Tag Archives: Automation

 

In today’s competitive business landscape, keeping labor costs under control is a constant concern. However, this pursuit of cost-efficiency must never come at the expense of safety. Here’s how businesses can strike a balance between these two priorities.

Standardization and Management

Standardized labor processes are the cornerstone of a safe and productive work environment. By establishing clear, well-documented procedures for each task, companies minimize confusion and errors, while also ensuring consistent quality. This translates to increased efficiency, reduced rework, and ultimately, lower labor costs.

Complementing standardized processes with a robust training program further strengthens this foundation. Comprehensive training, encompassing both initial onboarding and ongoing professional development, equips employees with the skills and knowledge necessary to perform their duties safely and effectively. This not only reduces the risk of accidents, but also empowers employees to identify and address potential issues before they escalate into costly problems.

Labor costs can be further optimized by taking a strategic approach to staff management. Reviewing staff schedules regularly and adjusting them based on actual workload can prevent unnecessary overtime and ensure employees are not overscheduled. Additionally, exploring options for part-time positions or flexible work arrangements can contribute to optimizing labor costs.

Technology and Lean Practices

Investing in automation technology can be a strategic move towards reducing labor costs while maintaining safety. Automated equipment can handle repetitive or hazardous tasks, freeing up employees to focus on more complex activities. This not only improves overall productivity but also reduces the risk of workplace injuries associated with repetitive motions or exposure to dangerous materials.

Lean manufacturing principles, which emphasize eliminating waste and maximizing value, can also offer significant cost savings. By taking a critical look at existing workflows and identifying areas for improvement, companies can reduce wasted time and resources, leading to a leaner, more efficient operation.

Choosing the Right Tools

The right tools for the job are not just essential for efficiency, but also for safety. For instance, opting for quality-assured scaffolding components like a ringlock modular system, compared to a cuplock system, can significantly impact labor costs in the long run. Ringlock systems generally require less assembly time, facilitating faster project completion and reducing labor hours. Furthermore, their robust design often translates to fewer repairs and maintenance needs, further reducing overall costs.

Implementing advanced software programs can also significantly improve various aspects of business operations, ultimately impacting labor costs. Digital tools can optimize scheduling processes, enhance production visibility, improve communication among teams, and streamline training programs.

The infographic below delves deeper into each of these strategies, providing a comprehensive roadmap to reducing labor costs while prioritizing safety. Remember, a safe and well-trained workforce is a productive one. By implementing these strategies and fostering a culture of safety and efficiency, businesses can create a win-win situation for both employees and the company’s bottom line.

Back to top ↑

 

Warehouse operations are critical to any manufacturing business. From holding inventory to delivering items, the process must be as swift and efficient as possible. Earlier practices such as document management and communication have been a significant step, but growth and progression in the supply chain call for more.

The rise of the Internet has been a key event in improving warehouse operations. As technology progresses, there are even more ways to optimize the supply chain, and ensure every item or employee is included.

The Need to Streamline Warehouse Operations

Warehouse operations offer many opportunities for error while meeting tight deadlines. Brand owners must recognize these areas for improvement and see what can be done to reduce mistakes. Streamlining translates to more accurate and faster processing, which equates to higher customer satisfaction.

Warehouse operational efficiency also translates to long-term time and cost savings. Next-gen technology can streamline warehouse operations using fewer minutes and dollars resulting in increased productivity.

Remember to include workers when integrating these new electronics. Forty-two percent of workers fear job loss from automation and new technologies. However, the reality is humans are responsible for tool management and strategy execution. Train them to work with these items rather than against them.

Vital Next-Gen Technologies in the Warehouse

Some facilities may incorporate multiple next-gen technologies, while others only incorporate one. The most important factor is to assess what works best for a specific set of operations and makes sense investment-wise.

Automation and Robotics

Certain warehouse operations are rather repetitive. It can be the same cycle of picking out a product, packing it, adding a shipping label and sending it off. Automating these processes with robots can take care of these mundane tasks, shifting focus to more pressing concerns in the facility.

Smaller establishments can still find ways to introduce automation. For example, installations like conveyor belts move items along the facility. Automated labeling machines can transfer the necessary information.

Certain equipment can also improve staff safety. For example, about 70 worker fatalities occurred in forklift-related accidents across different sectors. Self-operating forklifts simplify warehouse transportation and prevent hazardous contact.

Blockchain Technologies

Blockchain technology is a key database streamlining data storage and information sharing. Warehouse management entails plenty of information about product quantity and delivery. Many parties — like suppliers, manufacturers and distributors — are involved.

The blockchain ensures information is accessible and interconnected. What’s ideal about this next-gen ledger tech is it keeps data under wraps. Each block is secure in nature because it requires verification and permission.

Thus, blockchain technology is ideal for various financial transactions. If a distributor pays a manufacturer for production, they should process the transaction through this network. It has a suitable layer of encryption while executing those actions.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a flexible alternative to blockchain technology. By employing this network, a warehouse can generate connections between products and machines through sensors and software. If one product is removed, the system will detect it and send an update.

The IoT enables warehouses to receive real-time data about the movement of their shipments. This cuts down the slower steps in inventory management and prompts communication between devices so all parties in the supply chain can stay up to date.

It is possible to fuse both next-gen technologies in warehouse operations. The blockchain establishes trust, while the IoT improves connectivity, refining the process of sharing information among multiple parties.

