Rapid Technologies recently took some guests around a high profile manufacturer where we had installedSMART 8000 series Touch Panels onto the production line. The guests were very interested in the applications being ran on the screens and commented that the touch screens were great, to which the factories Continuous Improvement Manager said “begging your pardon these are more than a touch screen, they are an essential communication tool”.
Let me rewind a bit, sometime ago Rapid Technologies approached this manufacturer with a view to digitising their Lean screens, Rapid knew that SMART had the right product to sit on the line from a perspective of touch, robustness and tools. Where the challenges came was on using ink applications with commonly used applications such as Excel. We decided to take a punt and redevelop the Excel sheets into a visual aid for workers providing real time data on Safety, Quality, Delivery and Cost. The aid was designed around their existing paper based system, Rapid did this so adoption would have a lower training overhead. The system replaced the need for users to fill in bits of paper, update charts and calculate anything. It must have been nice for all users to be able to read their digital text rather than their handwriting too. I know the team leaders were glad not to rush around printing new blank forms every day. Rapid Technologies development team designed the prototype for this in Excel as this is what the workforce were more familiar with. It was a success after 6 weeks, workers who were previously reticent of using technology refused to let the SMART Panels be taken away as it was saving team leaders 45 minutes per shift in paperwork, never mind accuracy and workers appreciated the panel as a tool for daily briefings on subjects such as Safety and Quality. Because of the collaborative nature of the SMART Touch LCD panel they were able to interface with Product Managers in different parts of the organisation across the globe to answer complex issues they may have come across. The proof of the pudding was when the large paper-based frames and boards, which had been left behind on the line in case of the pilot failing, were removed after agreement between the plant management and workers.
The project has been expanded to cover factories globally after the company realised a productivity saving of £ 2.5M and won a Global Innovation award within the group. As for Rapid’s part we have gone on to develop the prototype into a web based Lean Velocity Measurement platform we call DataTouch – our customers have re-branded it internally and call it by their own names which is a form of compliment I suppose. Our success with the client has opened doors with manufacturers in other fields and their supply chains. Rapid Technologies development team now tailor this platform to suit our customers’ particular requirements and terminology and using the collaborative power of SMART of which I am sure we have added a new dimension of value to this already great product.