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  • By Ben Lomax-Thorpe
  • In Blog
  • Posted 25/04/2017

Over the past 6 months I have visited several companies across the US, mainly within the manufacturing industry, who are actively using WITNESS to improve their operations. The common theme of their application has been detailed analysis of manufacturing cells, or material movements between these cells within a plant. Although there is undeniably value to be realized in doing this, it seems that the bigger picture is sometimes forgotten.

The fire-fighting game, commonly played within these companies, has embedded a culture that is preventing them benefiting from the larger potentials of simulation. Simulation is then viewed as another tool to fix problems rather than a tool to identify issues, or even better, prevent these issues from occurring in the first place.

Getting lean with a predictive improvement culture across the value chain

As is often the case in large manufacturing organizations, simulation users are very capable people working in complex and challenging areas, but they are often tasked with narrowly scoped simulation projects arising from a localized and short-term performance improvement requirement.

The organizations that are living and breathing ‘lean’, who have engaged a continuous improvement culture, will appreciate the importance and benefits of process mapping. They’ll not only be engaging in manufacturing process improvement exercises but it will be cross-functional and collaborative and will always consider the end-to-end supply chain first in a top down approach. These are no longer manufacturing improvement activities but value chain improvements.

Focusing on localized logistics simulation, warehouse simulation, or inventory and supply networks is all well and good, and there will be pockets of savings to be made at this operational level. However, those who take a step back and apply these improvement methodologies to the entire value chain are winning at strategic and tactical levels. Identifying top level bottlenecks, reducing bull whip, and ensuring the hand offs between functions are successful to enable an agile supply chain capable of staying ahead of the curve.

Adopting a preventative and creative approach

While exploring beyond the factory walls and looking out into the larger value chain has become natural to some of these companies, those realizing maximum value are engaging simulation within the current-state to future-state cycle at all levels within their business. In doing this, with a focus on the customer, they are reducing lead times, cost and environmental impact while improving product quality. It also enables the crucially important ability to deal with both day-to-day variability and future disruptions, and is part of what defines a predictive, rather than continuous (relentless), improvement culture.

An example of a more strategic use of simulation is how companies are engaging the customer in their real-time operations status at the sales stage to instil more trust and enable accurate planning where the same model asset is being used internally as an improvement tool.

Those businesses on the cutting edge of operational excellence are using WITNESS not only to identify or react to inefficiencies but to prevent them in a predictive and adaptive approach. The technical side of this is of course only part of the transition to a predictive improvement culture, but it plays a key role in putting those companies willing to embrace it, whether a traditional or modern start-up business, in a strong position to thrive in the modern manufacturing world. Get creative with simulation, you will be surprised!

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