Every year, wire and cable harness manufacturers and suppliers descend on the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee for the Electrical Wire Processing Technology Expo. I’d heard from both customers and industry experts this was the show to be at.
With so much to see and do in Milwaukee, it’s taken me a few days to process it all. What can a new attendee learn? As an industry, where do we go from here?
Here are my key takeaways from the 2017 EWPTE show:
The Promise and Limits of Automation: Many suppliers offered tools to control machines and automate wire harness processes. Automation will eliminate errors and reduce costs, but these strategies offer diminishing returns. Automating a single machine or process limits benefit. How many companies use the same machines across their shop, or utilize the same process for every product or lot? Automation offers tremendous benefits, but it’s not ready to revolutionize the industry. Versatility and real-time flexibility are trending toward the top of the industry.
Strategic Optimization for Manufacturing: Manufacturers are continually looking for ways to optimize processes and improve results. It wouldn’t be a manufacturing show without a focus on optimization, and 2017 EWPTE didn’t disappoint. Seminars offered optimization strategies for a variety of wire harness applications, or monitoring and data collection tools to better manage machine efficiency. Machine and tool optimization is only one piece of an optimization strategy. Connecting operators with their machinery using advanced analytics and visual work instruction completes the puzzle.
A Focus on Employee Productivity: Wire harness manufacturing is fundamentally a manual process. Increasing production and maintaining a competitive advantage requires more than new machines. It requires an investment in employees. Suppliers are responding with new products, including tools to lay out wire harness design using augmented reality and active feedback loops on the shop floor to increase production. Paperless Manufacturing systems proactively manage production, helping employees focus on value-added work among other capabilities in the software.
The Next Big Thing in Wire Harness Manufacturing: In the past, outside technologies and influences have pushed wire harness forward. At the show, many attendees wondered where the, “next big thing” in wire harness might come from. The pressure is on the industry, and companies need to adapt or OEM and Tier 1 manufacturers will find a wire harness supplier that will. Wire harness companies need to roll out new products faster, shorten the lead time on orders, and deliver more accurate bids and estimates. Companies must deliver more value to succeed in a competitive market.
With so much pressure on wire harness manufacturers, many companies might turn to a single investment, a fancy crimping tool or testing machine, as their sole solution.
A real solution requires more than a single machine. It requires an evaluation of your manufacturing processes to identify the issues holding back production and the business. Are you collecting and using your production and labor data? How are you managing scheduling? What factors influence your production lead time?
After listening to industry experts during webinars, and talking with the manufacturers and suppliers at the show, it was reaffirmed that companies recognize dated methods of managing production no longer deliver the results necessary to succeed. Wire harness companies know best-guess estimates and pencil-whipped production records won’t deliver a competitive advantage.
After my first year attending EWPTE, I can see the rumblings of change in our industry. I can’t wait to see where we go from here. Want to learn more about Paperless Manufacturing and how real-time production data and finite scheduling can benefit your company? Contact CIMx for a free demo of our software for wire harness manufacturing today.