Plant-wide Supply Chain Collaboration & Alignment: The Ultimate Problem Solver
Among other business challenges brought forth by the year 2020, the sudden shift to remote working highlighted and exacerbated a long-standing challenge for manufacturers: barriers to communication and collaboration in industrial sites.
Plants have historically relied on siloed data systems and inadequate communication channels to manage production-related activities. The resulting information gaps and asymmetries across teams and functions have slowed down problem detection and resolution, causing incidents to escalate and proliferate.
Until the adoption of Operational Intelligence solutions to provide a path towards seamless and frictionless collaboration.
Data & communication gaps causing dialogues of the deaf
A manufacturing facility encompasses a range of different functions and divisions, all using disconnected data management systems that have different ways of processing, classifying, terming and reporting information. The same spare part may be referred to as “casing” in the database used to track supply delivery, and as “cover” in the routing used by production operators. Before you ask: yes, it’s a big deal.
Here’s a typical consequence:
Your Production Controller will complain that she’s missing the covers she needs to complete production, only to be shrugged off by the Supply Manager, who’ll insist the covers were delivered and placed in stock. Both are right — they’re just not talking about the same part. They’re not speaking the same language. And, as long as the misunderstanding lingers, no one is working on the said covers/casings.
Now, those differences could probably be sorted out rapidly if the teams had appropriate communication channels. But here’s the thing: there are so many different functions within a plant that they don’t have the chance to meet on a daily basis. Instead they talk using channels and media that are prone to error and friction: sticky notes, phone calls where half of the messages get lost in transmission and translation, emails that might or might not be read and that will in any case make information hard to retrieve.
The atomization of information and communications also introduces the risk of cognitive bias in decision-making. After having multiple, distinct phone conversations with different division managers, you usually won’t be able to remember everything. Only the most visible and urgent problems will filter through (e.g. an infuriated client complaining about late delivery of a plane engine, or non-functioning machinery that’s been sitting in the middle of the production floor for days). But less conspicuous issues and needs tend to slip through the cracks. As you’re scrambling to speed up your engine delivery and appease your client, you may well forget about a red flag on a minor supplier order. Left unattended, the problem escalates and eventually delays another client delivery. And the proverbial snowball effect sets in.
Besides, the most apparent problems are not always the most urgent or the most harmful. But, for lack of a big picture view, we have a natural tendency to give priority to those issues that strike the eye.
Collaboration problems aggravate other problems
The adverse consequences and performance gaps due to subpar communication and collaboration are manifold. However, as illustrated in the examples above, the #1 concern is impact on problem solving.
Problems are the bread-and-butter of industrial managers, whose role is to coordinate shifting supply of materials and changing customer orders, to mitigate unexpected machine downtime or key resource unavailability, to meet unforeseen spare part requirements when repairing client equipment... long story short, to manage volatility.
As soon as a problem is detected, it should immediately be escalated to the right person within the right team. This is a first challenge. In order to identify the right problem owners, you need a modicum of understanding of the issue. Let’s consider a missing part situation. The problem might originate from delay in supplier delivery and fall within the purview of the Supply Manager. Or your supplier might be withholding shipment because your Finance department has yet to pay outstanding invoices. Or the parts might already have been delivered and put into stock without the right person being notified.
Figuring this out takes time and effort. In the typical plant, knowledge workers spend 60% of their time collecting contextual information. While you are busy combining databases and email threads to gather that information, the issue festers and escalates. You’ll eventually get the right people around the table for an incident resolution meeting (most of which will be spent trying to identify the problem and bringing everyone up to speed), but, meantime, that missing part may already have blocked production lines — jeopardizing the plant’s ability to meet client commitments and revenue targets.
Plant workers need a shared “big picture” view of the origin and impact of problems to better treat the root causes instead of endlessly coping with symptoms. They need access to information in real time, so that conversations and interactions can focus on problem solving and not on problem identification and description.
That’s just what Pelico brings.
Pelico: aligning teams to enable collaborative problem management
Pelico’s solution is transparency-oriented by design. At its core, the platform acts as an intelligent layer that sits on top of transactional systems and reconstitutes a digital twin for operations, breaking down silos between data systems.
Based on this common data ontology, the “Peliscope” (an intelligent search feature) and 360° views make the information intelligible and actionable to each worker, regardless of function, role, background, and “language”.
Detailed and comprehensive information on any work item (purchase order, work order, supplier, machine, skill, etc.) is now just one click away. Whenever production controllers have concerns about a spare part, Pelico instantly provides them with a history of incidents, notes and comments from engineers, stock levels and planned deliveries, and more. The wealth of information that used to be scattered across email threads and contextual systems is now aggregated in a common repository. This enables plant-wide contextual collaboration based on shared data and insights, eliminating information gaps and misunderstandings.
Information centralization also improves the quality of communications and nurtures a culture of effective collaboration and anticipation. Because everyone is on the same page and is aligned on priority issues, teams are empowered to focus their energy and their conversations on intelligent anticipation, creative problem solving, and other high-value activities.
Potential problems are detected early on, and solved faster. Pelico’s intelligent simulation capabilities enables manufacturers to explore “what if” scenarios, while the platform’s audit trail makes it possible to harness the lessons learned from past situations. This ultimately limits the need for escalation, as issues are nipped in the bud before they get out of control. Pelico’s clients have recorded a 50% reduction in resolution times for escalation tickets in just three months.
When a problem does blow up, Pelico’s escalation room makes it possible to send an instant ticket to the person in charge, who’ll have all relevant information at hand. For example, operators may detect defects in components and request input from Quality Assurance. Instead of manually adding an umpteenth comment to a shared spreadsheet and waiting a month for Quality to notice, understand, discuss, and answer the question, the Production Control Manager uses Pelico to send an instant notification to the concerned Quality agent, who has access to all the context (the part’s reference number, batch number and supplier code, a history of engineer comments, and so forth) and can respond immediately.
Similarly, Pelico also provides an Opportunity Room to align various people across teams and functions on opportunities for improvement.
All that in a user-friendly environment delivering the seamless, almost playful experience that today’s smartphone users have grown to expect from technology.