By Stefanie McCann, editor of Connected Futures
For business success, it critical that Stanley Black & Decker makes the highest quality products, as quickly and inexpensive as possible.
That means that if production goes down, or there is a shortage of material, the factory floor must immediately respond.
But that's not an easy task for a half-million square-foot, 2,500-employee factory that produces over 6 million tools every year.
If there is even a 5% change in the speed that a tool takes to get through the production line and assembled, it can mean 100,000 hours a month of lost labor. And the company could lose several millions of dollars.
So the CIO turned to a WiFi-enabled shop floor to increase productivity. Today, the factory workers have devices where they need them.
“We are able to drive through the facility, know where people and goods are then take action,” said Gary Fredrick, CIO of the Industrial and Automotive Repair Division at Stanley Black & Decker.
Currently, they have WiFi-enabled handheld barcode readers, iPad, iPhones and even forklifts. These devices work together to give the manufacturer better data accuracy and better line of sight to the products with minimal loss of information or materials.
The floor managers use a dashboard that shows how many components and tools they are making each hour. A good rate is 50 an hour. But if it drops to 38 or 39, the line managers know there is a problem.
Prior to automating the factory floor, that type of issue would have been caught at the end of the shift. Now they know instantly, allowing them to get back on track with less downtime. And at the end of the day, they produce more products.
Before the WiFi implementation, the factory was running at approximately 78% up time, which means 22% of the time they were not producing anything, now they are running at 97% efficiency.
This implementation also means they are no longer manually tracking the output of goods. Every time a finished product is produced, the information automatically goes into a database that is hosted in the cloud.
This database allows factory workers to pull and analyze data and actually answer questions like, “Why does this line, under this supervisor take five minutes longer to start?”
All the lines are communicating so the supervisors can see where there is congestion and where they can find process improvements.
The goal is to ensure the components are going at a steady pace, and are being produced at a steady rate because that equates to efficiency and quality.
This shop floor automation at Stanley Black & Decker is what allows the company to deliver the best product at the best price at the best quality.