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Conducting The Manufacturing Orchestra…..

My sister, as a child, learned to play the Violin. At first, this was an awful noise where even the cat would bolt out of the house straight into a torrential rainstorm rather than being within earshot. It soon developed however into a nice balanced tone, at times.  I wondered whether I could do the same and started learning to play the recorder. Not a good idea. We shall say no more. My sister however, went on to play in the school band. Each member of the band had gone through the same learning process with their particular “weapon” of choice. The task of the music teacher was to bring all of this together in time for an end of year recital. Even though I was not so cynical in those days, it seemed unlikely. Some weeks later, on the day of the recital, it was a transformation. There was music being played that I actually recognized. The timing of all of the instruments as melodies passed from instrument to instrument, the synchronised attack and decay of the sounds and the feelings created from the textures of combined sounds. What was the key factor here that made the difference, had the musicians suddenly made huge progress? Actually, in isolation, the band members, though clearly improved,  sounded pretty much like they did before. The difference was the conductor. At a simple level the conductor makes sure that everything came together according to the written music. At a higher level, the conductor guides the minute timing and inflection, the precision and balance that allow the full depth and emotion of the music to be communicated.

I have noticed the exact same process in manufacturing. Individual production processes replace the musical instruments. The written music is the schedule made up of sequenced work-orders, being the link between all of the processes. Where is the conductor? Who is orchestrating this operation?

When putting together a series of webinars to describe the technologies behind the Valor MSS suite, I soon came to the realization that the way that work-orders are utilised is critical to the harmony of the operation. At a simple level, the work-orders define what has to be done in order to manufacture and assemble a product. In many operations, this is as far as it goes. If the aspiration of a PCB-A operation is only to continue to rely on people communicating perfectly spending plenty of effort to solve issues as they appear and get serious, then perhaps the simple use of work-orders is enough.

The advanced use of work-orders however provides substantial opportunities. The specific product – process definition of parameters, procedures, documentation are some examples that contribute to management for compliance and conformance. Assurance of correct operation, visibility of bottlenecks, management of required tasks and co-ordination of resource availability are all examples of how intelligence built into work-orders can be used. The work-order then, establishes the benchmark against which the manufacturing execution should be managed, driving tasks, enforcing compliance, enhancing productivity, quality and reducing costs.

We can go so far as to say that the perceived intelligence of an MES system is substantially proportional to the advanced capabilities built into the work-order infrastructure. Effective MES starts with work-order planning and scheduling to ensure that the whole shop-floor orchestra works together to deliver a world-class performance. Take a look at the Valor MSS suite, to see the breadth of technology that an integrated MES can deliver when running with advanced intelligent work-orders.  The lead-in webinar takes place April 17th. Let’s get it started!

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About Michael Ford

Michael FordMICHAEL FORD SENIOR MARKETING DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, VALOR DIVISION, MENTOR GRAPHICS Michael started his career as a computer software and hardware engineer in 1982. Working for Sony in the UK, Michael became one of the first successful adopters of computer technology into the manufacturing shop-floor, going on to manage in Japan Sony’s global Lean Manufacturing solutions. Joining Valor Computerized Systems in 2008 gave Michael the opportunity to apply his experience into the main-stream of the industry. With almost 30 years’ experience, Michael’s key strength is the instinct of finding solutions and opportunities where there had been challenges and problems. Michael is currently working as part of the Marketing Development team within the Valor Division of Mentor Graphics, focussing on the realisation of real and practical solutions for manufacturing based on the application of Lean Thinking, end to end, from design through the entire manufacturing process. Visit The Michael Ford Manufacturing Blog

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