Today’s modern manufacturing company faces many challenges, including environmental concerns, rising costs, and a generational skill gap in the workforce. These complicated issues require manufacturing environments to adapt if they wish to remain competitive. The good news is that technology is advancing at an accelerated rate, and it allows companies to address heightened demands more effectively.
Business process automation, in particular, is driving significant value in the manufacturing industry – enabling companies to manage complex workflows, routine tasks, and work at scale with the same or fewer resources. In using technology, better known as business process management software (BPMS), many benefits can be realized. These range from cost savings to improved health and safety to easier regulatory compliance.
The State of Modern Manufacturing
We are in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0, also referred to as Manufacturing 4.0). The definitive marks of this period are rapid changes to technology, shifts in societal patterns, and new approaches to getting things done. This is leading to greater connectivity and smart automation, impacting every corner of the manufacturing industry.
There is an increased need for well-trained and technically skilled workers who can manage and repair the complex machinery found in a modern factory and for knowledge workers who can take a broad strategic view of how to improve every facet of a production environment. What it means to be a manufacturing employee has completely changed over the last several years from workers who endure repetitive tasks on a shop floor to skilled engineers who have become innovators, stewards of machinery/equipment and strategic thinkers focused on process improvement. The mundane tasks of production are moving away in favor of new technology and innovative advances.
For that reason, manufacturing employees are continually upskilling and being trained on how to work with new kinds of equipment and processes that can accommodate new technology. This translates to more meaningful work and greater job satisfaction than experienced by workers of the past.
Safety and health benefits of automation
Smart machinery is an asset to factory workers as well as plant operators. In some cases, it literally lifts the burden from employees working on the production lines. They no longer need to physically lift heavy loads, and minimizing the risk of employee injury is far easier than it was in the past. As noted by OSHA – about 36% of all work-related injuries are shoulder or back trauma caused by heavy lifting. Smart equipment can effectively bring those percentages down.
Additionally, repetitive strain/stress injuries (RSI) were first spotted in the 1700s among industrial workers., Considering that about 2 million US workers currently suffer from RSI every year, automation is a huge step in the right direction, cutting down on liabilities for the factory and creating a better quality of life for workers.
Beyond the benefits that equipment automation is delivering on the “shop floor,” Work 4.0, as part of Industry 4.0, is ushering in technology and software that is driving significant value in the front and back-office operations of manufacturing. It’s no longer necessary to isolate automation benefits to equipment. Process and workflows throughout an entire manufacturing company can now be automated allowing organizations to connect disparate systems, drive down costs, create competitive advantage and do more with less.
The Future of Manufacturing
Digital factories are not just the future. They are here and the trend toward automation throughout an entire organization is going to continue, building on the processes and technology we’re already seeing emerge in our day-to-day lives as consumers, including:
- Artificial intelligence (AI)
- Digital Twin Technology
- Internet of Things (IoT) Software
By connecting every corner of a manufacturing environment, managers will be able to access the data they need to optimize even further. With the help of things like machine learning, plant managers can run diagnostics on their machinery to be proactive about upcoming repair needs, reducing downtime and increasing productivity. In using other kinds of software, such as those that automate work at scale across the entire enterprise, transparency and auditability improve as will a company’s ability to be more agile and manage risk more effectively.
Sustainability is also on everyone’s radar. The focus will continue to be on reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from factories, along with diverting waste away from landfills. The emphasis on making a better world will result in more responsible and sustainable manufacturing practices in the future. Workflow automation is evolving in this area and is also playing a more critical role here – where tracking, monitoring and managing exceptions can be done with ease. There is also greater peace of mind and an ability to manage risks and regulatory requirements overall more effectively.
Regardless of the use case or area of the business that is being improved, digitally automating is no longer an option, it is an imperative.
What is Digital Process Automation?
Digital process automation (DPA) describes the use of technology to automate and repeatedly complete complex business tasks or activities. It is often used when speaking about process improvement or Business Process Management (BPM). It is important to note that technology related to BPM can specifically address graphical representation of processes otherwise known as Business Process Management Notation (BPMN). Whereas Business Process Management Software (BPMS) or Business Process Automation (BPA) is sometimes used more interchangeably with DPA.
DPA is sometimes conflated with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as well, but while they both refer to automation, they function differently.
RPA is technology that allows highly repetitive and non-variable human or machine tasks/activities to be emulated and executed through software and related systems. Robotic Process Automation is used to perform work where human intervention is not a significant requirement.
Business process automation on the other hand is geared towards managing complex workflows and processes where collaboration and cross-enterprise inputs and outputs can be automated but where human interaction at certain stages is required. This is the case in many company environments especially those that operate in highly regulated industries. Interpretation, anticipation, and critical thinking come into play and BPM technology allows for greater flexibility and adaptability than RPA can offer at this time. Human-driven decisions is core to BPM technology tools, whereas RPA applies more effectively to rote activities.
Will process automation replace jobs?
