There are many common problems in the manufacturing industry. We can all agree that there is no shortage of problems that need to be dealt with. Especially in the industry, there are a lot of people involved and a lot of big machines with many moving parts. Inevitably, with that amount of moving parts and people, there are bound to be issues that come up frequently. These problems go far beyond just the plant floor.
All of this means that there is a lot of money moving around and changing hands often. Even small errors can equate to a large amount of lost revenue and profits. In this article, we will discuss 3 common problems in the manufacturing industry that could be holding you back. The goal is to help you make your factory as efficient as possible and maximize revenue and profits.
1. Lack of Skilled Workers
Let’s not waste any time, and get right to the facts. Manufacturing is a huge industry, employing a lot of people. It’s the fourth largest industry in the united states based on the total number of employed persons (source). This is good, a lot of people working in the industry. Here’s where it starts going downhill- almost one-fourth of the manufacturing workforce is age 55 or older (source). There’s not a lot of young people pursuing a career in manufacturing. This is a growing problem for manufacturers. It’s not a good sign when roughly a quarter of the manufacturing workforce is on the cusp of retiring, along with low numbers of new and young employees entering the field.
This is forcing manufacturers to come up with a stronger recruiting process, and looking for ways to attract more young people to the sector. This may not be the main problem that you think about on a daily basis, but it is not to be overlooked. The statistics are scary for the future of manufacturing.
2. Lack of Awareness
The second common problem in the manufacturing industry to go over is general awareness. There are many different angles you could take here.
Overall plant floor awareness, downtime awareness, accurate data awareness, digital transformation awareness. At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that there is a lot of moving parts and people in the manufacturing industry. It can be a challenge to keep track of and remain aware of everything happening. On the other hand, it is near impossible to make improvements if you aren’t even aware of what’s really going on. So the first step to improving operational efficiency is to become aware and accurately define where you need to focus or improve.
More often than not, manufacturers cannot accurately estimate how much, or where their downtime is coming from. Downtime is a leading cause of lost revenue in manufacturing. That means it should definitely be made a point of emphasis, and that manufacturers should at the very least be aware of where of the amounts and causes of downtime. Sadly, downtime awareness is still a very common problem in the manufacturing industry.
The way in which you gather data changes everything. It doesn’t matter how much data you are attempting to gather if it’s all data that you can’t validate, and you can’t trust. Many times, manufacturers will gather data, see the numbers, and not believe them or disregard them. This makes the initial act and effort in gathering the data completely useless and reinforces the value of using a reliable system for gathering data that you can trust. Manufacturers need to become aware of the validated, trustworthy, and accurate data that they could be extracting from their equipment and benefitting from.
With IIoT and manufacturing analytics technology becoming more available in recent years, it’s just that much more important to have accurate data if you want to continue to grow, stay competitive, and become a data-driven company.
3. IIoT and Industry 4.0
This leads us to our last common problem in the manufacturing industry. You might wonder, how are IIoT and Industry 4.0 common manufacturing problems? The problem is not the technology or the solutions themselves, it’s actually more of a mindset problem. A large number of manufacturers are choosing to ignore the value that IIoT and Industry 4.0 bring.
While others are open to the ideas, but struggle to become data-driven and use the technology to its fullest capacity. These companies need to focus on solving their business challenge, rather than focusing on the technology challenges. Instead of saying- “How can we equip our factory with the latest and best technology?” Ask yourself- “How will this actually help me?” Or, “What will get improved by gathering, analyzing, and acting on this set of data?”
A Happy Medium
There are two extremes here, the best spot is a happy medium in a way. No doubt that there is enormous value in gathering accurate real-time data. IIoT along with Industry 4.0 principles bring this to the table. Becoming a data-driven company is also very important. However, becoming a data-driven company means that you are acting on the data, driving decisions based on this data. Becoming a data-driven company does not mean just extract as much information, data, and generate as many reports as you possibly can. Gather what you need to improve efficiency, and solve your business challenge, any data you aren’t acting on is useless.
How you can Take Initiative to Solve These Problems
These are common manufacturing problems, but that doesn’t mean that you have to just live with them. There are things you can do to minimize these issues in your factory.
The problem with a lack of skilled workers might be a job for the industry as a whole. However, becoming aware of everything happening on your plant floor, with your workers, and inside your machines is something that you can improve. Taking advantage of IIoT and Industry 4.0 can prove to be greatly beneficial. Equip yourself with the right system that meets your needs and solves your business challenge. Adjust your company culture to become a data-driven company. Your operators want to improve their process, they’re smart, allow them to benefit from accurate data. IIoT can deliver real-time data to operators and decision-makers instantly.
We established that awareness is also a very common problem in the manufacturing industry. Be aware of your specific problems, and use the tools available today to solve those problems. If you actively search for ways to get better and generate a solid plan of action, the results will be rewarding.