Digital Workflow Tools for Knowledge Transfer Across Operations

April 29, 2022
J.M. Smucker, Covestro, Pretium use digital workflows for factory, field workers.
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Quick hits:

  • New Digital workflow tools to transfer knowledge amid a manufacturing skills shortage.
  • How to share information from individuals across an organization in a dependable, scalable system.
  • J.M. Smucker Company, Covestro, and Pretium Packaging share how they are improving people processes.

Related to this episode:  

Listen to the story here:
Read the transcript below:

Welcome to Take Five, I’m Stephanie Neil and today I’m talking about the digital transformation. But not as it relates to machines, rather, how it can improve workflow to make people on the plant floor more productive.

There are new tools available that are focused on transferring knowledge. This is really  important these days as there’s a skills shortage in manufacturing. In a recent story, I reported on how three manufacturers are using digital workflow applications to improve processes.

First, we took a look at Pretium Packaging. This machine builder makes packaging products for the food and beverage, personal care, and medical industries. The business has grown through acquisition, and, as a result, there were no standardized ways to share process improvement best practices.

Pretium turned to a company called Guidewheel, which has a platform called FactoryOps, which it describes as intuitive, out-of-the-box workflows that can deliver critical information in real time and in context.

It starts with a sensor that clips around the power cord of any device on the factory floor, and it pulls information into the cloud  to measure the power draw and spot micro-stops or differences in the changeover or process time.

Guidewheel co-founder Lauren Dunford, described it as a “Fitbit for the machine,” that is always working in the background to alert the right team members immediately if there is a problem.

Pretium Packaging was able to customize the web interface, which has a mobile component allowing it to be accessed from anywhere. So before, operators had to be physically at the machine to figure out why it went down and document the problem. Now, they get alerts on their phones and are able to react wherever they are. They can also see operating trends and manage incidents which engages the team, Pretium officials said.

The second company featured in the article is Covestro, which, with nearly 17,000  employees, was having trouble managing shift changeovers, finding that incidents at process  plants are more likely to occur after shift handovers.  The company was looking for a web-based tool that could interface with its SAP ERP system, and it found it with a product called Shiftconnector, an interactive shift log  developed by a company called Eschbach.

Shiftconnector has a mobile component that connects field workers with operators for routine actions and compliance. They can download a task list of specific actions and record adverse events with photo documentation. This is shared immediately with someone responsible for corrective action. And everything is recorded for compliance and safety. 

The J.M. Smucker Company is the other manufacturer highlighted in this feature article. They were trying to solve the problem of disparate data that was causing problems as it relates to identifying and implementing specification changes.

The company turned to GE Digital, which has a set of software tools designed to unify manufacturing product information from different systems. That software, called Proficy Orchestration Hub, can transform and organize raw business information into production-ready formats.

For example, quality data, orders, and recipe-related information may be stored in different systems that are not connected. Proficy Orchestration Hub records, analyzes, and updates manufacturing product data in the plant and stores deviation and variances to provide visibility into changes.  Basically, it is making sure the shop floor is operating off the right specs for workorders. This is important because changes are happening anywhere from months to every few hours, which means  there needs to be a  way to ensure people are accessing the right information.

Of course, there are many other tools out there that are helping with digital workflows for the manufacturing workforce. And you can find out more about what those are in the links below.

Thank you for joining me today. We’ll see you next time. 

About the Author

Stephanie Neil | Editor-in-Chief, OEM Magazine

Stephanie Neil has been reporting on business and technology for over 25 years and was named Editor-in-Chief of OEM magazine in 2018. She began her journalism career as a beat reporter for eWeek, a technology newspaper, later joining Managing Automation, a monthly B2B manufacturing magazine, as senior editor. During that time, Neil was also a correspondent for The Boston Globe, covering local news. She joined PMMI Media Group in 2015 as a senior editor for Automation World and continues to write for both AW and OEM, covering manufacturing news, technology trends, and workforce issues.