The connected factory

Oliver Ginger, supply chain director at Origin, talks about how Origin is getting smarter and the technology it implements to ensure a streamlined process.

I am often asked how connected we are at Origin. People want to know what procedures and systems a leading manufacturer like us has in place to be smarter. I always say that there is a difference between being smar’ and having all the latest technologies; you need to be practical and ensure your processes are as streamlined as possible, but you don’t need cyber-physical systems just for the sake of it. You need to weigh up what the best actions are for your factory and implement systems that make that process as efficient and accurate as possible.

That said, the way our production line works does lend itself nicely to being automated wherever feasibly possible, with the intention of completely removing the potential for human error.

Our system has a series of programmes built in that allow orders to be pulled directly from our online ordering and quoting system (OSS) and fed straight through to the factory floor. At this stage, the only human to have been involved is the Origin partner placing the order, meaning Origin can eliminate the potential for human error. Once the order has been sent through to the factory floor, a member of the team will select it from the list and start work. They will select the appropriate materials and perform the key manufacturing elements to ensure the doors and windows are made to specification.

By connecting the systems, it streamlines the process and ensures the correct order is being manufactured. Not only does it speed up the manufacturing process, which has certainly helped us keep the 100% record on our ‘Your Lead Time, Not Ours’ promise, but it also alleviates some of the stresses on our employees. Now that orders are placed by the customer, it means that the factory staff are not having to input data manually. This has led to an increase in employee well-being and engagement, simply by removing this onerous, yet imperative task. This has also led to an increase in productivity.

Connecting our technologies also aids our lean manufacturing focus – to waste less material. This is due to an increased accuracy. It allows the factory to work more effectively and smarter than ever before, which directly impacts on us and our partners.

While we have placed more onus on our partners to make sure they are happy with their orders before submitting them, we are now able to guarantee even more accuracy, giving them an unrivalled confidence in us. As we continue to innovate and update our processes, we will be able to offer partners the option to see exactly where their order is. This will provide them with the ability to check on the progress of an order, seeing what stage it is at within the manufacturing process.

We are now at a stage where we are 100% confident in our process, but we are not resting on our laurels. We have to innovate to stay ahead. Our next step is to connect each piece of machinery on the factory floor to the main system so that they know which order is next to be made. Our team will select the next order and collect the appropriate materials and the kit will automatically know what order it is working on, with the right details and dimensions already uploaded. This will once again reduce the potential for human error and further speed up the manufacturing process.