Today is Leonard Nimoy’s birthday. So, naturally, we couldn’t let the day pass without honoring him and his portrayal of Spock in some way. Like the crew of the Enterprise, MasterControl is all about going where no one has gone before. In our case, we’re not seeking out new life and new civilizations. We’re more focused on taking our software solutions to the next level of connectivity. Logically, the first step to that is digitization. After that, we’re concerned with taking our quality management system (QMS) where no QMS has gone before, using a few quotes from Spock to inspire us.
Danger seems like a bit of a stretch until you take into consideration that life sciences companies provide life-saving products. So, insufficient facts can lead to work instructions not being followed, a corrective and preventive action (CAPA) not being communicated to employees, or an out-of-specification part being used. Spock might be prone to technobabble, but that’s how we know he’s making a scientific decision and not just depending on random chance operating in his favor.
None of us mere humans have Spock’s brain capacity, but we do now have impressive artificial intelligence (AI) applications. As with most science fiction, the AI of Star Trek tends to spiral out of control and ultimately tries to kill our protagonists. This happens either because of some kind of glitch or because the AI is acting out of self-preservation. Therefore, the crew has to destroy it, showing that in spite of technological advancement humans are necessary.
The AI of science fiction is pretty different from the AI that’s starting to enter the life sciences industry. Modern-day AI is devoid of personality, so odds are it won’t be trying to kill off its creators anytime soon. However, many jobs seem threatened by the new technology. When designed and implemented correctly though, AI works alongside humans, not in place of them. Rather than pull out all the humans, manufacturing solutions gather sufficient facts so they can maximize efficiency through prescriptive analytics.
While we’re not eliminating human jobs, it’s only logical to eliminate the tasks that humans don’t want to do. Spock can calculate time warp calculations in his head, but not all of us can outthink a computer. When it comes to calculations, data entry and other manual tasks, automation is the faster solution. And, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to briskly produce quality product while maintaining compliance. You can do this by using human time and effort for tasks that can’t be automated.
Enjoying this article? You may also enjoy this Customer Spotlight:
"Metrics That Matter for Quality Manufacturing"Download Free Customer Spotlight
Fortunately, there’s much on the manufacturing line that can be turned over to automation. And companies are reaping the benefits from doing so. Since switching to MasterControl Manufacturing ExcellenceTM, Wellington Foods decreased their data entry errors by 90% to 100%. Now hours aren’t being spent tracking down an employee to fix a date on a paper form. The solution auto populates the information it can and has specifications in place to ensure data entered into the form fall within a certain range.
If you’re looking for results more directly tied to time, Legacy Pharmaceutical Packaging had impressive results from Manufacturing Excellence. Their review time, which used to take 2-3 hours per batch can now be done in 10-15 minutes. For some companies, review time means product that is ready to send out the door has to sit for days until the batch gets reviewed. By using review by exception, the batch record only needs to be reviewed where the system detects a problem. There’s no more deciphering handwriting or physically tracking down employees.
The fact that Spock said this about a microscope is a moot point. He could’ve easily been talking about the binders, folders and stacks of paper that are still prevalent on many manufacturing floors. So frequently the manufacturing floor gets left behind when a company decides to digitize. They might invest in a manufacturing execution system (MES) or an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, but the benefits of these systems end when it comes to the line workers.
It is not logical to digitize half of a process. Which is essentially what traditional manufacturing systems do. For companies hoping to digitize the whole process, the only solutions have typically been extremely customized and extremely expensive. If you want to get rid of the museum pieces, it’s time to invest in a solution that completely removes paper from the shop floor at a reasonable price.
Manufacturing is becoming an increasingly high-tech industry. With sensors, automation, robotics and AI becoming more common, the only way to keep up is to digitize the whole manufacturing process. This means going beyond the typical ERP or MES, which leaves half the process still highly dependent on paper. Make it your prime directive to give your line workers the tools they need to increase production, cut costs, and improve efficiency, while maintaining compliance.