How to stay out of the trough of despair (part 2 of 3): 5 ways get more intelligence out of your shop floor and 2 things you shouldn’t have to worry about

This is post 2 of a three part series on how to stay out of the trough of the smile curve – what I call the trough of despair (see my previous blog posts and here). In short, you need to digitize. If you digitize your footprint, you too can get more value for your work.    

This blog will suggest 5 concrete things you can do to increase your value in the production phase of the manufacturing value chain. These actions will result in:

  • Faster time to market ->> MORE SALES
  • Reduced risk through better process modeling ->> LOWER EXPENSES
  • More digitization ->> MORE BETTER EVERYTHING

Also, if you are suffering from a labor shortage, then increasing your digital footprint can make your organization a lot cooler than under-digitized ones.  

Here are our 5 suggestions:

1.  Use your machine and tool vendors to give you free consulting

These guys are probably already trying to sell you their IIoT solutions (and steal your data, BTW). It never hurts to listen. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sensors and intelligent software captures data from your production equipment and analyzes it to identify quality issues, machine errors, overall down time, etc. Making your shop floor accessible via computer screen will improve your life.  

Ask your vendors about digitizing your shop floor. Ask them specifically about IIoT, robotics, remote monitoring and their favorite MES and MOM systems. Ask them for the easiest way to get your whole shop floor connected in one system. Ask them how to get this info when you’re out ice-fishing. They’ll have lots of ideas to pick from, and it won’t cost you a dime.  

2. Employ robotics to automate what can be automated to reduce build cost

Robots can do more than merely plot the overthrow of humanity, they can reduce direct labor costs, improve consistency in quality, get bigger parts machined in a single setup, and extend machine utilization. 

Robots can be used to do machine tending and CNC machining. See if you can fit robots with tool-holding heads so they can perform operations like trimming, polishing, and deburring.

BUT robots MUST be connected to a CAM application that can support such programming and that integrates with your MES or MOM. If it doesn’t integrate correctly, see suggestion #1.

3. Do less of what you hate

Investigate outsourcing some parts of your process, take advantage of HeyScottie, and increase your margins! Is your welder off on vacation for a week? Outsource it! Do you have a job that is too big for your paint booth? Outsource it! Check out the services we can help you with here (

4. Eliminate manual interfaces – ask a vendor or anyone on your shop floor to do some connecting

Review your shop floor system to identify missing interfaces with other shop floor systems, CAMS, MEMs, MOMs, quality systems, etc. Build or buy automatic interfaces with all other systems to increase communication.  

Automatic integrations can benefit your operation immensely. By integrating manufacturing operations management (MOM) software with machine controls should:

• Increase visibility to your WIP – see where your jobs are

• Improve production efficiency – you’ll know right away when there is a problem

• Attain full traceability for each finished product from the raw materials and production tools used to manufacture them

• Reduce the time needed for root cause analysis

• Make your people happy – NO ONE likes to do data entry

Even if you’re not looking to buy – get a demo and see what you’re missing, then try to implement it in whatever system you’ve installed.  

You also might have some tech-savvy people on your floor or in your warehouse that could do some simple downloads, at least. Ask them! They would probably be thrilled to try out their JavaScript skills on your machines! It’s a safe bet that some of your floor personnel have some programming skills. Use them! You’ll be nurturing their careers and both of you will be getting higher job satisfaction.

5. Connect your shop floor to your billing department

For example, if you connect your travelers to your ERP, you can set it up so that once a job gets to staging, you can automatically generate a packing list, schedule a pickup, and generate an invoice to the customer. And who doesn’t like that?

Also, ERP systems make it easier to achieve AS9100C and other certifications, which are essential to any shop’s growth. Once you’ve got quality foundations in place, you can start proactively attacking the insights it gives you.

Once again, software vendors are your friends here. They will know the best ways to connect disparate systems. 

One word of caution – don’t worry if they start talking about your legacy systems not scaling. If a software or other tech vendor is yelling at you to get off your old system and onto theirs simply because they say your existing system won’t scale, ignore them. If it’s working for you, it’s working for you! That’s lazy selling on their part.

These are all quite modest suggestions, but they should have a major league impact on your operations. The best job shop in the world, Flex (formerly Flextronics), uses all of them.

Another thing I would suggest not worrying about yet: machine learning and AI – these tools are cool, but they need a lot of data and unless you’re Flex or Foxconn, you probably don’t have the terabytes of data necessary.  


2 thoughts on “How to stay out of the trough of despair (part 2 of 3): 5 ways get more intelligence out of your shop floor and 2 things you shouldn’t have to worry about”

  1. Pingback: Juice up your NPI by going digital: 6 ways to make sure your new ideas can shine in today’s online B2B and stay out of the trough of despair | HeyScottie

  2. Pingback: How to stay out of the trough of despair (part 3 of 3): 9 ways to market and sell like the big B2B boys | HeyScottie

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