Doing More with Less in the New Manufacturing Industry
The global economic environment of the 21st century challenges manufacturers to devise strategies that add maximum value while simultaneously mitigating expenditure. In fact, the economic reality of today’s manufacturing industry mandates that enterprises learn to be more productive with fewer resources available to achieve business goals. Lean manufacturing principles, which seek to eliminate all forms of wasted resources, give enterprises a philosophical framework from which to reinvent manufacturing processes. Leveraging IT resources to match the lean manufacturing school of thought is critical for discovering opportunities to optimize production in a tepid global economy.
Managing Quality with Fewer Resources
Quality management departments face particularly daunting challenges. Lean manufacturing demands that enterprises eliminate activities that do not add value to production processes. Extending this idea into the sphere of quality management, enterprises must be able to deploy the right set of IT tools to allow for continuous improvement in concert with business processes. Lean principles go beyond the idea of merely slashing departmental budgets; they serve as a strategy for manufacturers to stay proactive in the face of market pressures to lower total cost of quality. Production must increase to stay competitive, and quality must rise. The challenges facing quality departments now exceed the scope of traditional Six Sigma techniques.
Functioning in the New Economy
The hundred-years-old wisdom of top-down quality management is less easily applied in a post-recession economy. Managing quality in such a top-down fashion has created silos of production that have developed disparate documentation and even intra-departmental practices. The amount of time wasted on communication among departments that each have a stake in total quality is immeasurable. The internal bureaucracies of enterprises are now an impediment to quality management, particularly when speaking of multi-national manufacturers. Fast, real-time communication must be the goal of manufacturing in search of a competitive edge, but such IT agility should not come at the expense of quality.
Changes in Quality Management Software
To provide enterprises with value-added, actionable data, quality management software continues to evolve in tandem with lean manufacturing principles. Enterprises can now downsize, or eliminate altogether, entire middle-management verticals by leveraging IT resources. In previous decades, the work of collecting and distributing data to the appropriate decision-makers consumed a large amount of resources, impeding a manufacturer’s ability to respond dynamically to quality issues. Today’s quality management software now fills this void by serving as a cross-functional platform to place powerful IT resources in the most optimal spheres. Production and business processes, traditionally disparate systems, now fit almost seamlessly into today’s integrated quality management software.
Approving Software and Support Expenditures
Deploying an automated, fully integrated quality management system benefits the entire enterprise. Customization initiatives remain one of the most cumbersome aspects of new software deployments. Choosing a highly configurable out-of-the-box quality management software solution can eliminate the wasteful, never-ending process of altering code to fit business practices. Quality departments that deploy powerful analytics tools can provide business decision-makers with real-time data directly from the shop floor, allowing enterprises to respond faster than in the pre-recession era. Further, the rise of data mining as business intelligence presents a unique opportunity for manufacturers to discover new strategies to perform better with fewer resources.
Lean principles give manufacturers a new framework from which to develop creative quality management solutions. Gaining maximum value from IT allows manufacturers to eliminate waste in concert with maximizing the ROI of new quality management solutions.
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