Artificial Intelligence

Multiple industries are utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) in business processes. While most people find its use helpful in customer service, 40% of business owners use AI for inventory management and 30% for supply chain operations. Warehouses can use their programs to collect and organize data in the long run.

AI can also generate different presentations and reports based on the data it receives. Manufacturers with multiple facilities can upload their information and send a prompt to receive specific information about their inner workings.

AI can also provide business recommendations on streamlining operations with predictive analytics. However, these programs’ output depends on the data set given, and there are limits to the predictions they can make depending on the amount of variation.

The next best thing to do with this output is to conduct a comprehensive data analysis. Use the information to set metrics for evaluation in the future. If one area is faltering, make actionable decisions to influence processing in the facility.

Cybersecurity

As effective as next-gen technologies in warehousing are, new problems arise. The Identity Theft Resource Center found supply chain attacks impacted more than 10 million people in 2022. Each facility and its streamlined performance are vulnerable to these cyber threats.

Focus on preventive measures to maintain the order of operations. Investing in a firewall adds a layer of protection to warehouse information. Add intrusion detection systems to alert business owners of any breaches.

Physical security installments can also protect warehouses. For example, surveillance cameras log who accesses company computers during and outside active hours. Biometric technology is also a good touch for tracking and access control.

Optimize Warehouse Operations with Digitalization

Speed and effectiveness are crucial in warehouses. Next-gen technologies have made great strides in equipping facilities with these attributes, so take advantage of them to strengthen operations.

*This article is written by Jack Shaw. Jack is a seasoned automotive industry writer with over six years of experience. As the senior writer for Modded, he combines his passion for vehicles, manufacturing and technology with his expertise to deliver engaging content that resonates with enthusiasts worldwide.

Back to top ↑

 

Automobiles are becoming smarter thanks to advancing technologies and manufacturing practices. Nowadays, vehicles can communicate with each other, people and networks to increase safety due to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). What if cars on the road could communicate with everything? This technology is in the works through vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication. Here’s a guide on V2X, its benefits and what it means for auto manufacturing.

The Role of V2X Communication

Automotive communication systems date back nearly half a century as manufacturers started designing systems to let vehicles communicate with each other in the 1970s — a concept known as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V). V2V is still evolving, with Volvo and FedEx experimenting with automated platooning in Europe and pairing groups of trucks to follow each other on the highway.

Other types of vehicular communication include:

V2N will be critical as researchers continue improving 5G. With this system, cars will send information across networks through LTE and 5G. Experts say about 90% of American mobile connections by 2030 will be through 5G.

V2X in Auto Manufacturing

V2X is a critical technology because it combines all types of vehicular communication into one system. With this advanced mechanism, cars will be more intelligent than ever and could establish themselves as better drivers than humans. Auto manufacturers are trying to accomplish this feat with self-driving vehicles, but the industry hasn’t reached fully autonomous operations yet.

Improving V2X is essential in the race for self-driving vehicles, as this technology lets cars see and understand the world around them. An autonomous car or truck must be able to react quickly to traffic jams, emergency vehicles passing, animals crossing the road and other sudden events. Vehicles could work together and make the streets safer, thus creating a safer environment for autonomous machines.

V2X Applications

V2X offers opportunities to integrate all these technologies into one machine. This vehicular communication system exists in limited numbers currently but could soon make its way into more automobiles.

More recently, Toyota successfully tested its V2X technology in collaboration with Orange. The automaker equipped a vehicle with V2X capabilities and credited 5G and edge computing for its test track accomplishments. V2X technology warned drivers of emergency vehicles, helped them avoid collisions and accurately positioned the car.

What Are the Manufacturing Implications of V2X Communication?

V2X presents an incredible opportunity in the automotive industry to make cars smarter. What does this technology mean for manufacturing? Here are four implications to see as this concept evolves into the mainstream.

Advancing Technologies

Incorporating V2X in all auto manufacturing would make car assembly more advanced due to the AI and ML necessary for building. While some vehicles are simplistic with minimal technology features, these machines require onboard units and other devices to meet V2X’s needs. This change will require employees to understand the technology and how to include it inside the vehicles.

Standardization Needs

Automakers use vehicular communication technology like V2V, but these concepts only work with machines from the same manufacturer. For V2X’s success, auto manufacturers must standardize this technology so cars can connect seamlessly despite the logo on the front. Collaboration must also include semi-chip manufacturers, software developers and other professionals involved in advanced automotive technology.

Cybersecurity Risks

Integrating technology comes with cybersecurity risks, so automakers must ensure their V2X technology has robust security features to protect drivers. Otherwise, operators risk crashes, theft and other unwanted outcomes. One way to safeguard V2X-integrated vehicles is implementing security requirements with third parties to minimize the risk of data breaches.

Supply Chain Visibility

V2X technology can help auto manufacturers with their supply chain visibility — a critical component considering the modern economic climate. With advanced communication devices, automakers can help fleet owners with logistics management and increase transparency with suppliers. For instance, V2X’s enhanced route optimization can reduce lead time for parts, making manufacturing more efficient.

What Advantages Does V2X Communication Bring?

V2X communication is beneficial because it lets the auto industry take another step toward autonomous vehicles. What other advantages does this sector reap? Here are a few positive takeaways from V2X technology.

