Smart Manufacturing: 5 Technologies to Leverage   

The demands on modern manufacturers continue to grow.

Changing demands from eCommerce, labor shortages and smaller warehouse spaces mean it is crucial for manufacturers to optimize their operations.

That’s where smart manufacturing comes in.

Smart manufacturing uses automated tools or machinery to improve manufacturing processes, inventory management and employee tasks. And it continues to gain popularity, helping facilities across the world.

Smart warehousing can improve the efficiency of several areas in the manufacturing ecosystem, including:

  • Decreasing labor costs
  • Reducing picking and shipping errors
  • Minimizing the likelihood of employee accidents
  • Improving inventory stock levels
  • Boosting operational efficiency
  • Gathering robust data and analytics

But when transitioning to smart manufacturing, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Dalmec Smart Manufacturing Five Technologies to Leverage

More than 75% of businesses will have implemented smart manufacturing technology by the end of 2022

Let’s take a closer look at five of the top technologies you can leverage as you upgrade your facilities.

Picking Technology

Dalmec Smart Manufacturing Tips Picking Process

Smart manufacturing is intended to boost your employees’ efficiency and productivity. That starts with ensuring the inner workings of your facilities are running smoothly. What technology can you add to improve your picking process?  

Tech wearables can be a game-changer for warehouse picking processes. You can quickly simplify your employees’ process by giving them headsets with voice-activated technology. With these, they can receive picking instructions via an automated voice, which means they won’t have to circle back or refer to written instructions.  

Wearable technology like this can also give leadership teams insight on an employee’s steps and path for picking items, helping them find the source of potential bottlenecks and boost productivity. 

Handheld scanners can help employees ensure they are picking the right items for their order, reducing the possibility of missing or wrong items for the customer. 

Light-directed technology aids warehouse employees in identifying where items are located quickly. This has proven especially helpful for warehouses with smaller products. 

Instead of labels or barcodes, manufacturing plants are placing radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on materials as soon as they enter the facility. RFID tags are ideal for tracking materials through each stage of the manufacturing process.  

Warehouse Management Systems

Dalmec Smart Manufacturing Tips Warehouse Management System

We know that paper processes used to be the industry standard. But if you continue using outdated methods, you will fall behind your competition. Your smart manufacturing should include investing in a quality warehouse management system (WMS).  

A WMS consists of software, hardware and processes that allow warehouses to manage operations from the time materials arrive until they are shipped out. Centralizing the information makes tracking inventory, pulling goods and shipping products more efficient. 

But with so many WMS options on the market, it can be difficult to choose the right one for your business. Here are seven important questions to ask when speaking to WMS vendors: 

  1. What’s the user experience like?

Change is hard, and employees are often wary of switching out old protocols (even if they’re no longer effective). It’s going to be easier to introduce them to a new system if the platform is user-friendly, intuitive and most of all, easy to implement. If not, your team will spend more time learning how to use it than using it, which wastes time and money. 

  1. Does this WMS fit my budget (and what’s my ROI)?

As you’re researching potential WMS options, keep an eye on the pricing structures and how they compare to your budget. A quality WMS will be an investment, but a worthwhile one.  

Create a list of features you’re looking for in a WMS. This will help when considering pricing. It’s not financially savvy to pay for features your facility won’t need. For example, if you don’t need contact management capabilities, there’s no reason to pay for that additional feature.  

Taking this measure will help you get a greater ROI on your new system.  

  1. Can you help my picking and packing process?

Picking and packing are crucial parts of the production process. Ask your WMS vendor – How is your new WMS going to help? Can this WMS print out packing slips for your pickers, making retrieval and packing easier? Put together picking lists with multiple types of products? Track progress within orders? 

If your WMS can’t adapt to your picking process and keep track of when orders are received, picked, packed and shipped, it won’t be of much use to you. 

  1. What’s the inventory process?

If your inventory tracking is off, that will soon turn into a disaster for your production process. Excess inventory wastes warehouse space and eventually will affect your overall cash flow. On the other hand, if you’re running low on products, you’ll inevitably experience delays, leading to angry customers. Make sure your WMS can track your warehouse’s inventory accurately and send real-time updates to your team. 

  1. Do you have expertise in our industry?

Warehouse management systems aren’t one size fits all, and some might work better than others for certain niches. For example, a system that works well for automotive manufacturing might not be as helpful for a foundry. Talk to your WMS vendors about which industries are best suited for their WMS. 

  1. What are your software’s reporting capabilities?

One of the benefits of having a centralized platform for your warehouse is having access to comprehensive reporting capabilities. Warehouse reports and analytics can give you a closer look at your wins, areas for improvement and your facility’s overall productivity. 

