How a Digital Workflow Fits within Manufacturing Processes

June 12, 2023
Connected frontline workers using workflow software provide an end-to-end event-based management process to reduce errors and maximize efficiency.

If you want to optimize the use of machinery, materials and labor and ensure orders are completed on time and to standard, then a digital workflow is a great step towards creating a smarter manufacturing facility.

When used alongside a digital scheduling system—which helps manage variability and quickly respond to demand changes or other factors that affect production—operators can execute a scheduled order and manage the quality and material handling processes while capturing this information.

What is workflow?

Workflow is an agreed-upon list of tasks required to be completed per order, per shift, or per day. In a digital manufacturing system, workflow is a digitalized step-by-step guide for tasks that will occur during production, accessible via tablet mobile, or other handheld devices used on the factory floor.

A digital workflow enables connected frontline workforces to follow the agreed workflow consistently, while responding to events and status changes in real-time.

Following is a rundown of a typical manufacturing industry workflow in action:

1. Order ready. This step ensures all required activities for production are complete with a pre-start check sheet. Within TilliT’s Digital Work Order Management software, for example, initiating the production process can be done when the supervisor responsible for the line selects the first scheduled order and presses “ready,” triggering a digital form to pop up and guide operators through pre-start checks. This is a clear list of steps to be completed before a line is ready for production, verifying that equipment is in good working condition and confirming availability of necessary materials.

Submitting the form is a digital signature that drives accountability and enables tracking within the organization. Once submitted, the next step in the pre-start check is generated. When the pre-start check is complete, the digital manufacturing system knows that the order is ready to start.

2. Order starts. When the operator starts the order, all quality processes are activated. Some of these checks are configured to run on a schedule, such as every 30 minutes from the start of the order, while others are triggered based on a specific product count.

As each quality check is triggered, an activity is displayed to the operator instructing them what needs to be done. Throughout the entire production run, the digital manufacturing system acts as a co-pilot for the operator on the shop floor.

As the order is being executed, IIoT sensors (installed as part of the digital manufacturing system) continuously gather data from the machines in real-time. This data includes speed and running states, allowing for a constant view of the efficiency of the production line. If a machine stops for longer than a specified limit, an activity is displayed to the operator alongside the quality checks.

This activity prompts the operator to provide a reason for downtime, helping to identify and address issues that may be affecting the performance of the line. By providing real-time visibility into the production process (equipment, material and process), the digital operations system helps the operators optimize efficiency and reduce waste. It makes it easy to see how saving 10-15 minutes repeatedly throughout a production schedule can significantly improve efficiency.

3. Order completed. When the last production task is signed off, the order is deemed complete and the workflow prompts the next phase of process execution. Managers can check the history of the order to validate there are no non-conformances. In the TilliT software, managers see a timeline view of production that shows events from both equipment and operators in a singular audit thread.

Throughout the order's progress to completion, management can assess whether key performance indicators have been met, including overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and process adherence.

Once the order is complete, it’s time to get ready for the next order, which might require a changeover or setup processes that need to be run as their own workflow task.

4. Order reporting and analysis. Following the day’s production, managers want to generate a report of everything related to an order, from quality checks to asset performance and events—per order, per shift or per day.

Ingesting information from the equipment on the shop floor (through sensors) and people (through workflow), managers can produce a summary that combines every influencing factor on order performance. In the TilliT software, data is visualized to highlight trends and out-of-control variables.

The connected frontline worker

A digital manufacturing system is beneficial for any factory—large or small—even on just one or two lines. However, it is most effective when integrated throughout an entire production environment.

Connected frontline workers enabled by a digital manufacturing system's workflow provide an end-to-end event-based management process in your factory to reduce errors and maximize human efficiency, ensuring critical tasks across every order are completed.

Rafael Amaral is the chief technology officer at TilliT, providing an integrated way to plan, execute and analyze manufacturing processes through an innovative, no-code, digital factory platform. For more information about TilliT, contact the team. TilliT is a SAGE Group company. SAGE is a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about SAGE Group, visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.

About the Author

Rafael Amaral | Chief Technical Officer, TilliT

Rafael has been helping manufacturing businesses worldwide to increase their operational efficiency, service level, and quality for more than 18 years.

As Chief Technical Officer for TilliT, he leads a team of software and systems developers to enable industrial digital transformations across several verticals.

Through his work with manufacturing clients, Rafael has seen how many businesses are still managing their supply chain and execution processes with basic spreadsheets and paperwork. Knowing that moving to a digital solution nowadays is not as complicated and expensive as people may think motivates him to see the potential of helping businesses improve and thrive.

This led Raf towards developing alternative approaches to traditional complicated supply management systems, convoluted MES platforms, and machine oriented OEE software.

Since launching TilliT, a cloud-based digital operations platform, Rafael has worked with world-leading manufacturers to gather important data, improve their throughput rate, and have confidence in the quality of their output.

Sponsored Recommendations

Measurement instrumentation for improving hydrogen storage and transport

Hydrogen provides a decarbonization opportunity. Learn more about maximizing the potential of hydrogen.

Learn About: Micro Motion™ 4700 Config I/O Coriolis Transmitter

An Advanced Transmitter that Expands Connectivity

Learn about: Micro Motion G-Series Coriolis Flow and Density Meters

The Micro Motion G-Series is designed to help you access the benefits of Coriolis technology even when available space is limited.

Micro Motion 4700 Coriolis Configurable Inputs and Outputs Transmitter

The Micro Motion 4700 Coriolis Transmitter offers a compact C1D1 (Zone 1) housing. Bluetooth and Smart Meter Verification are available.