No one can deny that innovation and adaptation are necessary for survival in today’s economy. Companies that once competed only in local markets are now forced to outperform competition on a global scale. With such an increase in competition, companies have no choice but to embrace ideas like Continuous Improvement, Lean Manufacturing and/or Root Cause Analysis. These ideas often start with a common first step, and that step is implementing diagnostic tools.
Learning from mistakes is essential for survival. Determining inefficiencies, losses or problematic processes can be the difference between a flourishing business and one that’s struggling to get by. If a company produces excess waste, it’s probably missing out on potential profits. If the production process is being bottlenecked by a certain step, it’s important to find the root cause and eliminate the issue. If product batches are not passing inspection, a company might consider implementing tracking systems to isolate poor sources of raw material.
Diagnostic tools are not limited to a particular device or manufacturer. Systems are typically designed with diagnostics in mind, and require communication between multiple devices. Something as simple as installing a few extra sensors can improve visibility during a process. If eliminating waste is your goal, requiring machine operators to use login credentials can increase accountability and cut back on wasted time. Sometimes full SCADA systems are implemented to monitor every bit (no pun intended) of a PLC. No matter the end goal of an improvement process, diagnostics are almost certainly the best place to begin.
While Henry Ford once said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing,” I would argue that it’s equally important to remember that before we can improve, we must first learn how we are failing.
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