Smart ERP for factories
Our new factory in Hamina, southeastern Finland, is a state-of-the-art “laboratory”, or model factory, where conventional industry will exploit the latest technological advances. Smart ERP influences everything that takes place in the factory. The transparent operation provides up-to-date data to be used by everyone at every organisational level, including customers and subcontractors. The opportunities for improving the efficiency of the operation and optimising the production conditions are almost limitless.
A smart factory – what does it mean? How does it show in daily business? This question is most easily answered by looking at a normal morning when an employee comes to work at the factory. From the beginning, the ERP system directs everything, using the digital capabilities of smart technology.
No longer will a supervisor put a big pile of written assignments on an employee’s workstation. They will not be needing to use their working time to put work orders in order of priority. The smart ordering system has already analysed the order stock and optimised task distribution. It puts the tasks on the work list in order and suggests this to the user. On the other hand, it can also propose that the employee choose the tasks they would like to start with, within the limits of the materials, the work flow and the order stock.
At Empower's new Hamina factory, the work units are divided into cells, where the employees use smart terminals that allow them to start any work stage themselves. The work flow is self-steering and the employee simply picks tasks from the queue, sends them on and marks them as completed. It is easy for the employee to report on progress, any bottlenecks and the results.
Efficient material flow management and up-to-date logistics
At the same time, the system is able to predict the final completion time of a product or maintenance job. The packing unit, warehouse and transport services will then organise the product’s logistics. The system ensures an optimal transport route, avoiding storage and transport queues. Empower’s real-time location tracking and analysis system EmSafe ensures safe routes for employees.
The employee carrying out maintenance duties can enter the materials in storage accounting, which makes it possible to optimise the amount of supplies and materials in storage. The use of the new acquisition system in Hamina is made easier by the online shopping service that is connected to the system. When all operations are directed by one system, it will also gradually learn to identify the products that are needed at different stages. Empty spare part shelves that stop production will be history in factories managed with AI as orders for refills are sent automatically.
We have also built solutions for optimising material management for our customers. For example, one solution provided for a foreign industrial plant monitors forklift truck traffic at a warehouse and directs them to the most efficient routes. This includes the optimisation of storage location for each product. This saves both time and money, as well as forklift truck use and fuel consumption – which is environmentally friendly. The material flow as a whole is smartly managed.
There may also be seasonal variation in production due to, for example, seasons and holiday periods, which a smart system learns to predict. Artificial intelligence also learns to forecast the need for more intense maintenance of equipment to ensure uninterrupted production. The system to manage the entire supply chain also makes it reasonably easy to make adjustments to the production process and orders in case of unexpected interruptions to subcontractors’ deliveries.
If a company has more than one warehouse in different parts of the country, connecting their data in one system has various benefits, such as enabling joint planning of component storage to minimise storage value and low-cost joint purchases. When the system has been in use for long enough, the self-learning artificial intelligence will also be able to suggest the use of a component or material that has been shown before to be the most efficient in a particular situation. Artificial intelligence will also be able to predict when maintenance functions need to be intensified to ensure the usability of the production lines.
Measuring and optimising production conditions and equipment and data sharing
EmSightSDM is an intelligent product based on sensor-technology, developed for measuring and optimising production conditions. Wireless sensors, which are easy to set up in the machinery, collect information on prevailing production conditions. A support station set up near the sensors then transmits this information to the cloud service, from which it is transmitted in real time to both a mobile application, to be monitored by field personnel, and to the base for follow-up analysis. This ensures ideal conditions for demanding production, where a certain temperature, air humidity, air pressure, lighting or stability is necessary.
The production equipment is similarly controlled through digital measurements. The sensors and meters generate data that is stored and analysed by artificial intelligence to optimise service intervals and avoid breakage. This ensures uninterrupted high-quality production.
Employee wellbeing and self-management
In the same way, the conditions can be measured from the employee’s point of view. Employee wellbeing and safety have been emphasised in Hamina. Both physical and cognitive ergonomics, including noise, temperature, ventilation, lighting and acoustics, have been taken into consideration at the workstations. Everything is measured in real time and the information is also available to employees.
When cells have smart computers, employees also get to enjoy transparency. The collected data helps optimise the workload and the employee can see how the work is progressing. Employees can monitor the efficiency of their working and change the work stage or way of working – or take a coffee break when they notice a clear drop in output. This ensures the wellbeing of employees as well as the efficiency and quality of production.
Transparency to customers improves trust
The operations are transparent to the customers and they can also have a real-time view of the order-delivery chain. This means they receive information on product delivery in good time. In Hamina, a fleet management tool EmTrail will also be in use. It provides real-time monitoring of serviceable components also to the customer. If the customers so wish, they can also monitor more specific information, such as which spare parts have been used in repairs, how many hours have been spent or how much electricity has been used by various pieces of machinery. These kind of details are becoming much more interesting to companies today as they want to address environmental considerations in their operations and also expect sustainably from their partners.
Brisker invoicing and accounting
The production control system at the Hamina plant also interacts with the invoicing and work time tracking systems. This enables us to provide our customers with an itemised and detailed invoice at a brisk schedule. The systems also benefit our own operations, as we have been able to involve robotics with our more routine data recording. Faster invoicing also benefits us.
Appropriately customised transparency at all levels
A smart resource planning system keeps customers, employees, supervisors, management and partners and subcontractors up to date on the progress of work, production and material flows. Each level sees information in sufficient detail for their needs. The managing director can monitor the big picture of the operation, a supervisor sees a view of the production at a workshop, while a cell or team view provides useful information for field personnel. Customers have their own view customised for their needs.
All this requires professionally built systems that can be supplemented piece by piece. The AI-assisted system takes time to acquire sufficient data and learn the mechanisms of order, production and delivery chains and the values at which they are optimised.
Vesa Ikonen, Director
+358 44 0556 175
Read also the blog about the implementation of occupational safety and reliable data security at the smart Hamina factory.