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Lean Maintenance

What to look for in a manufacturing operating system

Manufacturing operating systems have come a long way and can aid engineers in many ways. The right operating system will be intuitive, efficient and easy to use.

By Cara Winther March 31, 2021
Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology

It would be great if everyone could come to work, have everything they need to do their jobs and all the details would take care of themselves. Particularly some of the less fun details: like getting the right materials into your plant, on time, every time; like all of the equipment up and running, all the time. Like not having to worry about nuisances like scheduling, performing PMs, doing inventory and cycle counts. All the paperwork that accounting and auditors love so much.

How it used to be

When this young lass started her manufacturing journey, there were obviously manufacturing operating systems in place. Nothing like the systems available today. My personal modus operandi came from my older sister, who worked for our parent company, which I didn’t realize at the time.

Her advice to me: “Do whatever you have to do to get your foot in the door. Sweep the floors if you have to. And sweep them so well, they’ll ask you to take on more and more.” She was right. Many times I swept the floor because I wasn’t really sure what else to do. I worked and learned and swept and learned and worked and sometimes slept manufacturing. Yes, that means I dreamed about it.

Back then, the keys to the manufacturing operating systems kingdom were in the hands of people much farther up the food chain than I. Youngsters just starting out today have no idea how good they have it now! Transparency wasn’t the cornerstone of manufacturing principles that it is now. We had to sweep uphill through the snow in steel toed shoes to get a glimpse of the entire kingdom.

So, when another sister entered the wonderful world of manufacturing just a few short years later, she had the benefit of my experience to start her down the path of manufacturing knowledge. My advice to her: “Keep your eyes open, keep your mouth shut and keep your nose to the grindstone.”

Cathy had not only the benefit of my wisdom, for which she will be eternally grateful, she joined manufacturing when the need for transparency in our plant was gaining traction. Everything was not made to feel like a state secret. More and more ‘regular’ folks had access to actual data, so they knew immediately if we were ahead of the curve or losing the battle. As we embarked on our collective journey toward Lean Manufacturing, the culture shift necessitated more and more transparency.

The manufacturing operating systems used throughout our plant had to be accessible to everyone. The time for scrawling hand written notes and making tick marks on spreadsheets was over. Expecting folks at all levels of the production organization to spend hours manually inputting numbers was no longer realistic, not that it ever was.

12 tips for choosing the right manufacturing operating system

Manufacturing has come a long way in the last several years. With everything becoming more interconnected and interactive, there is a greater need to streamline operations. Manufacturing operating systems have evolved, as well, and have become more dynamic. This is what manufacturing operations leaders demand from their manufacturing operating system:

  • Facilitates the production, consumption, and delivery of materials and services simultaneously
  • Allows for easy management and allocation
    • Resources
    • Materials
    • Time
  • Production scheduling
  • Manufacturing execution.

What indicators can you look for so you will know you’re making the perfect software solution selection? Make sure your manufacturing operating system hits these points:

  1. Efficient and effective – not the same thing
  2. Drives ROI – some systems are just too expensive and/or take too long to implement.
  3. Real-time data, immediately available
  4. Intuitive: easy to use, easy to understand, easy to train
  5. Versatile and flexible
  6. Visual – allows everyone to grasp the situation at a glance
  7. Enhances and encourages transparency
  8. Manages all manufacturing processes, beginning to end
  9. Outstanding reporting capabilities
  10. Integrates throughout your business to pull it all together
  11. Provides actionable, accurate decision-making data
  12. Customizable escalation protocols and notification capabilities.

This article originally appeared on Leading2Lean’s websiteLeading2Lean is a CFE Media content partner.


Cara Winther
Author Bio: Cara Winther, customer support manager, Leading2Lean