2022-12-05

Ideation Without Innovation is a Hallucination in Manufacturing

There is a recent advertisement from Aramco with the major emphasis on the word HOW that caught my eye recently. It goes on to describe how Hydrogen could have incredible future potential. This article is not a political statement or climate change debate on the value of Hydrogen. It is a discussion on HOW we move from ideation concepts to innovation realities in manufacturing.

Excellent ideas come from everywhere and the transition of the idea into an innovative new product that can be produced is a PROCESS. The process requires synchronizing skills, labor, materials, automation, and capacity in an ITERATIVE but structured manner. We learn by trial and error, and structure our mistakes in a root cause analysis, so they don’t repeat. It is an iterative process in nature.

We always improve upon our previous experience in developing new products. For manufacturing, we move the iterative process of innovation from developing prototypes through first piece inspections and then production ramp up. We then scale and replicate and fine tune that model as we roll it out across multiple sites, plants, and suppliers. The deployment to other facilities requires an understanding of the unique location differences in materials, automation, skills levels, and plant capacities the specific manufacturing process requires.

Making Things Innovative

These days, how we generate, store, and utilize energy is at the forefront of research development and industry start-ups in their development of innovative products. Out-of-the box thinking is the new norm as we challenge the status quo. From more efficient energy storage systems to commercial and residential HVAC equipment to the world of electric planes, trains, boats, bikes, and automobiles the electrification of new innovative products from manufacturing are everywhere.

So how does a manufacturing organization manage the agile innovation process from prototype through production ramp-up and its iterative manner most efficiently? It is not with an ERP system since there are no orders to plan or schedule for initially. It is not with a solution that only optimizes the automation activities. It is a method or process-driven manufacturing execution solution that is aligned and optimized with the innovation process across all dimensions of skills, materials, manufacturing processes, and automation needs.

Cake, a leading electric bike manufacturer, is a case study in having a goal to create electric motorcycles that combine excitement with responsibility, while inspiring the shift to a zero-emission society. The mantra instilled in the design team is “light, quiet and clean”. Over the years, many new models and upgrades have been added which impacted manufacturing processes, work instructions, etc. They needed an iterative manufacturing execution system, such as MTEK’s MBrain solution that easily adapts all variables of the process to support the iterative behavior.

Innovation Comes in Many Configurations

It is one thing to manage the innovation of a new product requiring an agile Manufacturing Execution System. It is another manufacturing process innovation to move to ever increasing energy efficient HVAC equipment manufacturing and then add trillions of different product configurations as part of the manufacturing process. Manufacturing personalized and/or customized order bill configurations requires optimization of material and scheduling needs AND specific work instructions and specialized routing with automation and skills integration. This is a manufacturing innovation.

Moving from a factory line of standard offerings to personalized/customized offerings is no easy challenge. Maintaining product quality, understanding where and when to shift the personalized assembly components as part of postponement to optimize efficiencies and costs is not a simple matter. Support for changeovers requires special sequencing in scheduling, detailed skills level management, and asset performance monitoring for maximum Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).

A leading Swedish HVAC manufacturer had those exact needs for producing high quality products at the highest degree of customer service with full backward and forward traceability of the as-built configurations. To manage the execution of these new processes and support Industry 4.0 (or number du jour), required a process-driven MES offering that could easily and quickly adapt to the dynamic nature of the innovative process updates.

Support for Innovative Manufacturing Start-ups

One such early-stage “green” is on a mission to create the best energy storage solutions in the world. Based in Sweden, the organization enable endless energy through great energy storage solutions. Their lithium-powered telecom backup and hybrid solutions enable organizations to focus on their core business, while also saving money and the planet. They allow customers to move away from fossil fuels to long-lasting, smart, and recyclable lithium batteries – reducing costs as well as environmental impact.

They are driven by innovation and cutting-edge technology and needed a manufacturing execution system that could keep pace with the dynamic manufacturing process and method updates while supporting aggressive and scalable growth. A key driver for them was a broad-based set of functionality needs including a unique skill and employee safety management offering built into the solution. However, it was the differentiating ability of keeping pace with the rapidly changing environment that was the ultimate value driver.

Agile Innovation is The HOW of Ideation

Aramco has it correct in their advertisement. The HOW of innovation is the turning of great ideas into practical solutions. The iterative process of innovation mandates a process-driven MES / Production System model that comes from a unique and new innovative approach to MES. This unique process-driven approach aligns more readily with the diverse and dynamic manufacturing needs supporting the innovative approaches of agile manufacturing flexibility. Schedule a call or see a demo of the innovative approach to next-generation manufacturing execution systems.

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