Driver Safety

With V2X communication, car operators can feel safer on the road. Vehicles communicate with each other to know when hazards lie ahead on the road or changing weather conditions. This benefit is even more pronounced with long-haul trucks, considering their role on America’s highways.

V2X technology in semi-trucks would let logistics professionals use autonomous trucks and reduce accidents and losses. Experts say driverless trucks perform up to 30% better than those with operators, so V2X would go a long way in promoting safety.

Environmental Benefits

Advancing vehicular communication technology also benefits the environment by cutting emissions. The transportation sector is responsible for 29% of all emissions, so reducing this output is essential. V2X can help the environment by mitigating traffic congestion, thus reducing idle time and wasted fuel in cars.

Smart City Integration

Rising urban populations mean cities will need to manage their energy grids better. V2X technology lets vehicles communicate charging needs and reduce strain on the grid. For instance, EVs could select optimal charging times — such as off-peak hours — to help the city’s energy grid and optimize efficiency.

Using V2X Communication for an Autonomous Future

Research on autonomous vehicles has surged as automakers race to be the first to debut fully self-driving cars. Reaching this level of driverless operations requires V2X devices that combine the best aspects of vehicular communication technology. These advanced mechanisms have implications for manufacturers and benefits for drivers, so the future has a lot of potential for this corner of the automotive industry.

This article is written by Jack Shaw. Jack is a seasoned automotive industry writer with over six years of experience. As the senior writer for Modded, he combines his passion for vehicles, manufacturing and technology with his expertise to deliver engaging content that resonates with enthusiasts worldwide.

Auto Parts Supplier Revs Up Its Production Process {case study}

Back to top ↑

 

Since the industrial revolution, every technological advancement has been viewed through the lens of its effect on jobs. Will I be obsolete? Can a machine do my job better than I can? Are the bots coming for me? If my skills are rendered obsolete, what will I do?

The plain truth is, sometimes machines can do the job better, faster or more efficiently than a human can. Think of the advent of the sewing machine. Even your grandmother’s old Singer model is a whole lot faster, more precise and efficient than she is working with a needle and thread. The art and craft of sewing isn’t lost or obsolete, but for sheer volume and exact replication, you can’t beat the machines.

What’s happening now with artificial intelligence (AI) in manufacturing is a little bit like that. People on all levels of the manufacturing chain want to know if AI is taking over.

The answer is no. Don’t think of it as a takeover. Think of it as more of a transformation. It’s already happening, and it’s not all bad.

AI’s current impact on manufacturing

Artificial intelligence is seeping into the manufacturing workplace in a couple of important ways.

Automation: Much like the sewing machine and indeed all of the industrial revolution, AI has the power to automate repetitive tasks previously done by humans. Operating machinery, tasks on the assembly line, even inspecting products for defects – all of these things are increasingly being automated.

Efficiency: AI can help us optimize processes and procedures, leading to greater efficiency on the line and as a whole.

New job creation. Yes, you read that right. Whereas AI may reduce the amount of jobs focused on repetitive tasks, it is also creating jobs that we haven’t seen before in the manufacturing realm, including specialized programmers, engineers, and technicians. It means companies will need people with different skill sets, and the savvy employers will dig in and train the people they already have to take on these new roles.

Predictive analytics

At USC Consulting Group, we’ve already been using AI with some of our manufacturing clients, specifically in the area of predictive analytics. We spell it all out in our eBook, “AI and Machine Learning: Predicting the Future Through Data Analytics,” but here is the gist of it in a nutshell.

By now, we all know what AI is — computer systems that perform intelligent tasks, like reasoning, learning, problem solving, decision making, and natural language processing, among others.

Machine learning is a subset of AI. It is, technically, a set of algorithms that can learn from data. Instead of having to be programmed, the computer learns on its own based on data.

Predictive analytics is one output of machine learning. It is the ability to forecast future outcomes based on data. It’s like having a crystal ball that’s informed by vast amounts of complex algorithms and data.

You’re already familiar with predictive analytics but may not know it. You know how Amazon suggests an item for you to buy based on past purchases, or Netflix queues up new shows based on what you’ve already watched? That’s predictive analytics in action.

Much like Netflix’s use of predictive analytics created a seismic shift in consumer expectations, this technology also has the potential to transform operating procedures and processes for many industries.

The benefits of using AI in predictive analytics are many, including:

Bottom line: AI needs us

AI is a powerful tool we’ve used at USCCG to help our clients achieve greater efficiency, productivity, and profits.

But here’s the thing about that. It’s a tool. And it’s only as good as the data we supply. Any variation, and there can be skewed results.

As we all know, life is not a data set. Variation is happening all around us, all the time, even in projects where we need great precision.

That’s why the bots are never going to replace humans. They need us as much as we need them. At USCCG, we have more than 50 years of experience making process improvements, finding hidden opportunities for efficiency, creating leaner systems and helping companies thrive. For the next 50, AI will be one tool we use to help achieve that.

Read more about this innovative technology, including a specific case study about how AI works in practice, in our eBook, “AI and Machine Learning: Predicting the Future Through Data Analytics.”

AI and Machine Learning - Predicting the Future Through Data Analytics eBook

Back to top ↑

 

The automotive industry is driving automation by having the largest number of robots working in factories around the world — operational stock hit a new record of about one million units, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). With the prevalence of automation rising in the automotive industry, the benefits associated with its use in manufacturing cannot be understated. With advantages that work to bring productivity and efficiency all around, advancements in technology such as the integration of artificial intelligence underline the many innovative applications to come.

