Visibility – what do manufacturers see in it?

In a recent survey by ARC Advisory Group, nearly three-quarters of manufacturers said that visibility throughout the manufacturing process was a key reason to buy a collaborative production management (CPM) system

ARC Advisory Group

In a recent survey*, nearly three-quarters of manufacturers said that visibility throughout the manufacturing process was a key reason to buy a collaborative production management (CPM) system. Visibility was the most important benefit these companies were looking for in their manufacturing and across the whole enterprise.

But what exactly do they mean by visibility?

Before answering that, it is worth noting that the manufacturers consulted in the survey were existing users of, or were planning to acquire, a production management software application. The questions put to these companies aimed to help them identify the functionality they were looking for from their existing or future production management systems.

One aspect of visibility that was identified is real-time decision support, so any software bought to improve visibility would have to provide this. Similarly, the ideal system should produce aggregate data from ERP, CPM, or automation systems. And finally, true visibility in manufacturing would require a system that ensured access to information (from other systems) that would never be more than 10 minutes old.

We can ascertain from this that visibility for these companies simply means being able to see what is going on, either on the shopfloor or in the stockroom, and that this visibility has to be in real time for it to be worth anything. Users of manufacturing systems have learnt – often the hard way – that they have to have bang up-to-date knowledge of inventory and work-in-progress (WIP) levels, while at the same time knowing which customer orders are ‘live’.

Clearly, since cost efficiency is paramount, every manufacturing company should be looking to improve its management of WIP, especially if there are a large number of processes involved. Real time information from a CPM system would not only allow the company to reduce its stock levels but would also enable it to manage smaller lot sizes effectively.

The survey highlighted several key objectives that manufacturing companies should strive to achieve. They included:

  • incorporating visibility into new ERP, CPM and automation systems and upgrades
  • designing systems with data transfer and information display of 10 minutes or below
  • getting data directly from the source application, not replicated in an intermediate database

It is vital that companies can react at lightning speed to changes in demand or capacity – a sudden major order or an unexpected machinery or vehicle breakdown can have disastrous consequences if they can’t adapt immediately. The ProMark solution from Mark Information makes this – and more – possible and is regularly the system of choice for companies that need to monitor, adjust and optimise mission-critical business processes constantly and in real time. For companies that already have ERP systems, ProMark can offer them capabilities of data handling that would otherwise simply not be available.

Now we know what manufacturers mean by visibility and now they know how it can be delivered. Now we can all see.

* What do Visibility and Quality mean?, Ralph Rio, ARC Advisory Group 2006.