November 05, 2015
Facilities That Are Doing It By Hand
While technology and machinery become an ever-present part of our daily lives, you may be surprised to find that there are some companies out there that still manufacture their products mostly, if not entirely, by hand. Some facilities do this out of necessity, while others consider it a dying art form that adds a special something "extra" to their finished products. Who are these brave souls who fight the advance of robotics and automation? Some of the names might surprise you.
Manufacturers are always looking for a way to improve their productivity and reduce errors in product creation, packaging, and preparation. That usually means employing the use of some sort of machinery and the elimination of human interaction, where possible. However, sometimes, a little hands-on assembly is needed and simple supervision by a living, breathing person is not enough. While that may change in the future as modern technology gives ways to such marvels as 3-D printing and nanotech gadgetry, for now, some things just require that "human touch."
One incredible example of this would be Apple"s iPhone and iPad. Believe it or not, this high-tech device is still hand-assembled. The handmade iPhone goes through a whopping 141 assembly steps, while the iPad (iPhone"s big brother, if you will) takes more than 300 diligent workers to puzzle together. That is a lot of product "love" to ensure that you get your steady fix of texting and Angry Birds!
Another artisan manufacturing process, for lack of a better phrase, is the age-old profession of glass-blowing. If you have ever been to a local Renaissance festival or art district, you may have seen demonstrations of glass-blowers delicately working to create beautiful pieces of fine art. The process involves heating glass to a precise temperature and then blowing air into it to help shape it. It requires many complicated and time-consuming steps, all of which are too lengthy to detail here. Suffice it to say, it is not work meant for a machine, at least not yet. Glass-blown products include lighting accessories, figurines, bowls, vases, and art pieces.
Not surprisingly, a handful of Swiss and German watches are also hand-made. These intricate pieces contain many tiny moving parts that must work together as one to keep your watch ticking. This is an example of an industry that does not require a handmade process, but some companies still stick to it out of tradition and for branding purposes. One such company is Glashutte, who make sure their clients know the amount of work and dedication that goes into each unique piece.
At the end of the day, no matter which sort of process a manufacturer uses, be it hand-assembly or by machine, there is one piece of technology they would be hard-pressed to not take advantage of: a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). From keeping track of inventory and assets to scheduling maintenance on machines that help put everything together, maintenance software is a facility manager"s best friend. Of all the decisions regarding manufacturing processes, you would be hard-pressed to argue that pen and pencil are better than this handy-dandy application!