  1. Can you grow as my business does?

If your business grows, your WMS should be able to scale with you. Ensure that you’re investing in a system that can handle adding multiple branches and expanding inventory.

Enterprise Resource Planning

Dalmec Smart Manufacturing Tips Enterprise Resource Planning

WMS platforms work within the picking, packing, shipping and receiving process to ensure your facility is running smoothly. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, however, can help manufacturers boost business efficiency overall.  

ERP is a management software designed to heighten your facility’s efficiency. It centralizes the information required to create a bill of materials for each project, route and pick materials for assembly, produce work orders and monitor quality assurance. 

ERP software can support and optimize many aspects of manufacturing: 

  1. Bill of Materials Features

The Bill of Materials (BOM) is the series of steps required to successfully manufacture a product. This includes raw materials, assembly instructions and quantities needed for each component. A manufacturing-specific ERP software with a BOM feature keeps track of your budget, inventory management and overall warehouse productivity. 

  1. Route Tracking

Route tracking follows a product’s progress and the steps needed to assemble or ship out an order. 

For example, an ERP system can help you organize a picking process route that tracks the following: 

  • Where each part is located 
  • How many items are currently in stock 
  • Who is responsible for picking and packing the items 
  1. Work Order and MPS Creation

A customized ERP system can build individual work orders for each of your departments and floor teams. Ideally, they can also create and organize master production schedules with other facilities and manufacturers.

  1. Product Life Management

Product Life Management (PLM) is a way to manage the entire lifecycle of a single item – from product design to assembly to shipping and delivery.  

  1. Quality Assurance

When it comes to the quality assurance of your facility’s products, you can never be too careful or thorough. ERP software is intended to track quality assurance checks on products as they move through your facility, reducing product damage. You can also program your ERP software to trigger automated audits and checks of new products or materials entering your warehouse.

Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS)

Dalmec Smart Manufacturing Tips Real Time Location

Supply chain delays and issues present significant problems for warehouses. So, the more visibility manufacturers have over the process, the better. That’s how real-time location systems (RTLS) can help. 

RTLS gives manufacturers the ability to keep track of products and other assets through every stage of the supply chain process. This includes where the product is, what stage of the process it’s in and its current condition. This system gives manufacturers more control and allows them to make better decisions about their inventory and production process. Plus, it helps them manage customer expectations and provide more accurate product updates and delivery information. 

Industrial Manipulators

Dalmec Smart Manufacturing Tips Industrial Manipulator

Smart manufacturing includes all kinds of technology that can future-proof your facility and optimize your warehouses. This includes reliable, high-caliber material handlers.  

Material handlers like industrial manipulators can be customized. This means that these machines – tailored to specific needs and manufacturing methods – will be relevant and valuable for manufacturers longer, saving money and continuing to streamline efficiency. 

Industrial manipulators increase productivity and lower injury risks, helping your company strive toward optimization. These handlers are ideal for instances when: 

  • A product is too heavy for a person to move manually. 
  • A product must be moved to a  location that’s difficult to access  (like a very high shelf). 
  • A person will be put at risk for injury if they move a product manually. There is a risk of injury if a person moves the product manually 
  • A person moving products manually will easily become fatigued 
  • A large volume of products must be moved quickly 

Don’t forget – industrial manipulators can be customized for your needs. If you’re finding out-of-the-box handlers aren’t useful for your facilities, a custom solution may be the answer.  

At Dalmec, we’re passionate about working with you to build a lift-assist device that fulfills all your needs. Our team of experts takes every aspect of your facility and process into consideration, including factors like: 

  • Your warehouse’s dimensions, including ceiling restrictions 
  • The size, breadth, shape and weight of your products 
  • The type of tooling you need (For example, vacuum lift, grip, magnets, etc.) 
  • Your reach requirements (The distance from your point of pick to the point of placement) 
  • Your vertical travel requirements (The distance vertically from your point of pick to the point of placement) 

With high-quality, durable and customized industrial manipulators, manufacturers can ensure several years of successful material handling going forward. 

Dalmec Smart Warehousing Manufacturing Tips Industrial Manipulator

Ready to Get Started?

Smart warehousing’s purpose is simple – to make your job easier. The technologies it provides are proven to boost your facility’s production, lessen employee burnout, increase safety and save you money in the process.

While exploring smart transition, you may find that industrial manipulators could be a crucial asset in improving your facility’s operations. If you’re ready to discuss which material handling device could be right for you, contact us today.