As the saying goes, work smarter, not harder. Not just some cliché, 60% of manufacturers are now using a fully integrated solution or some components of smart manufacturing in their operations to do just that. That’s according to the 7th Annual State of Smart Manufacturing Report recently published by Plex Systems in collaboration with Hanover Research, which surveyed 321 manufacturers from around the world and across major industries about smart manufacturing.
Defined by MESA International, ‘smart manufacturing’ is the intelligent, real-time orchestration and optimization of business, physical, and digital processes within factories and across the entire value chain, often featuring resource and process automation, integration, monitoring, and continuous evaluation.
An extensive report, participants communicated the need for agility, technology adoption and improved processes to respond to market adversity, with 83% believing smart manufacturing being a key to their organization’s future success and adoption growing 50% year-over-year.
Like many fields, technology and automation are – and have been – driving the next generation of firearms and ammunition manufacturing. But it’s not only about producing more firearms and rounds faster, as was needed throughout the pandemic; it’s about identifying operational pain points, eliminating time-consuming manual tasks, and determining smarter key solutions to solve these problems.
Smart Manufacturing Solutions
The report identifies seven key solutions offered by smart technology, each playing an important role in manufacturing operations.
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) – Automates front- and back-office processes, including financial management, revenue management, human capital, order management, billing, and inventory.
- Manufacturing Execution System/Suite (MES) – Tracks and documents the transformation of raw materials into finished goods, providing realtime production management to drive enterprise-wide compliance, quality, and efficiency.
- Quality Management System (QMS) – Standardizes and automates quality documentation, processes, and measurements.
- Supply Chain Planning (SCP) – Combines data from multiple departments across the business to sync demand and supply forecasting to improve inventory accuracy and production management.
- Production Monitoring – Provides seamless connectivity to machines on the plant floor, delivering transparent, real-time operational KPIs and dashboards to drive continuous improvements.
- Asset Performance Management (APM) – Combines process, operational, and machine-level data through dashboards to monitor machine and plant health, ensuring optimal uptime, throughput, and maintenance needs.
- MES Automation and Orchestration – Connects your MES to the plant edge to control information flow, processes, and workcenter setup.
While all are important to the success of a smart manufacturer, ERP was viewed as playing the most significant role in operations by survey participants, with production monitoring seen as the most ‘mission critical.’
Adopting Smart Manufacturing
Despite the rapid growth of smart manufacturing on the production floor, 28% of manufacturers are still evaluating technology adoption and have yet to start their digital transformation. Among the top barriers for organizations surveyed were cost, lack of skill, difficulty in upgrading legacy software, and a lack of knowledge about modern technologies. And while all are viable reasons to further evaluate smart manufacturing, none are obstacles that can’t be overcome.
With more smart firearm manufacturing technology options available on the market, investment and implementation can be simple, seamless and cost-effective – especially when adopting less hardware-dependent, cloud-based technologies.
According to the report, 46% of manufacturers have adopted such cloud technologies to minimize risk and ensure business continuity. With the ability to review systems and data in realtime from anywhere, cloud technologies are often more affordable and quicker to implement than alternatives. Plus, by using a quality multi-tenant cloud software as a service (SaaS) provider, you gain a software, hardware, and security support team that is in the business of protecting your company and data.
Orchid Smart Manufacturing
At Orchid, our team of operations, compliance and legal professionals specialize in providing software and services to FFLs and the firearms industry – especially manufacturers.
The core of any manufacturing operation, Orchid ERP Accelerator™ combines the best features and functionality of leading enterprise resource planning systems from NetSuite, SAP, Epicor, SAGE and others with our knowledge of how to run an efficient, profitable and compliant firearms business. Our cloud-based system natively integrates with other Orchid solutions, including leading A&D Bound Book, Orchid eBound™, and firearm serialization software, Orchid eSerial™, plus top third-party accounting, laser marking and distribution integrations, to provide a comprehensive tool capable of ordering, tracking and delivering items from raw materials to finished goods.
And with all Orchid products, you can rest assured knowing your organization is taking a proactive approach to compliance with built-in software checkpoints, automated processes and on-call experts ready to help.
In the words of Plex CTO, Jerry Foster: “Technology adoption decisions are not an all-or-nothing choice, but rather a willingness to take one step towards improving business, and then another step, and still another step.