly increase productivity, promote growth, and improve efficiency, you need to empower your people with hands-on software training. CloudShare’s virtual training solutions provide precisely that:

  • Multiple Training Options. Leverage powerful, interactive and collaborative learning through virtual instructor led training, or allow people to learn at their own pace through self-paced training. Create comprehensive multi-stage courses or bite-sized lessons geared towards microlearning.
  • Flexible, Agile Management. Whether you’re teaching people how to use a new productivity solution or coaching employees on new factory floor equipment, our software allows you to set up any number of custom training labs in a matter of minutes.
  • Efficient Cost Control. No unexpected costs, no overages, and no paying for resources you don’t use. Environments are torn down automatically, and you can set hard limits on whatever elements you need to.
  • Reliable, Scalable, and Powerful. Count on CloudShare’s lightning-fast, enterprise-grade training software to keep your courses up and running, no matter how many people are using them. With multiple global data centers, our software offers peak performance 24/7, no matter where you’re located.
  • Experience the Power of Going Digital. Schedule in-person training only when you absolutely need to — save time and resources by allowing people to dial-in to virtual sessions whenever and wherever necessary.

Software-defined manufacturing is the future, and it isn’t difficult to see why. Through cloud platforms, manufacturing firms can greatly improve both productivity and efficiency across multiple use cases. And by pairing those platforms with the right training solutions, they can empower employees and improve workflows in ways they never thought possible.