Human Error depicted by Black figure pushing question mark ball

Minimizing Human Error in Manufacturing: 5 Key Technology Safeguards

To Err is Human, to Preempt Using Technology is Bliss.

For over twenty years now, the Hubble Space Telescope has been providing NASA with spectacular images of space.  Back when it was created and installed, only blurry and distorted images were coming back.  Three years went by, with NASA believing this Hubble Telescope was a complete disaster.  As it turned out, one small mirror that was part of the telescope was defective.  A quick repair took care of the whole issue and we still get images today from this tool.  To think it all would have been discarded because of one small defective part.

In life, nobody is perfect.  The errors we make can have significant consequences impacting ourselves and the people around us.  While perhaps not on the same scale, errors in manufacturing can certainly drive negative outcomes including added expense, missed opportunities and customer dissatisfaction.


Human Error in the Manufacturing Sector

Manufacturing companies know the impact of human error (and the resulting downtime) better than most.  A Vanson Bourne global study found that 23% of all unplanned downtime in manufacturing is due to human error.  This surpassing other sectors (medical, oil/gas, energy, telecoms, logistics), some being as low as 9% as per article by Ian Wright posted on  Unplanned downtime due to someone misreading a label, mistaking a number or other misunderstandings can quickly take a toll.  Whether this fault is identified too late, or results in the shutting down of a production line, it will eventually have an impact on a company’s bottom line.  But some things can be caught, and others avoided.

Frustrated or Tired worker seated against pallet of boxes in warehouse


Technological Safeguards

Knowing things will go wrong on the shop floor since humans are involved, it is imperative to leverage any/all technological safeguards to mitigate the damage when, not if, those errors occur.  The following are five key safeguards to help protect and insulate your company from the negative repercussions of human error:

  • Visibility of a Highly Detailed Production Data.

    By using a production reporting system, you connect your production floor to your ERP.  As orders come in, ERP updates your shop floor system automatically with detailed production data.  In doing so, you avoid emails, phone calls and word-of-mouth communication lines.  Instead, you are making the right item, at the right time, for the right customer.

  • Real-time Updates to Production Changes.

    Shop floor management software helps maintain your production schedule.  With bi-directional integration between the production floor and the office.

  • Error Alerts and Necessary Notifications.

    Notifications and alerts are an essential element of any production management system.  When the inevitable error occurs affecting your ability to deliver, systems become ‘worth their weight in gold.'  Giving you the opportunity to manage personnel and shop floor operations in a timely manner.  As a result, proactively manage customer expectations, thereby preserving customer satisfaction, is a huge hidden benefit from today’s systems.

  • Machine Integration.

    Forgoing all human interaction with the data reporting process is not for every manufacturing scenario.  However, in those where it makes both logical and fiscal sense, there is no more efficient way to obtain data.  Today’s machines can produce endless data points.  The key is to zero in on the mission critical data points relevant to that reporting point within the production process, harvest them, and integrate that with your production reporting system.

  • Data acquisition techniques (for Humans).

    For decades people have relied on barcode technology to provide a fast, accurate and affordable way to collect data.  Advances in barcode technology provide even more data per scan thereby increasing their value even more.  But when and where possible, integrations to scales, RFID, proximity readers, optical scanners, and voice input software can further reduce ‘human induced’ data errors.


Manufacturing Execution System (MES)

A successful MES application provides the foundation to leverage all five of these technology safeguards.  By deploying these systems, you enable strategies to achieve your production and business goals, including:

  • Reducing manufacturing costs
  • Improving customer satisfaction
  • Avoiding customer delays
  • Improving quality

The Paper-Less MV2 award-winning (MES) application helps customers achieve these goals.


Check out our videos page to learn more about how Paper-Less MES can help with your business needs.


(This post is an update to the original, first posted on 5/10/17.)

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