When you hear the word ‘Agile’, you probably think of Agile Development, an iterative approach to software development. But, as Kelly Benson, the OFS Technical Lead, mentioned in her recent article on agile development, there is more to the term than meets the eye – and it could be the key to unlocking efficiency in manufacturing.
Agile manufacturing is a method for manufacturing that combines organizations, people and technology into an integrated and coordinated whole. It is a term applied to an organization that has created engaging processes, tools and training materials that enable a production site to respond to needs and changes quickly – without jeopardizing the cost and quality of the products.
Why Should Manufacturers be Agile?
- With global competition intensifying, creating products of high-quality quickly will differentiate local markets and strengthen the position of local manufacturing.
- Suppliers expect manufacturers to be responsive to increasingly shorter product life-cycles, and Agile Manufacturing provides a framework to do so.
- Agile Manufacturing gives manufacturers the ability to adjust their production processes in order to immediately capitalize on sales.
- It allows manufacturers to quickly adapt to ever-changing market demand.
What is the difference between being agile and being lean?
Lean manufacturing, at its core, aims to eliminate waste, reduce production costs and keep product prices flexible. Agile manufacturing encompasses all of these same principles as lean but makes speed and automation of tedious production tasks a priority.
How to Start Your Agile Manufacturing Journey
Integrate Your Processes
Agile Manufacturing relies on the integration and coordination of multiple business functions throughout the entire value chain of a business.
Often, Agile Manufacturing is embraced with the help of technology and tools that assist in this integration and centralize cross-operational data. These IT solutions work to connect your different siloed functions, such as logistics and production, into a central, connected repository.
This repository is then accessible to all staff, improving visibility, enabling automated workflows and even offering production the ability to create digital twins that can be used to understand the flow-on effects between production functions.
Improve Cross Communication
Similar to integrating processes and functions to increase efficiency, improving the communication between teams and staff is also crucial when beginning your Agile Manufacturing journey.
Cross-communication is necessary between teams to ensure that everyone is sharing information along with the value-chain, it also drastically improves response times to changes in the production environment or customer demand.
A key way to enable cross-communication is to keep a steady flow of information throughout the entire supply chain. This can be done via dashboards that aggregate data from different functions or event-driven alerts and notifications that alert staff to changes in the operating environment.
Create a Knowledge Culture
Agile manufacturing, for some employees, will be a drastic change from the manufacturing processes that they are used to. As such, when moving to agile practices, it’s important to train your employees on how to use their new tools, technology, and processes and create a culture of knowledge. Some ways to do this include:
- Leverage the skills some of your staff already have to train other employees in lean and agile practices.
- Create a culture of growth, and encourage your employees to learn and utilize tools that will improve their manufacturing efficiency.
- Educate your employees on the overall benefits of Agile Manufacturing and how it will help them on a day-to-day basis.
Start Your Agile Journey with OFS
Join leading Australian and International manufacturers that have kick-started their Industry 4.0 journey with the OFS software solution. Start automating your data collection, generating insightful reports and creating automated notifications and prompts.
To learn more about OFS and how the OFS software solution can help you implement agile manufacturing, click here to register your interest in a demonstration. Looking to get started sooner? Click here to register for a free trial. If you’re interested in learning more about how OFS has helped other manufacturers click here to access the repository of case studies.