Does this sound familiar…your manufacturing company makes the long overdue decision to invest in revamping their software systems. After pots of cash and months of work, expectations are high, only to find that a few months down the line your site and operators are facing the same problems as usual. Why didn’t the investment pay off?
In our 20 years of experience, more often than not the failure comes from not properly understanding the specific needs of a manufacturing site; the fit of the software solution is not natural for the given manufacturing process and typically requires heavy customization by developers/consultants that are not well attuned to manufacturing concepts, manufacturing processes and who rarely ever meet the end user.
This is compounded by the fact that suppliers of manufacturing software often try to develop a generic product that will fit in any kind of manufacturing environment, whether it be continuous process, batch or discrete, and the poor results are the proof.
A shift operator’s time is finite and within that there are numerous tasks that compete for attention. Some of the tasks are either routine tasks such as taking a quality sample, receiving deliveries, starting a new batch, while other tasks are ad hoc that arise from variation in the production process.
Experience has shown that an operator’s shortage of time is further affected by an accumulation of digital tools that are needed to execute a specific task. These tools are often not integrated and make it more complicated, rather than less, for an operator to accomplish a specific task. Ultimately this leads to poor operator engagement.
For example, an operator is required to manually update an OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) tool two or three times per shift. On the face of it this task should not take more than a couple of minutes each time. However, due to either the complexity, poor design or the number of tools that are needed, these tasks can take much longer. As most manufacturers will tell you from lean principles, non-value adding time is wasted time.
It sounds obvious but ‘design thinking’ is the key. At Cyzag, we’ve made this process the heart of what we do. So, what is it?
It’s all about placing the user at the core of design methodology.
At the centre of design-thinking is developing an in-depth understanding of the user, making it possible to empathize with their environment and with their specific problems.
Design thinking has now become synonymous with good design for product, processes and services. We remove uncertainty when solving problems by focusing on understanding the user, challenging common assumptions and redefining problems. Doing so ultimately substantially increases the likelihood of success.
For decades digital tools for manufacturing have been developed with only a specific business outcome in mind rather than solving the specific user problem.
This doesn’t mean that the overall outcome and a user-centric solution are mutually exclusive; rather it enforces the view that the most efficient and predictable way to achieve the best overall outcome is to incorporate the end users into the process of solution delivery.
In nearly all projects there are always conflicting or competing factors. These factors can be summarized into the following three categories: feasibility, viability and desirability. When done correctly these factors can be balanced to intersect – this intersection being the sweet spot of innovation.
At the heart of the process is an iterative methodology; the aim of which is to identify weaknesses in the design as early as possible and to mitigate the risk of a failed project at the end. If we are to fail, then fail quickly, learn quickly and rebuild quickly. Each iteration of the development of the solution then forms a strong basis for the next iteration. This approach significantly reduces uncertainty and ensures a successful outcome.
Each iteration contains six important steps:
Manufacturers have long been implementing manufacturing solutions that don’t deliver the intended results.
Our view is that putting the users at the forefront of planning and employing the proven methodologies of design-thinking will help drive operator engagement and data awareness.
This increase in operator engagement is the essential first step on the digital transformation journey – design-thinking helps to reduce uncertainty and maximize the potential for success.