Exploring the current advantages of automation

“The automotive industry effectively invented automated manufacturing,” notes Marina Bill, the President of the IFR. “Today, robots are playing a vital role in enabling this industry’s transition from combustion engines to electric power. Robotic automation helps car manufacturers manage the wholesale changes to long-established manufacturing methods and technologies.” The IFR goes on to highlight the recent density of robots in the automotive industry — in the Republic of Korea, 2,867 industrial robots per 10,000 employees were in operation in 2021, while Germany had 1,500 units followed by the United States with 1,457 units.

Automation plays a variety of roles in automotive manufacturing, including taking on tasks such as screw driving, windshield installation, and wheel mounting. Automate highlights one example of a valuable role that automation plays in the manufacturing process, via an automated vehicle floor plug insertion system developed by FANUC for General Motors. As a result, the system effectively helps relieve workers from “the ergonomic strain of the manual process and improves production time.” Apart from assembly, Robotics and Automation News notes additional uses for automation in manufacturing include car painting, welding, polishing and material removal, and quality inspection. Regarding the benefits, automation in automotive manufacturing is known to have a wide variety of advantages that heighten productivity in immense ways — including lowering costs, improving accuracy and safety, and amping up efficiency.

Increasing automation highlights a productive future

According to CBT News, automakers are “likely to introduce more robots and other forms of automation over time.” Currently, CBT notes that many robots on production lines are called ‘cobots,’ as they work alongside workers in order to complete tasks that are physically demanding or more challenging to do — Ford, for example, has “at least 100 of these cobots across two dozen of their plants around the world.” Automakers are already planning for increased automation in the future in order to achieve various goals. Tesla is a pioneer regarding factory automation and robots; Elon Musk, for example, has said that introducing more automated equipment at Tesla as part of a goal to cut the costs of making future models by 50%, according to CBT News.

To further underline the presence of automation in auto manufacturing, a 2021 article from The Korea Economic Daily Global Edition highlights the use of robots and artificial intelligence (AI) by Kia Corp., South Korea’s second-largest automaker. According to the article, the company had released a video “showing a highly automated production line of the all-electric mid-size crossover utility vehicle (CUV) at a smart factory powered by artificial intelligence and robot technology.” Crossovers have risen in popularity in the US, with the vehicle featuring an SUV-style body based on a car (rather than a truck platform), therefore using unit-body construction. Today’s crossovers offer a variety of features, with top-rated crossovers offering those such as a spacious interior and a smooth engine.

Innovation foreshadows advancements to come

In addition to simply expanding automation efforts throughout auto manufacturing, ‘smart manufacturing’ employs technology in addition to automation. Also called Industry 4.0, RT Insights notes that data-driven decision-making and predictive maintenance are just the beginning of the advantages associated with smart manufacturing, with benefits extending to areas such as energy efficiency and supply chain optimization. “The resulting factors of having a smart manufacturing set-up are efficiency, production optimization, trackability, quick turnaround during downtime, safer working conditions, and responsible manufacturing,” notes Mobility Outlook.

AI and machine learning (ML) are both components that are driving the future of smart manufacturing, with Mobility Outlook explaining that AI systems analyze data sets and historical records of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. As a result, AI can identify patterns and trends which would otherwise go unnoticed by workers. ML algorithms, on the other hand, can “learn from data, make predictions, and make suggestions to improve manufacturing processes.” Predictive maintenance can also make a major difference in the future of automotive manufacturing, with the analysis of data allowing for minimized repair costs and proactive maintenance. Furthermore, Mobility Outlook highlights the value of quality control systems powered by AI — with this technology, defects can be detected in real-time, allowing for waste reduction and improved product quality across the board.

Automation brings a variety of benefits to automotive manufacturing. While automakers are already making use of the technology, technological advancements like AI are driving the future of ‘smart manufacturing,’ effectively foreshadowing a range of advantages to come.

*This article is written by Lottie Westfield. Lottie spent more than a decade working in quality management in the automotive sector before taking a step back to start a family. She has since reconnected with her first love of writing and enjoys contributing to a range of publications, both print and online.

Back to top ↑

 

Mining companies know all too well how expensive and dangerous the industry can be, and the demand for safer and more efficient training and procedures is increasing year on year.

The good news is that technology is keeping up with this demand and mining companies are starting to welcome and integrate innovative tech into their procedures.

From virtual reality training sessions to 3D mapping and printing, mining technology is helping streamline complex processes and tasks while reducing safety risks and costs.

In this article, we’re going to look at 7 mining technology innovations that are driving the mining industry forward and the benefits they bring.

1. Mining Drones

Drones have been around for the best part of a decade now and have become popular pieces of mining technology to access hard-to-reach areas and sites.

Drones are transforming the way operators map and survey mining sites. Surveying and mapping sites on foot are often expensive and time-consuming, but drones can relay geophysical imagery and data to surveyors quickly and efficiently without putting anyone’s safety at risk.

Another obvious benefit of drones is the time saved surveying sites and carrying out inspections. Operators are able to use drones to conduct visual inspections of sites and equipment as well as provide surveying and mapping data.

Companies like Exyn Technologies use drones to map out a 3-dimensional landscape of underground mines without compromising employee safety. These drones deliver hyper-accurate, survey-grade 3D maps in real-time. Plus, they’re able to navigate mines with little to no light with ease.

