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Making Your Supply Chain Lean and Mean

Guest contributor:James Hannay Senior VP International Operations, SCHAD Automation Levels of automation within manufacturing are on the increase to he...

Freddie Pierce
|Mar 28|magazine7 min read

Guest contributor: James Hannay

Senior VP International Operations, SCHAD Automation

Levels of automation within manufacturing are on the increase to help drive down costs and improve efficiency. This is central to the thinking behind lean supply chain management, with its emphasis on achieving more with less through the continuous elimination of waste. Whilst it originated amongst manufacturers, the concept of lean is not restricted to manufacturing and it is possible to learn valuable lessons in how to maximise existing investments in automation from other industries including e-commerce, large scale distribution and airport operations.

How can companies making an investment in automation think about lowering their total cost of ownership? And how could this contribute to achieving typical lean objectives, such as reducing operating costs, increasing Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), seeing greater labour productivity gains and reducing the time spent on administration and co-ordination tasks?

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Mobile SCADA is one technology that has made inroads across a broad range of industries to prove its value. Consider a fictional day in the life of an automation engineer responsible for monitoring traditional SCADA visualisations in a fixed control room to appreciate why.

A Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) on the shop floor generates a timeout notification for a specific photo sensor. The control room engineer notes the photo sensor needs replacing and starts to call other engineers on the shop floor to allocate the task and fix the problem.

However, he does not know who is available and what they are currently working on. He has to assess the situation and decide whether to take someone off an existing task or wait until someone becomes available without all the available information to hand. His options are to re-prioritise based on his information to hand, wait until someone becomes available, or to leave the control room unmanned.

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