Release your inner geek

Unless you are paying close attention to the actual statistics, it is possible to believe that manufacturing in the U.S. is in decline and that manufacturing professionals should start looking elsewhere for employment. The actual numbers show something different, however: U.S. manufacturing output is increasing at almost 3% per year and producing over 20% of the world's manufactured products, d...

11/01/2008


Unless you are paying close attention to the actual statistics, it is possible to believe that manufacturing in the U.S. is in decline and that manufacturing professionals should start looking elsewhere for employment. The actual numbers show something different, however: U.S. manufacturing output is increasing at almost 3% per year and producing over 20% of the world's manufactured products, despite decreases in the percent of the workforce involved in manufacturing.

In addition, while manufacturing employment has dropped from 40% of the workforce in the 1950s to about 10% today — and is trending toward 3-5% of the workforce in the future — the biggest limiting factor to increasing manufacturing output is the lack of skilled workers.

Skilled workers are required in today's manufacturing environment because the decade-long growth in manufacturing productivity is due to investments in continuous improvement projects. Most companies have lean manufacturing initiatives and manufacturing supply chain improvement projects, and the source of ideas for these improvement projects is the skilled workforce.

Six Sigma improvements

Improvement projects often follow the DMAIC process, which is a Six Sigma methodology for improving an existing or established process. The process seeks to identify and remove the causes of defects and errors in manufacturing or business processes through five steps: define goals, measure the current process and collect relevant data, analyze the data, improve the process, and control the process.

Measuring the process, collecting information, and analyzing the data are all supported by IT. IT tools and applications provide invaluable support for DMAIC processes, and today's skilled manufacturing workers must be IT-knowledgeable—and this includes hourly workers, salaried workers, and management.

Manufacturing IT personnel can help improvement projects by releasing their inner geek. This means using their knowledge of IT to find places to eliminate wasted time and effort. This can be as simple as eliminating duplicate entry of data by setting up automated copy procedures, removing the time to search for paper documents by scanning them onto a file server, or combining multiple applications into a single server to reduce backup and security procedures.

General improvement projects look for unneeded inventory, wasted motion, quality defects, unneeded changeovers, and unneeded transportation of materials, equipment, or personnel. Manufacturing IT improvement projects should look for unneeded data (data collected but never used), wasted duplicate entry of data, quality defects in manual entry of data, unneeded configuration changes and system shutdowns, and unneeded transportation of information (through emails or reports).

Engineer some visibility

Manufacturing IT can also provide support for other improvement projects. Most companies have many simultaneous improvement projects and a database of improvement projects can provide visibility into each project's status. The project database can also implement workflow rules through stored SQL procedures that, for example, inform critical personnel when data has been measured or when an expected event has occurred. The results from completed improvement projects can also be stored in a database or a Wiki, providing a knowledge base for other sites within your company and ensuring that a project is not trying to solve a problem that was already solved.

Manufacturing IT can also create a database for improvement ideas. Usually there are more ideas than people to work on them, so it is important to preserve the ideas until resources are available. This could be as simple as an electronic suggestion box or as sophisticated as a Wiki that allows everyone to contribute to idea creation and refinement.

Releasing your inner geek means being creative in the application of IT technology. Anyplace where manufacturing personnel are wasting time searching for information or transcribing information is an opportunity to apply creative IT solutions to manufacturing problems.


Author Information
Dennis Brandl is president of BR&L Consulting in Cary, NC, dbrandl@brlconsulting.com .




Engineers' Choice Awards
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers. Vote now (if qualified)!
System Integrator Giants
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
How to Maximize Factory Automation Efficiency with Low Cost Machine Vision
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Wireless Reliability in Harsh Environments
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
Human Factors and the Impact on Plant Safety
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
April 2018
Cybersecurity best practices, artificial intelligence, robotic additive manufacturing, embedded systems, IIoT integration, energy efficiency
March 2018
Digitalization integration, process sensors, edge computing, fog computing, condition monitoring, and motors
February 2018
DCS visibility, alarm management, motors and drives, robotic machining, Engineers' Choice winners
HMIs
Automation and controls continue to help HMI hardware and software advance. As computing capabilities progress, hardware has become more rugged with less maintenance required, with wider environmental capabilities, and integrated input/output (I/O) connections.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Machine Vision
This article collection contains several articles on how advancements in vision system designs, computing power, algorithms, optics, and communications are making machine vision more cost effective than ever before.
SIDB

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
December 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
John O. Ayuk, PE, CFSE, PMP, CAP
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
Doug Baker
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Engineers' Choice Awards
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers. Vote now (if qualified)!
System Integrator Giants
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
How to Maximize Factory Automation Efficiency with Low Cost Machine Vision
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Wireless Reliability in Harsh Environments
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
Human Factors and the Impact on Plant Safety
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
April 2018
Cybersecurity best practices, artificial intelligence, robotic additive manufacturing, embedded systems, IIoT integration, energy efficiency
March 2018
Digitalization integration, process sensors, edge computing, fog computing, condition monitoring, and motors
February 2018
DCS visibility, alarm management, motors and drives, robotic machining, Engineers' Choice winners
HMIs
Automation and controls continue to help HMI hardware and software advance. As computing capabilities progress, hardware has become more rugged with less maintenance required, with wider environmental capabilities, and integrated input/output (I/O) connections.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Machine Vision
This article collection contains several articles on how advancements in vision system designs, computing power, algorithms, optics, and communications are making machine vision more cost effective than ever before.
SIDB

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
December 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
John O. Ayuk, PE, CFSE, PMP, CAP
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
Doug Baker
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Engineers' Choice Awards
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers. Vote now (if qualified)!
System Integrator Giants
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
How to Maximize Factory Automation Efficiency with Low Cost Machine Vision
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Wireless Reliability in Harsh Environments
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
Human Factors and the Impact on Plant Safety
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
April 2018
Cybersecurity best practices, artificial intelligence, robotic additive manufacturing, embedded systems, IIoT integration, energy efficiency
March 2018
Digitalization integration, process sensors, edge computing, fog computing, condition monitoring, and motors
February 2018
DCS visibility, alarm management, motors and drives, robotic machining, Engineers' Choice winners
HMIs
Automation and controls continue to help HMI hardware and software advance. As computing capabilities progress, hardware has become more rugged with less maintenance required, with wider environmental capabilities, and integrated input/output (I/O) connections.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Machine Vision
This article collection contains several articles on how advancements in vision system designs, computing power, algorithms, optics, and communications are making machine vision more cost effective than ever before.
SIDB

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
December 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
John O. Ayuk, PE, CFSE, PMP, CAP
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
Doug Baker
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me