To learn more about Exyn technology and how it compares to more traditional methods, check out our study of Mining’s Top Innovations.

2. Virtual Reality

One of the best implementations of VR in the mining industry is how it’s being used to train employees. Mining companies can now use VR to provide immersive and realistic training simulations to allow employees to practice and navigate complex tasks in a safe and controlled environment.

VR also allows miners to virtually explore mining sites without needing to physically be there. Again, this negates the safety issues concerning visiting dangerous mining sites, but also saves money on travel expenses and transporting cumbersome equipment around the world.

Employees can practice using hyper-realistic machinery through VR, allowing them to experience operating heavy and often complex machinery off-site. This means trainees can learn and make mistakes on the job without severe consequences.

3. 3D Printing

3D printing looks to have a bright future in the mining industry. The ability to print and replicate complex and often expensive mining equipment can save companies a small fortune.

For example, if a piece of equipment becomes damaged during use, companies can use 3D printing to replace this equipment quickly and with incredible accuracy. Sourcing mining equipment is often costly and can take time to deliver specific equipment to mining sites. With 3D printing, both of these issues are negated.

While 3D printing is seeing a steady introduction to the mining industry, the potential it brings could be game-changing. Being able to instantly find, print and install specific tools or parts onsite to damaged machinery can reduce lead times and negate the need to transport expensive equipment to remote sites.

Plus, you don’t need a warehouse to store these parts – as every part can be stored digitally!

4. 3D Mapping

3D mapping is a form of mining technology that provides extremely accurate and detailed digital representations of mining sites.

For example, 3D mapping tools can highlight and pinpoint important areas for excavation, without wasting time and valuable resources. Additionally, it isn’t limited to just mining sites – 3D mapping can also be used to map quarries, waste deposits and transportation routes.

According to the statistics, the global 3D market is expected to grow from $3.8 billion in 2020 to $7.6 billion by 2025.

5. Artificial Intelligence

It would be an understatement to say that AI dominated the technology headlines of 2023. The introduction of ChatGPT, Midjourney and BingChat had (and continues to have) a massive impact on operational processes in almost every industry.

In the mining industry, AI is leveraging smart data and machine learning. Not only does this mean safer training and better mining processes, but it cuts the time to perform these tasks in half. This enables onsite engineers to make decisions faster and with more accuracy.

For example, AI is helping mining companies locate and extract valuable minerals with precision. Additionally, through advanced algorithms and data analysis, AI systems can identify optimal mining sites, predict potential resource deposits, and even guide exploration efforts with exceptional efficiency.

We’re already seeing how AI mining technology is aiding autonomous equipment like self-driving vehicles for tunneling excursions and optimizing drilling systems, and we’ll likely see more processes utilizing AI going into the future.

6. Automation

Automation is becoming increasingly popular in the mining world. Truckless conveyor-belt ore transport systems, subterranean electric vehicles and drones are some of the core automation shifts we’re seeing.

One of the biggest benefits of automation is that it allows mining companies to work around the clock without having to be physically present. By automating processes like ore delivery and transport, site monitoring and drilling and ventilation systems, miners do not have to jeopardize their health and safety by venturing into mines and handling hazardous materials and minerals.

Instead, miners can be trained on how to operate heavy machinery remotely from a control center above ground, providing a safer and more comfortable working environment.

Yes, time and resources will need to be invested in training miners on how to use this mining technology. However, the benefits far outweigh the cons. Miners face fewer health and safety risks, speed and efficiency will likely increase and in the long term the industry will experience significant cost savings.

7. Digital Twinning

Digital twinning allows mining companies to create a digital replica of their entire mining ecosystem. This includes mining equipment, geological formations and other relevant objects or assets.

By integrating data from sensors, IoT devices, and other sources, digital twinning provides a dynamic and detailed simulation that mirrors the physical reality of the mining site.

The main aim of digital twinning in the mining industry is to improve decision-making and operational efficiency. Digital twinning also allows miners to simulate various conditions and assess the impact of different variables on operations. This approach means fewer safety risks for employees.

Digital twinning is changing how mining companies do things. It lets them make a digital copy of their entire mining setup, including their equipment, geology, and processes, in an instance.

In essence, digital twinning is making mining operations more efficient, sustainable, and competitive.

Conclusion

The mining industry has been calling out for more innovative and efficient ways to streamline their processes and improve the safety conditions of their employees.

The mining technology at their disposal today is revolutionizing traditional mining processes and more companies will inevitably invest in this new technology.

Improved productivity, enhanced safety and substantial cost savings are just a few of the benefits technology brings to the mining industry. In the next few years, mining companies will need to adopt this technology into their processes to stay competitive and meet the growing demands for sustainability and efficiency.

Embracing these technological advancements is not just a choice; it’s a necessity for the mining industry to thrive in the evolving landscape.

*This article is written by Sophie Bishop. Sophie is an experienced freelance writer with a passion for sharing insights and her experience within the health and safety sector. Sophie aims to spread awareness through her writing around issues to do with healthcare, wellbeing and sustainability within the industry and is looking to connect with an engaged audience. Contact Sophie via her website: https://sophiebishop.uk/.

