Successful DFM analysis stages pave the way for extended collaboration

Unilite leverages Digital Factory Mapping to transform processes, focusing on automation and enhanced customer interactions.

Goal: Better operational efficiency and customer experiences

Unilite Solutions, a key player in the Nordic region's skylight production and fire ventilation systems, has embarked on a transformative journey towards operational efficiency and enhanced customer experiences. The company joined the Digital Factory Acceleration programme, sponsored by Industriens Fond, in late 2023, looking for ways to digitalise and manage challenges associated with the high degree of product customisation and to increase efficiency. By December 2023, the programme's initial phase, Digital Factory Mapping (DFM), had already generated promising results and actionable insights. 

Unilite Solutions' need: Dissect existing production processes and pinpoint inefficiencies

The DFM phase is structured into a series of workshops, designed to dissect existing processes, pinpoint inefficiencies and chart an improvement course. These workshops acted as a foundation, unveiling critical areas that required attention. 

Workshop 1 - Awareness and scoping

This full-day session primarily focused on project introduction and approach. It included familiarising participants with the project, company profile, challenges, strategic objectives and ongoing innovation endeavours. It also involved a company visit and scoping exercises to outline the mapping process. Recommendations were made to prepare relevant personnel for subsequent data collection. 

Workshop 2 - Data collection

This two-day workshop focused on mapping the production line's macro and sub-processes. This encompassed material and information flow, along with identifying digital opportunities and performance metrics associated with these processes. 

Workshop 3 - Internal data analysis 

This workshop focused on analysing the collected data. It involved identifying the most critical areas for improvement and quantifying their potential impact. A debriefing report was drafted, outlining the analysis outcomes and an action plan that quantifies the potential for improvement. 

Workshop 4 - Debriefing

This final session, also a full day, comprised a debriefing meeting. The deliverables from the analysis, including an Excel table and a PowerPoint presentation summarising the outcomes, were provided. This workshop also identified the subsequent steps for further investigation and potential implementation, setting the stage for the Digital Factory Realisation phase. 

Full skylight roof seen from inside house
Unilite Solutions provides flexible quality solutions for skylights and fire ventilation.

Several areas of improvement were identified during the initial workshops:

1. Manual interaction between Sales/ Product Technical Assistance employee and the customer increases the risk of errors

There is an extensive and intricate process of gathering and aligning order information between sales, customers and the PTA. This back-and-forth communication rises from the challenge of handling complex order details. Consequently, this increases the time it takes to process orders, increases the risk of errors and holds Unilite accountable in case of inaccuracies. 

Proposed solution: Website configurator to streamline process

A proposed solution suggests integrating a configurator into the company's website to streamline this process. This tool empowers customers to input their specific requirements and preferences, ensuring the accurate delivery of their desired product. Customers can easily access the website's configurator interface instead of relying on phone calls or emails. This enables them to select dimensions, materials, glass type, sound insulation, and other specifications. 

However, implementing this solution requires a clear understanding of the product and its production process. It involves: 

  • Establishing configuration rules to determine how specifications will be valued when assembling components
  • Defining dependencies between different choices (e.g., which materials can be used together)
  • Creating or selecting a database to store information about configurations, rules, and dependencies
  • Providing adequate training to employees to use the software and assist customers effectively
  • Offering comprehensive documentation to guide customers through the configurator, enabling them to navigate the solution and place orders seamlessly. 

2. Manual purchasing processes take time

The current manual purchasing process, whether for regular weekly orders or specific requests, involves a manual approach. This requires manual checks of available stock for each item, consolidation of orders and subsequent manual placements. However, this manual process occasionally leads to errors, resulting in incorrect item supplies that disrupt operations, elongate lead times, and consume valuable production hours. Furthermore, this approach risks overburdening employees. 

Proposed solution: Automatic ordering points based on Robotic Process Automation 

A proposed solution is a setup of automatic ordering points based on inventory level for standard goods and automatisation with RPA for order-specific purchasing. Notably, the final ordering step would still require approval from the Purchaser, ensuring oversight and control. 

3. Manual delivery date confirmation is a potential delay risk

Efforts are expended in contacting and engaging customers to validate or modify order delivery dates. This process incurs manual labour costs and poses a potential delay risk if customers are not prompt in communicating any changes. 

Proposed solution: Scheduled pre-delivery communication

A suggestion is sending an email or message to customers precisely one week before the scheduled delivery date to prompt them to confirm or adjust the delivery date, reducing the need for extensive manual follow-ups. 

Unilite Solutions moves forward with product configurator and automatic delivery date confirmation

During the last workshop, a roadmap with potential collaboration projects was established, and Unilite agreed to move forward with pursuing the product configurator and automatic delivery date confirmation as a priority and continued the efforts in this direction. 

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