Some believe that utilizing automation to perform repetitive tasks once given to manufacturing employees will result in a decrease of employment, but that is simply not true. There is a shortage of labor in many areas of industry to include manufacturing. According to a study conducted by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, the skills gap that continues to emerge may mean that 2.1M jobs could go unfilled by 2030 in the U.S. alone. Though factory jobs are being redefined, they are not going away.
In fact, there are three categories in which manufacturing jobs are expanding rapidly. The three categories are:
- Tech and engineering automation specialists
- IT solution architects
- Data scientists
Each one of these categories will be vital in bringing the manufacturing industry into the future of Industry 4.0.
The skills and qualifications required of manufacturing roles will change, but the need for them will not go away – if anything, the demand will only continue to increase.
How Does BPMS or Digital Automation Help Manufacturing?
Manufacturing companies face many global and economic challenges that make it difficult to reduce costs. With the help of technologies such as BPMS, you should see improvements in the following areas of management:
- Automate critical business processes to drive productivity, efficiency, and greater ROI for the organization.
- Create and collaborate with a central repository of knowledge and intellectual assets to reduce human error and build stronger execution models across the organization.
- Enforce business rules and quality standards consistently and without time consuming human oversight yet with the flexibility to modify and adapt as needed.
- Streamline operations and improve productivity for distributed teams using mobile functionality or workstations on a shop floor.
Supply Chain Management
- Gain full visibility on processes and workflows in real-time anywhere in the operation.
- Reduce complexity with a single, simple-to-use BPMS platform for task and workflow management.
- Automate critical workflows and operational processes, minimizing human error and improving continuity and performance.
- Change processes on the fly using adaptive technology, while providing alerts and notifications to potential bottlenecks before they occur.
- Scale millions of activities and tasks, multiple processes and workflows and create full globalization functionality.
Product Lifecycle Management
- Reduce time to market through automated workflows and processes.
- Converge knowledge in a central repository accessible by anyone you authorize, whether internal or external to the operation or business.
- Collaborate across all operations and locations wherever they are, with optimal interoperability leveraging people, assets, and processes.
- Speed up productivity with fully automated processes, compliance, and reporting.
- Reduce costs by quickly deploying business applications and processes without the need for the IT department or specialist coding or development skills.
Sales and Order Management
- Gain full visibility on your data through one repository of all your information and data from across your operation.
- Simplify and accelerate order entry with fully customizable forms and business apps you can design on-the-fly for use by staff, partners, and customers.
- Enhance team collaboration through enterprise task management and communication, resource utilization and workload visualization, as well as full visibility on where an order is in the process and who needs to execute it.
- Build full reporting capability using automated distributable reports that are fully customizable. Enable reports to only allow access to data and information by authorized recipients – at the individual level.
- Secure customer information and sensitive financial data with a highly secure platform providing a non-repudiable compliance log and audit trail of all activity (ISO, ITIL, NIST 800-53, SOX and SSAE-18 compliant).
BPMS tools, such as HighGear, will increase efficiencies across your entire manufacturing operation, improve Quality Control and standards compliance, reduce complexity and lower costs. The power of process improvement can be fully realized in any process-driven area of your manufacturing operation, including (but not limited to):
- Change Management
- Contractor Management
- Engineering Change Requests
- Quality Control
- Estimating and Quoting
- First Call to First Article
- Six Sigma Compliance
- Outsourcing – Including Offshore and Onshore BPOs
- Freight Requests and Shipping
- Research & Development (R&D)
- Innovation Management
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Warranty Management
- Inventory Control
How Do BPMS Tools Create Value for Manufacturing?
Business process management software allows manufacturers to optimize their work at scale, resulting in more efficient operations with the help of automation. BPMS can be useful throughout an entire organization including these key areas:
- Sales Process Management
- Customer, Vendor, Employee Onboarding
- Management Innovation and Lifecycle Management
- Supply Chain Management
- Operations and Production Management
BPM also enables companies to enjoy more efficiency and compliance in their finance and administration departments.
What Are the Benefits of BPMS for Manufacturing?
Using BPMS platforms like HighGear results in process, operational, and business excellence throughout the manufacturing industry. Some of the benefits for manufacturing facilities utilizing BPMS include:
- Shortened supply chain management cycles
- Increased efficiency
- Decreased costs
- Greater operational control
- Resolved complexities
- Improved quality of customer support
- Better compliance
- Overcoming integration challenges
- Stronger governance and quality control
The manufacturing industry is evolving as we step toward the future. With a greater focus on technology, automation, and connectivity, factory work has become more engaging and safer than ever before, resulting in greater business stability and performance for manufacturers.
Through better business process management – using enterprise-grade automation tools – organizations can increase efficiency, decrease costs, and resolve complexities within their infrastructure. Aside from these significant benefits, the ability to stay in compliance and readily address regulatory requirements is much easier and more predictable. It is important to note, not all solutions or technology applications are designed to serve complex use cases or even those in highly regulated industries.
Be sure to reach out to us should you like to learn more about how an enterprise-grade, no-code, configurable workflow automation platform can help. Build a customized solution in days instead of months. Contact HighGear.