We heard from a number of Nonwovens manufacturers from around the globe about the common opportunities for roll and sheet production at INDA’s IDEA22 trade show. From our discussions, the top five Smart Manufacturing opportunities were:
- Limited Supply Chain Visibility
- Reporting & Validating Product Quality to Customers
- Product Labeling Complexities
- Locating Inventory & Preventing Late Shipments
- Continuous Digital Improvement
Limited Supply Chain Visibility
As is the case in many industries, roll manufacturers are struggling to determine the accurate status of an order. A Senior Director of Supply Chain summed it up, “We are blind knowing what is going in our supply chain until it is too late.”
Manufacturers in this industry have challenges aggregating accurate and timely supply-chain visibility with non-integrated systems and manual reporting processes. We learned their challenges to answer the following vital questions
- Will the correct order quantities be produced on time?
- Are freight carriers scheduled for shipment pickup?
- Where is the inventory located?
- Did we ship and deliver on time at the lowest freight cost?
- Has the order been accurately invoiced?
Manufacturers were quick to say that they need an order status dashboard that would give them accurate order status information to answer customer inquiries. Manufacturers’ current order status process requires multiple people to use multiple systems and multiple spreadsheets to determine the status of an order. This takes hours or even days to answer their customer’s order status questions. The technology investment protects their material investment – less damage and scrap.
Reporting & Validating Product Quality to Customers
Manufacturers are focused on the production process improvements to provide customers with products that meet quality specifications. Meeting customer specifications and automatically providing a quality certificate to verify the quality is a challenge. Some manufacturing processes have multiple steps that increase the complexity of tracking the quality of a product through each production phase. It is a challenge to report and certify the quality based on customer specifications from the individual unit back to the parent production reel.
Many of the manufacturers manage the quality certificate validation process using spreadsheets and other manual reporting processes. Due to a lack of integrated systems, the validation process requires multiple people and is highly manual, nearly impossible to manage.
They were quick to say that integrated quality information and an automatic method to produce quality certificates would be a huge step forward in efficiency, accuracy, and strengthening their customer relations.
Key points for Quality Certificates:
- Process Automation: Event-driven process with alerts
- Grouping Flexibility: Product quality values by order item loads, multiple loads, production lots
- Data Configurability: Quality Characteristics Defined by Customer, Product, Order, End-user
- Integrated Track & Trace Genealogy: Track the history of the product. When was it made, what production lines produced and converted it, and where are the other units located that were produced at this same time?
Product Labeling Complexities
Flexible, customer-specific product labeling is a challenge for manufacturers. Customer label requirements based on product lines, order type, government regulations, and end-user requirements make product labeling extremely difficult. Immediate label change requests occur randomly and customers need them implemented quickly.
Manufacturers are looking for a labeling solution that is:
- Flexible: Label designs by all categories -Product, Customer, Order Type, End-User, etc.
- Easy-to-Use: Graphic based tool that supports a wide range of label sizes, formats, and Printers
- User Friendly: No programming needed. Labels can be quickly designed & implemented
- Organized: Allows mass label changes to a family of labels
Locating Inventory & Preventing Late Shipments
Manufacturers revealed their energy and focus are on production processes. Their goal of providing high-quality products that meet or exceed customer specifications is job 1. They have achieved this goal and can produce the correct product on time, but their warehousing and logistic processes need work due to lost inventory, delayed shipments, and missed delivery.
Key Inventory & Shipping Challenges
- Inventory Location & Quantity, how much do we have and where is it?
- Shipment Planning and Carrier Scheduling
- Freight cost reduction
- Real-time shipment tracking
- Accurate Delivery Estimates
Continuous Digital Improvement
Developing more efficient production and delivery processes is vital to keeping a profitable competitive edge. Most manufacturers agree that phase one is to address the supply chain process gaps today due to their current digital process limitations. Phase two is to develop a continuous improvement process to keep the competitive edge in the nonwovens business environment as it continues to change.
Continuous Improvement Focus Points
- Increase real-time data visibility for data-driven decisions
- Develop & maintain a high level of Machine efficiency requires real-time data
- Manage inventory levels
- Develop & Maintain cost-effective logistics
- Customer Self Service: Customer Portals and push communications to keep the customer informed
- Leverage Business Intelligence for insights to address the root causes the areas that need
- Integrated processes & digital solutions
- Sofware for Life: Implement solutions that grow and flex with the business needs
INDA’s IDEA22 trade show provided an excellent forum to better understand the Nonwovens manufacturing environment and develop a network of contacts from all segments of the nonwovens supply chain. IDEA22 exceeded our expectations and we look forward to attending the IDEA24 tradeshow in April 2024.