Smart Manufacturing in the Mid-Size Company

Grabbing Manufacturing by the Antlers
This expanded visibility into—and control over—production processes is evident at Moosehead Breweries, an early, midsize company that converted to smart manufacturing. The Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada-based maker of Moosehead beer has invested $35 million to date in a capital-investment program to improve manufacturing efficiency, beginning with its bottling plant. At the facility, bottles are pasteurized, filled, labeled, capped and packaged along a continuous loop of conveyor belts.

The various machines along this loop are embedded with sensors coupled with data analytics software to improve quality, increase throughput, discern bottlenecks and reduce costs. Previously, human beings determined when to increase or decrease throughput. The shift to intelligent machines has enabled a 50 percent reduction in the brewery’s labor expenditures.

“A first step in evaluating smart manufacturing is to determine factory pain points—the manufacturing problems weighing down the organization’s value proposition to customers and affecting its competitiveness.”

The plant’s smart machines are integrated with Moosehead’s enterprise data systems, ensuring that the bottling operation (and eventually the company’s other plants) are linked to procurement, supply chain and financial enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, thereby maximizing knowledge across the business. “We went from not a whole lot of automation to a huge amount,” says Luke Coleman, Moosehead brewery automation and controls specialist.

Not every company has to implement a huge amount of automation. A first step in evaluating smart manufacturing is to determine factory pain points—the manufacturing problems weighing down the organization’s value proposition to customers and affecting its competitiveness. (See “Healing the Pain Points,”).

“Making this assessment should be a cross-functional team directed by a project champion,” says Denise Swink, CEO and chairman of the board of SMLC and an independent consultant. This integrated team should be peopled with experts from operations, IT, procurement, quality control, supply chain and engineering to study and discuss the manufacturing complications the organization currently confronts.

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