How to improve operations in the FMCG industry

How can lean production systems in the FMCG industry bridge the gap to the digital age? In this article we describe the main characteristics of an agile production system, the applications of how high volume production can leverage digital solutions and how the implementation of an agile production system improves worker productivity and saves costs.

Lean manufacturing is about elimination of  waste in manufacturing processes. By facilitating lean methods, organizations in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry usually reduce inventory through just in time delivery, improve quality on several stages and shorten downtime with optimized setup changes (SMED) with the ultimate goal to increase customer satisfaction. However, in special times such as now, the requirements for manufacturers are changing. 

The corona pandemic fosters a strong demand after consumer goods, while the challenge of keeping employees safe and  healthy at work is rising. Additionally, factories are coping with disruptions in the supply chain putting pressure on throughput and output targets. The dilemma of ensuring employee safety while increasing operational efficiency is hard to overcome with existing technologies, leading to an adaption and new ways of working in manufacturing. 

What is required? FMCG suppliers need to adapt their production systems to get ready for future-proof operations. Static resource planning and standard operating procedures need to be replaced by dynamic shop floor management tools for faster processes. The ability to react to ad-hoc incidents is a critical factor for successful manufacturing operations. Therefore existing lean production systems have to be transformed into agile production systems. 

The key characteristics of an agile production system in FMCG

For us at WORKERBASE, an agile production system needs to support the following key requirements:

  • Create and set up production processes flexibly: A flexible production system offers the possibility to define, (re-)design and utilize production processes in a matter of minutes. Mobile devices provide a quick to use interface to such processes and enable the acquisition of process data in real-time. With intelligent tools to respond agile to the ups and downs every production facility has. Usually, change requests from standard ERP and MES systems take several weeks. With an agile production system, change requests can be handled without an IT department in a couple of minutes.
  • Regular improvement with real-time data: real-time process data is used for fast improvement cycles. Data analytics is the basis for predictive analytics operations and enables organizations to react to incidents before they happen. By using  smart devices, employees are able to collect all sorts of production data directly from the shop floor. Management gains complete transparency about the status of production. In addition smart devices can be connected to existing machine infrastructure, to receive notifications about events in real-time to reduce reaction times of operators which directly impacts OEE.
  • How to deploy employees effectively: skill-based coordination of work makes it possible to assign the right task to the right people at the right time. This ensures that only the best-qualified people are working on available and prioritized tasks. In addition, operators can pull training sessions on-demand, which enables companies to upskill employees while operations are running. This increases overall productivity and flexibility and leads to a more resilient production setup as companies can distribute crucial skills among your workforce.

4 applications of a lean manufacturing system in FMCG

Companies in the FMCG sector can use an agile production system to improve their operational processes to build a more resilient production environment. Application examples include:

  • Machine alerts: Operators get notifications about machine downtimes on their mobile devices in real-time. As a result, machine interruptions can be reduced to a minimum. This is especially relevant in case of multi-machine operation or machines with bad visibility.
  • Machine change-over: With step-by-step instructions on the mobile devices, efficient machine change-oves routines can be implemented. Colleagues can work on tasks in parallel, thus reducing the change over time and replacing paper and Excel-based instructions.
  • Quality assurance: with step-by-step standard operating procedures you ensure that your operators are following the best practices on the shop floor to prevent costly mistakes. Quality checks are documented on the go and do not require additional paperwork.
  • Safety checklists: operators receive safety checklists on their smartphone to avoid safety incidents. In times of major disruptions such as now, you can implement safer work checklists in minutes to keep pace with changing requirements, e.g. enforced cleaning instructions or checklists to implement physical distancing.

Generating benefits on multiple levels

All application examples can be implemented in a short time with the WORKERBASE agile production system and add value on multiple levels:

The individual operator gets real-time notifications and personalized step-by-step instructions on his smart device. Thus reaction times are reduced, resulting in better individual performance. In addition, operators are empowered to solve potential problems in innovative ways. With mobile training-on-the-job workflows, employees can self-train for new skills on-the-job which results in higher motivation.

Teams benefit from easier know-how sharing. The automatic and flexible coordination of tasks enables larger and more diverse teams. 

For the organization, an agile production system results in increased factory output, better workforce utilization, operational flexibility, reduced production costs and increased customer satisfaction. Factories can produce more with reduced costs:

  • Reduced lot sizes, change over and waiting times and improved OEE results in increased factory output 
  • Skill-based work coordination results in better workforce utilization 
  • Reduced WIP and inventory lowers production costs
  • Improved quality and schedule adherence increases customer satisfaction 

Proven approach to implement an agile production system 

The WORKERBASE agile production system provides mobile workflows on smartwatches, tablets, and smartphones to create easy-to-use user interfaces for industrial workers. Existing IT applications can be connected through standard interfaces. A workflow management software automatically manages all workflow steps. This includes business rules that assign tasks to workers based on availability, location, skillsets or output of other process steps.

The implementation of a WORKERBASE solution usually involves four steps:

  • Select template: A library of proven app templates, e.g. for machine interruptions, machine setup, support call, material management etc. provides an easy starting point.
  • Create apps: Apps can be built and modified without programming using a web-browser. 
  • Execute workflows: Notify operators about tasks. Collect data from manual work processes and display work instructions on smart devices. 
  • Manage work in real-time: Assign tasks to the right person, at the right time with the right context information. Analyze data and dynamically improve processes with process mining for FMCG production.

Have we sparked your interest?

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