Last minute absentees, injuries, or a global pandemic are all things that could disrupt the accuracy of supply forecasts. Braden Goddin from Aurora Process Solutions explains how robots and basic automation can protect small businesses from these unexpected shocks.
International logistics have suffered several shocks over the past couple of years. COVID-19 and its ongoing affects have sent ripples throughout the industry, leading to spikes in demand that supply can’t keep up with.
Braden Goddin, Sales and Marketing Manager at Aurora Process Solutions, says this has made accurate supply predictions all the more important for manufacturers.
“These days, in all industries, there’s a lot of competition for supply contracts. You’ve got to be at the top of your game to win the best ones,” he says.
“The market, understandably, wants some reliable data to provide reassurance that the right amount of supply will be delivered on time, on specification, and at the right place.
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“If a stockfeed manufacturer can’t make the agreed tonnage, that creates problems and cost across the supply chain. And that’s not sustainable for a brand.”
Larger businesses can mitigate these problems, as they will often have larger production capacities and a network, they can call on to top up production. Smaller businesses can often find it harder to make that supply guarantee, especially if their processes are manual.
Goddin says humans are highly complex, with so many variables involved. While that may be great for who we are, he says, relying on an unpredictable workforce can be detrimental to output.
Last minute absentees due to illness, significant fluctuations in output (which could be from something like a sports injury from the weekend or a shift in the weather) make it difficult to determine exactly how much product is being manufactured, packaged, and delivered.
Automation and standardisation of the manufacturing and packaging process can provide businesses significantly more control over output. While machinery can still have unexpected downtime, much of this can be mitigated through scheduled maintenance.
“In short order, a company with an automated filling/closing line or automated palletiser can learn the percentage of its uptime and other KPI’s,” Goddin says.
“This gives them, and their client, the confidence they need to expand and develop their market footprint”
Aurora specialises in working with small-to-medium bulk product manufacturer’s, particularly in rural areas. Its equipment systems can handle commodities including grain, seed, flour, cement, landscape products and stockfeed. The company provides products that semi- and fully automate the packaging, conveying, conditioning, palletising and wrapping processes.
One such company is a North Island, New Zealand stockfeed manufacturer that had been experience a significant variation in its output between shifts.
Goddin says this was causing trouble when it came to meeting the production quota, and the business was under pressure to improve or potentially lose a major contract.
“We helped them automate their packaging process, which now provides the accurate forecasting outputs that can be forwarded on to the client. It’s a controlled, reportable system that meets a number of key productivity indicators,” he says.
“After the upgrade, the customer managed to lock in the contract for the foreseeable future.”
Aurora understands that automation can seem complex, especially for smaller businesses and first time automators. That’s why it provides education for its customers both on-site and through mixed reality presentations.
It works with the client and their accountants to model return on investment from the proposed automation. If it ‘stack’s up’ then all parties have the confidence to move forward. Usually, there will be immediate improvements to forecasting predictability along with the gains in cost per bag and other KPI’s.
One key piece of advice Aurora offers is to avoid getting paralysis from analysis. Goddin says the data gathered can include forecasts, quality, maintenance scheduling, filling accuracy, weighments, and more, which can be confusing at first.
“We work a lot with first time automators and want to make sure they understand what we’re recommending. We also want to make site it makes economic sense to them, as every solution is different,” he says
“Robotics might seem complex, but at the end of the day, humans are even more so. To get an accurate, reliable process, you need to automate. This may involve shifting manual labour out of mundane repetitive roles to other areas of the business when they can add more value.
“This doesn’t need to be expensive or difficult, which is why even though we are automators, we keep the consultation process ‘human-to-human’.”