In fact it was manufacturing that chose me. I happened to get my first job in a factory after finishing my Engineering studies in 1995, and I became fully engaged since then. I love working in a factory because you can witness how real value is added from raw materials to finished goods through the processes defined. Delivering solutions in the market packed as products is a great satisfaction as an engineer.
Currently I am the Production Director in a factory of tailor made capital goods (i.e. escalators and moving walks for metro & railway stations, airports or commercial malls). I lead the whole value chain since the customer order is launched by our Sales Force, from Contract Engineering to final shipment of finished goods. My team has to fulfil highest standards in safety, quality, delivery and cost, so I have to set the targets, stablish annual programs and ensure that we meet expectations of customers, employees, owners & neighbours.
We are aiming to be the best factory worldwide in our business. In this journey we have to tackle this 3 major challenges:
There is a big knowledge gap between decision makers (Board of directors), solutions providers (IT companies) and trouble shooters (manufacturing lines). It is necessary to bridge this gap and make these 3 roles work closer. In this regard a key player is the IT expert for manufacturing, I believe every factory should recruit and foster the Process Engineering functions. It will also be advisable to train executives in basic IT concepts to show them successful/failure case studies.
We have improved transparency about what is happening in the shop-floor (real time tracking of WIP). We can track problem solving and have statistics of most frequent failures to start kaizen initiatives based on data (instead of gut feelings) and we have increased customer satisfaction thanks to a faster response to their demands (either new orders or complaints in case of failures).
I can imagine wearables as a conventional tool for any blue collar to help access information, but also to record their duties; augmented reality applications to speed up processes and poka-yoke approaches in workshops; fully available facilities with sophisticated predictive maintenance capabilities; fully integrated value chains sharing forecasts, anticipating procurement orders and reducing inventories to minimum; automated and adaptive scheduling systems to accommodate changing demands of customers without losing efficiency; (hopefully) collaborative robots in a safe environment with humans.