I had the pleasure of sitting down with Richard Moroski, vice president and chief operating officer for Americas for Schenck Process, who shared his experience on leveraging tech as an offensive move, allowing you to switch your gameplay from reactive to proactive, mitigate risks and improve service levels while increasing efficiencies.
"I was fortunate enough to participate in a session where Michael Porter from Harvard, one of the foremost strategists in the country, discussed how digital is still the key differential advantage for the US and how we must continue our pursuit of digital transformation.
"What everybody has to understand about the digital journey is that you're not buying a refrigerator. You don't just plug it in, set the temperature and expect to be good to go. To achieve a digital transformation, you need to understand your processes, understand your data. There's a lot of prep work that has to go in place before you start on your digital journey, and then it becomes incremental.
"For Schenck, that journey begins with our engineering team, from drawings to standardisation of documentation parameters and controlling of master data." Although implementation may not be as simple as plug and play, in hearing Moroski speak, it's apparent the benefits outweigh the initial workload.
When it comes to change management, most especially when handling critical documents such as product design drawings and specifications, ensuring accurate working documents is imperative to mitigating risks. A simple misreading of a handwritten document, for example, can be a costly error.
Digitisation allows all relevant parties, including external partners, to have access to a single source of truth at any given time, lessening the chance of quality issues and mitigating the risks and associated high costs that stem from inaccurate data and cumbersome workflows.
"When it comes to manufacturing, streamlined approval workflows and having a single digital thread that's accurate and reliable reduces lead times, can decrease costs and results in a better quality product," says Moroski. Why is this single source of truth so critical? Moroski explains, "Because as you're building or preparing to build a product, customers can change their requirements on the fly and want to change the specifications"
Managing these changes through a manually paper-based system is a slow and arduous process that is highly susceptible to errors and has inherent risk as production, or other stages of the manufacturing process may be happening simultaneously. This can lead to waste and inefficiencies.
"If product configuration changes midway through production, we've wasted materials, machine time and labour. The supply chain could also have materials in the funnel that's affected, or we could have inventory on our floor, either in raw materials, work in progress, or finished goods. There are very high costs associated with the mismanagement of rev level changes, and its something manufacturers struggle with. Digitisation in this area brings massive advantages that can heavily impact the organisation’s outcomes."
"It's easier said than done, but leadership has to be able to foresee what's going to happen. They asked Frank Reich, the head coach for the Indianapolis Colts, what the most important attribute of an elite quarterback in the NFL is and the terminology he used was accelerated vision. They can see the patterns evolving. They can see the adjustments, they can see what's going on in the field, and they can see it as or before it's happening. And they can respond at a moment's notice.
"I transfer that same philosophy to leadership and agility. It’s important to see patterns evolve with market conditions and learn to anticipate what's going to happen. It allows you to begin planning your moves, find your funding and plan your resources. It's the difference between being proactive rather than reactive, and it can be a huge competitive advantage.” As they say, the best defence is a good offence.
However, when it comes to manufacturing, proactive gameplay is also about mitigating risks and detecting possible part failures or machine issues as quickly as possible, preferably before they impact your efficiencies or affect your customers. Key parameters can be ongoingly monitored and fed to maintenance engineers or quality leads digitally, removing the need for them to be on-site and allowing for faster dispositions and response times.
"When you think about it from a customer service viewpoint, you want to provide your customer with a system that enables their business to not only run but run better by being ahead of any issues. And I think that's where the IoT solution comes into play. It's one thing to provide a good high-quality product to your customers and competitive pricing, that's all-important, but today, you have to extend yourself beyond just those things.
"Everybody brings good equipment and good solutions. How could I make that equipment functioning in a way where it gives our customers an advantage for how they compete in the market? I think that's critical.
"You want to help them avoid downtime and maintain production flow. This, to me, is an opportunity to leverage predictive analytics in order to remain in front of a situation. You can also provide your customer feedback on how their operation is running. Are they hitting their production rates? Is there a quality issue? Generating key data points can make your operation run more efficiently. That can be a huge competitive advantage and make for a valuable market differentiator."
AI is another technology that can bring massive benefits, says Moroski. "Why? Because with AI, the robot is self-teaching. Let's use welding as an example. Our application with Path Robotics is a welding application. How did we justify that? First of all, welders within the United States will become the number one skill shortage within the next two years. So that means if you are in a fabrication industry and require welding as a skill set, you may likely be facing a human resource shortage. AI and robotics can help dampen the potential impacts of that.
"We have just kicked off the beginning of our journey with Path Robotics and will be bringing in their robots this year. We're very interested in seeing the results. We’ve received tremendous support and collaboration from Joe Onderko, Vice President of Business Development and Marketing, as well as their CEO Andrew Lonsberry, and
I fully expect we will see what I call a step level change in productivity. There have always been robots within manufacturing, but an AI robot is the cutting edge of technology.
"That ability to mimic what a person's doing through repetitive trials and improve through feedback and correction allows us to teach the robot how to weld as a human would. It will learn the path of welds, know how much heat is required, etc. We'll also be able to equip the robot with visual capabilities, so it will be able to inspect its own welding. The potential added benefits AI brings are astounding."
"They open up a whole different world, one where you can take work cells and convert them over into robotics, and you can now mitigate all the things that were a challenge over the last year. They don't need to wear face masks. They're not going to need a temperature check. They run as long as we feed them the right data and the information.
"For Schenck, there are two critical partners who have helped us kick off our transformation journey, Path Robotics and PTC," Moroski says. "Together, they encapsulate the entire business, giving us the bookends we need to be successful."
"We've been working closely with Kevin Williams, VP of Global CAD Sales for PTC, and he's been invaluable to helping us on this journey. We first started with bringing in Windchill as our product lifecycle management system (PLM). Windchill collects all of our engineering and technical data, creating a central repository and providing us with that critical single source of truth.
"In addition to that, we're also now using Creo, their 3D product design software, allowing us to pull away from disparate systems and standardize how we design.”
When it comes to ensuring effective partnerships, Moroski says supplier relationships are about open collaborations and transparency. "It's important to be transparent about what your issues are, what you're trying to solve and be open-minded to the technology that they're offering. We understand that they've done this and are leaders in their fields, and so, we value their opinion and listen to what they have to say and appreciate their guidance. Conversely, they are also very interested in what we have to say and what we're trying to solve. So for me, we could not be teamed with two better partners."
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