Back to top ↑

 

If you suspect your employees are burned out, you’re probably onto something. The 2023-2024 Aflac WorkForces Report revealed almost 60% of U.S. workers across all industries are experiencing some level of burnout. That’s a significant jump from 2021 when the number was 52%. And, it’s coming close to the quicksand trap of burnout we saw during the height of the pandemic in 2020… which, as we all know, led to the Great Resignation. Many industries still haven’t recovered from that unprecedented mass exodus of workers.

Here are a few more fast facts about workplace fatigue from the Aflac report:

Admittedly, those numbers seem pretty grim. It’s especially concerning when it comes to employee engagement and retention, which are problems bedeviling many industries right now, including manufacturing, mining, food and beverage and others.

The result of employee burnout and workplace fatigue looks like a laundry list of a manager’s worst day: lagging production, employees just phoning it in, growing malaise and discontent among workers. It can lead to errors, too – potentially serious ones. It all adds up to bad news for your bottom line.

That’s why it’s important for managers and higher ups to take a look at their company — the people on the shop floor, the workers in the mines, the longtime employees on the assembly line, even the white collars in the office, wherever your employees get the job done — through the lens of employee burnout.

What causes employee burnout and what can you do about it?

Causes of employee burnout

When tackling a challenge, it’s always best to look for the root cause. For employee burnout, we’re talking about:

But, it’s not just those types of pressures that contribute to burnout. There’s also:

What executives can do about workplace burnout

There are many fixes for this challenging situation and some of them can be implemented fairly easily. Here are some ways we’ve found to help our clients deal with workplace burnout and reenergize their employees.

Investigate automation… This doesn’t mean investing millions in AI to transform your shop into a bot-dominated sci-fi thriller. It means taking a look at the kinds of repetitive tasks that might be better done by a machine. Automation reduces the need for manual labor, but it also reduces human error and increases consistency and efficiency. Payment and accounting, order processing, and inventory management are some areas to consider automating.

…and train employees for higher-skilled jobs. Yes, some tasks can be done faster and more efficiently by the bots. But the people who previously held those jobs are still valuable to your company. Upskilling those employees has more benefits than letting them go. Training is a magic bullet to increasing job satisfaction and employee retention. It gives people a clear view into a path forward, a sense that you value their contributions and are committed to their growth. Training also has another magic power – it increases overall, on-the-job efficiency.

Give workers more autonomy and voice. At USC Consulting Group, we are famous for encouraging top-level executives to get more familiar with the people who are on the front lines. We can all but guarantee that spending a few hours with the seasoned employees doing those jobs will give you a new perspective. They know how the job can and should get done, and are a wealth of information about ways to improve it. Listening to their ideas and better yet, implementing them, pays off in countless ways. Not only do you get a more efficient and productive line, your employees feel respected, listened to and valued. Now that’s a win-win.

Strive for operational excellence. Operational excellence is your organization running on all cylinders, eliminating bottlenecks, reducing waste and ramping up productivity. You have the right people in the right jobs and are using data and key metrics to “manage by the numbers.” How does this combat employee burnout? Just think about how great it feels at work when everything goes right. When you and your employees are clicking. When you don’t just meet but exceed expectations. That great feeling is called job satisfaction and it’s a powerful antidote for burnout.

Need help handling employee burnout? At USC Consulting Group, we’re here to help companies become more efficient, effective and profitable through process improvements — including implementing strategies to increase employee satisfaction and retention. Give us a call today to find out more.

Contact USC Consulting Group

Back to top ↑

 

Businesses across the nation are adjusting to slimmer profit margins. The Financial Times reports that price spikes, labor shortages, and supply chain struggles are continuing to eat into profits while consumers are spending less in response to inflation.

As a business leader, you can discover new levels of profitability and boost your bottom line by maximizing efficiency in the workplace.

This is particularly important today, as modern workers report that they are only productive for 2 hours 53 minutes per day. As a leader, reclaiming this lost productivity should be your top priority while keeping staff healthy and happy.

Cost Savings

Rising costs will undermine your profits if you fail to adjust. This is true regardless of what stage of business growth you are in today. Even well-established brands can suddenly go bust if they ignore rising costs and become overleveraged with debt.

Continuously re-evaluating your operations will help you discover costly bottlenecks and address fundamental issues. Adopting a process improvement mindset can help you respond to industry changes and remain relevant for consumers. Further cost-saving benefits of process improvement include:

Embracing process improvement can improve your firm’s ability to meet compliance requirements. This is helpful if you plan on growing your business and want to avoid fees and fines due to ineffective compliance protocols.

Employee Wellbeing

Your employees are the backbone of your business. Without them, efficiency would grind to a halt. However, many business leaders overlook employee wellbeing when profitability starts to decline.

If you want to enhance your operational efficiency, then keeping your employees healthy and happy should be a priority. Unhealthy, unhappy staff are extremely expensive, as you will be forced to pay for sick leave and will have to bring on new hires when they leave for greener pastures.

Stress can have a profound impact on employee well-being and health, too. Left untreated, chronic stress can increase the risk of musculoskeletal disorders, hypertension, heart attack, and stroke. Employees who are stressed are also more likely to suffer from oral ailments like gum disease, tooth decay, and cankers. This will sideline your employees and leave you short-staffed when you need employees the most.

Increasing Safety

Nothing will derail your business like an accident at work. In 2021 alone, workplace accidents and injuries cost a total of $167 billion. Injuries and accidents also resulted in 103,000,000 lost days of work, as many employees have to take extended time away after a mishap.

