Manufacturing in the United States in the 21st century continues to evolve and grow through the use of new technology, smart processes, and automated scheduling. From implementing mobile solutions that dramatically speed up processes and increase inventory accuracy to innovative applications of artificial intelligence in the industry, technology is driving the evolution of manufacturing. Yet the false beliefs that manufacturing is an old school industry continue to dominate public perceptions.
Let’s take a look at five common misconceptions about manufacturing and why they aren’t accurate.
1: FASTER IS ALWAYS BETTER
Actually…it’s not. Quality has always been the deciding factor in the success of a manufacturing operation. Quality control and analysis of processes are two major factors in building successful manufacturing enterprises. From revamping shop floor process to investing in new tools and hosting staff training, the commitment to quality extends way beyond just the quality control officer. Manufacturing leaders and managers generally consider maintaining quality standards as a top priority.
Changing old habits that don’t work with newer, more efficient standards is a major challenge across the manufacturing sector and a common topic discussed in manufacturing forums. Quality assurance needs to be comprehensive and occurring at all points of manufacturing. Education and training help keep standards cohesive, show an investment by management into maintaining a certain level of quality, and empowers employees to be part of the change process. The idea that the industry is solely focused on making everything faster without a keen eye on quality is a major misconception.
2: EXPERTISE DOESN’T MATTER
Manufacturing has become extremely specialized. Labor costs enforce this reality, as skilled labor is expensive and needs to be used wisely. Expertise is valued and cultivated across many manufacturing companies through education and training. Education should be promoted with encouragement to get certified on new machinery and learn new processes. Supporting skills expansion is just as vital, and management needs to be constantly adapting so the company culture changes to keep up with market conditions. Listening to suggestions and hearing team feedback fuels the culture of continuous improvement that manufacturing companies need to embrace to stay relevant.
3: ALL JOBS WILL EVENTUALLY BE DONE BY ROBOTS
It is true that robots have been used in manufacturing for more than a decade and continue to advance in technology and capabilities, but they are far from replacing the human workforce. Task performing robots, while becoming more common in the manufacturing sector, still need to be monitored and programmed using complex algorithms and smart technology. These models, unlike robots used in the automotive industry, are not powered by artificial intelligence and cannot sync up as a group to collaborate on processes. A future where responsive robots have completely changed the manufacturing sector is a long way off.
4: LOWEST COST POSSIBLE IS ALWAYS BETTER
Everyone wants lower prices, but quality is important too and manufacturing weighs the cost of materials and labor costs to determine job costing. New solutions make labor production estimating more accurate and save time. One such innovation, BLE technology, pinpoints the location of a product making the back and forth from the workstation and shelved processes a thing of the past.
Quality control has always been a central focus in manufacturing and that extends to materials used in manufacturing to processes and final product. To say the lowest cost is the goal is false. Manufacturing has always focused on producing a functional product first and then examined the cost structure required to build the product second.
5: MAINTENANCE MEANS DOWNTIME, SO IT’S NOT A PRIORITY
The advent of automation has played a central role in planning and scheduling machinery maintenance to minimize downtime. Such “smart manufacturing” integrates maintenance and downtime into dynamic planning to keep manufacturing processes moving, allowing companies to optimize their output while keeping costs down and quality consistent.
Manufacturing project prioritization has to be based on accurate, real-time data in order to be effective. Prioritizing projects takes into consideration supply chain status, cash management, defect identification, and mature products. But measuring all of those factors at once means having accurate data is critical.
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