As a business owner, you should explore efficiency upgrades that improve safety. Even simple changes, like reducing workers’ workload, can significantly reduce the risk of accidents. Folks are far less likely to make a misstep when they are not overworked, burnt out, and fatigued by their workload.

You can improve worker safety and increase business efficiency by embracing the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT tech, like electronic logging devices, can improve safety and efficiency by tracking metrics related to employee safety. This is particularly important if you work in high-risk fields like delivery driving. Keep a tab on key data points like speed and braking. This reduces the risk of accidents and helps you retrain certain staff.

Customer Service

In today’s competitive business environment, you need to stand out from the crowd by providing excellent customer service. Effective, efficient customer service can improve brand loyalty, minimize damaging reviews, and convince consumers to make repeat purchases.

A recent survey of 3,200 consumers by Super Office found that 12% of all consumers expect a response time of under 15 minutes, while 46% say they want to hear back within 4 hours. This suggests that efficient, fast responses are key to heightened customer satisfaction.

If you cannot afford to employ a fleet of customer service agents, consider investing in automation software instead. Automated chatbots are capable of answering FAQs quickly and accurately. They can also send pre-generated responses to folks who get in contact during out-of-office hours. This can reassure customers that their query has been seen and that they will get a response soon.

Foregrounding efficiency in your customer service department can reduce the amount you spend on returns, too. US retailers predict that $761 billion of items will be returned every year. This can eat into profits and derail your day-to-day operations. You cannot avoid all returns, but you can mitigate many hasty returns with responsive, positive customer service.

Automation

Automating your business is not just good for customer service. Embracing the future of AI and automation can improve your efficiency and bolster your bottom line. Strategic changes, like automating your customer relationship management (CRM) software, can reduce the amount of time staff spend on menial responsibilities and free up time for creative, profit-boosting tasks.

If you are new to the idea of automation, start with low-hanging fruit like:

As your firm grows, you can explore more complex automation strategies. For example, if you currently run an e-commerce business, you can use automated software to keep stock of your inventory and automatically order new materials when supplies run low. This reduces lead time at your firm and ensures that you are always ready to take on new orders.

Communication

Effective communication keeps internal and external stakeholders happy and can maximize your operational efficiency. This is crucial when trying to boost your profits, as you’ll need buy-in from investors and employees alike.

As a business leader, you can guide your firm to higher levels of profitability and productivity by improving your own communication skills. Ask plenty of questions when conversing with other employees and focus on listening to them without interruption. If you struggle to listen without jumping in, consider taking notes to channel your thoughts and show your staff that you care about their insights.

You should review your communication strategy on an annual basis. This will ensure that your firm is up-to-date with the latest communication tech and can help you identify potential issues in your current strategy. A well-planned communication strategy improves collaboration in your company, too. This reduces the risk of costly oversights and helps you get more out of your most talented employees.

Conclusion

Boosting your bottom line is about more than cutting costs and raising your prices. Spark a period of profitable growth at your firm by embracing an ethos of process improvement. Continuous process improvement also helps you take advantage of breakthroughs in business tech like CRM automation, IoT tracking, and customer service chatbots. In sum, process improvement isn’t just ensuring short-term solutions, it’s ensuring the long-term success of your company.

*This article is written by Ainsley Lawrence. View more of Ainsley’s articles here.

Looking for ways to improve your bottom line

Back to top ↑

 

Manufacturers today deal with greater demands from consumers than ever before. It is vital for manufacturers to deliver on time, every time. Fail to do so and they will lose customers, revenue, and credibility.

Therefore, streamlining operations is essential. This doesn’t mean manufacturers need to invest in expensive equipment or high-performance technology. Often, what needs to change is how people work and the strategies businesses can employ to support this.

Let’s get started.

Why is it so Important to Streamline Manufacturing Operations?

Streamlining manufacturing processes ultimately maximizes a company’s profits and helps them stay competitive. Here are just some of the reasons why it’s so important:

6 Ways Manufacturers Can Streamline Operations

Streamlining operations can feel like an overwhelming task at first. However, with the right strategies in place, it doesn’t take long to improve efficiency and boost productivity. Here are six tips to get you started:

1. Identify Issues in the Production Line

Every manufacturing operation has a bottleneck. This is a stage in the manufacturing process where things slow down or perhaps even stop. Bottlenecks are a nuisance and can lead to severe delays, time and labor inefficiencies, and increased costs. Identifying bottlenecks is essential for optimizing the production line and helping everything run more efficiently.

There are a few ways you can identify issues in your production line. For instance, you should look for signs of the following:

2. Support Faster Payment Processing

As a business owner, you know the importance of faster payment processing. Whether you’re paying your suppliers or your customers are buying your products, faster payment processing keeps everything running smoothly.

The simpler your payment process is, the better so spend time to find the best card reader for your business operation. Streamlining both the supplier and customer experience by offering online payments is a game-changer.

Online payments make it easier for customers to purchase from you, removing delays in the payment process and reducing cash flow issues. This helps streamline operations and keep everything running smoothly.

3. Adopt Lean Manufacturing Methodology

Lean manufacturing methodology focuses on reducing costs by limiting waste and improving manufacturing efficiency. Lean manufacturing is a great methodology to apply to your business if you’re looking to streamline operations.

For lean manufacturing methodology to be effective, all types of waste in the manufacturing process must be identified and then removed. There are four types of waste you should focus on eliminating as a priority. These include:

  1. Unnecessary transportation of materials such as equipment, tools, and employees can be avoided simply by optimizing factory layouts.
  2. Excess inventory. Whether it’s products, materials, or equipment, having excess inventory is a waste as it increases storage costs and slows down processes.
  3. Waiting time: time-wasting is common in manufacturing operations, either due to idle workers or idle machines. It typically occurs when workers can’t work because they’re waiting on materials or equipment. Machines can be idle when waiting on maintenance or replacement. Optimizing manufacturing processes eliminates this time wasting and boosts operational efficiency.
  4. Defective products are a waste that must be reduced as much as possible. For every defective product, you have an unhappy customer. This means returns are made and apologies are required, which increases costs and wastes time.

Reducing unnecessary waste goes a long way towards reducing lead times, boosting customer satisfaction, and improving operational efficiency. It is a process of continuous improvement and manufacturers will find that regular adjustments need to be made as customer demand fluctuates. However, adopting the lean manufacturing approach will go a long way towards streamlining your operations now and in the future.

4. Embrace Automation

Automation (utilizing production management software or robots to operate machinery) reduces the need for manual labor. It avoids human error and allows for consistency across all aspects of your manufacturing process.

Many areas within manufacturing can benefit from automation, most notably: payment and accounting processes, order processing, marketing efforts, and inventory management (to name a few!)

According to Industrial Machinery Digest, “One obvious byproduct of automation is increased productivity […] The market should see more businesses turning to industrial automation on various scales. When this happens, the market will be able to see not only more innovative products produced on a larger and quicker scale, but the quality increasing with production speed.”

Adopting automation as part of your manufacturing process will help streamline your operations like nothing else. It will allow your organization to keep up with customer demands and grow as your business grows.

5. Reduce Downtime (where possible)

As mentioned earlier in this article, many things can cause your processes to bottleneck. One of these is downtime.

Downtime is a significant cause of inefficiency in the manufacturing process. Therefore, finding ways to reduce it can improve efficiency. A few common causes of downtime are:

To improve on these it is important to monitor your production processes closely. This will let you identify and address any issues quickly and efficiently.

6. Train Employees Well

For employees to do a good job and support a streamlined manufacturing process, they need to know what they’re doing and proper training supports this. Proper employee training is a surefire way to improve efficiency, boost company morale, and support business success.

Establishing an effective team through professional training lets employees add real value to your business by preparing them for higher responsibilities, increasing their productivity, strengthening any weaknesses, improving workplace safety, and boosting production overall.

If you want to streamline your manufacturing operations, it is essential that you properly train your employees. This will go a long way towards supporting your business success.

In Summary

We hope the tips shared in this article have highlighted the importance of optimizing your manufacturing processes and how to achieve this! We know that streamlining your operations can feel a little daunting at first (we’ve all been there!) But with the right strategies we know you can transform your manufacturing process and take your business to new heights.

*This article is written by Sophie Bishop. Sophie is an experienced construction writer with a passion for sharing insights and her experience within the health and safety sector. Sophie aims to spread awareness through her writing around issues to do with healthcare, wellbeing and sustainability within the industry and is looking to connect with an engaged audience. Contact Sophie via her website: https://sophiebishop.uk/.

Back to top ↑

 

Remarkable innovations emerge seemingly every day in the world of manufacturing. One area specifically experiencing significant modernizations is in automated and numerical control precision machining. There’s so much progress, in fact, the level of growth in the precision parts and production market is expected to grow at least 12% by 2024.

Below, we’ll briefly go over what precision manufacturing is and how important it has become for manufacturers across the various industries.

What is precision manufacturing? Essentially, it’s an advanced method of industrial manufacturing using processes and techniques designed to produce versatile parts with tight or rigid specifications. It could pertain to a wide range of operations for precision metal cutting and tooling, such as the utilization of metal stamping in tandem with accurate tooling by metal fabricators. The goal is to produce identical high-precision parts and components, often for assembly into a larger product.

Precision manufacturing is important for many types of production, however, this method is particularly attractive to industries with tight tolerance requirements or under strict regulations. Several of the leading industries — which are not only driving the economy, but also generating improvements for our quality of life — would be incapable of meeting rising demands without it. What’s more, manufacturing products with complex geometries and tiny components is often accomplished more cost effectively via precision manufacturing.

Another reason why precision manufacturing has become so meaningful is its ability to generate output quickly and consistently. A consistent quality is essential for countless parts, components, and products on the market. If there are flaws in the part or product’s design, it leads to wasted materials, higher costs, and increased time to market. Precision manufacturing approaches — such as CNC precision machining — avoid these shortcomings by using automation and computer programming to create products with exact specifications.

It isn’t only the manufacturers who stand to benefit from precision in automation and manufacturing, but also it’s those receiving the products. For instance, within the medical device industry, product accuracy and reliability are paramount. Whether it’s endoscopies, respirators, or PPE, these incredibly important life-saving pieces of equipment could make all the difference in a patient’s outcome or caregiver’s safety. Because of that, product precision is key.

These are only a few of the reasons why precision manufacturing is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after advancements in industrial manufacturing. For further information on the capabilities, benefits, and importance of precision in automation and manufacturing, please see the accompanying resource.

Precision in Automation from American Tool and Die, a cnc machining service

 

Have questions about how to improve your manufacturing operations? Contact us today.

Back to top ↑