Success Stories

Challenges in Wire Harness Manufacturing

The challenges grow for wire harness manufacturers to compete in the global marketplace. Aggressive competition squeezes margins, and customers demand increased quality and value. It is important for companies to maintain a competitive edge, ensure customer satisfaction, and find a balance between maintaining safety and keeping up production speed and accuracy on the assembly floor. Recently, a wire harness manufacturer for transportation equipment (a global Fortune 500 company) partnered with Andonix to overcome these challenges.

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Challenges on the Wire Harness Manufacturing Floor

The wire harness manufacturer was challenged to enhance operational excellence to become more competitive and support strategic growth. The manufacturing process was extremely labor intensive. Continuous model changeovers and small runs challenged efficiency and quality.

This often resulted in increased costs, delayed deliveries, and overall reduced margins.

Existing automation was expensive and ineffective for this type of process. Lean manufacturing principles had yielded considerable benefits when enacted several years ago but lately, the improvement seemed to be stagnant, marginal, and simply not good enough to support the execution of strategic initiatives.

At the same time, competing companies created a very healthy labor market. The manufacturer was constantly struggling to train and direct new workers amid rising rotation and absenteeism. Exit interviews would often signal hidden problems with supervision, highlighting shortages of basic personal protection equipment, constant workstation malfunctions, and, in some cases, grievances.

The employee suggestion system lacked transparency and speed to implement the best ideas. Complexity and process control data trapped in paper-based systems left manufacturing facing a significant slowdown. The COO realized that by not listening to the employees who were closest to the product, the company was missing out on a vast wealth of crucial information. Employees were undervalued, and their contributions were not taken into account. The COO understood that this was a recipe for creating a workforce that felt underappreciated and disconnected, and could become apathetic and disloyal.

However, the company was committed to aligning manufacturing to the vision of the corporation, to use strategies to increase speed and flexibility – and to regain the effectiveness and focus of their key goal. Was there a way to have a single platform to reduce complexity? Could it include training, data acquisition, and communications directly to the front line on smart phones or tablets?

The COO realized that by not listening to the employees who were closest to the product, the company was missing out on a vast wealth of crucial information.

Achieving Operational Excellence by Digitizing a Wire Harness Assembly Line

Andonix recently helped this wire harness manufacturing team regain their operational competitive edge by implementing the Andonix SmartWorkStation at a pilot assembly line. SWS is a digital Andon Cord system that turns front line workers into knowledge workers. At the pilot, the wire harness manufacturer used SWS to manage changeovers, exceptions, training, validation, inspection, and communication.

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The results were almost immediate. By listening to the frontline workers in real time, the best ideas flowed back freely, and improvements were implemented in record time. Additionally, by unlocking the wisdom of the team, praise and recognition were also delivered to the front line associates directly from the company management, as their performance was visible and transparent.

Working with Andonix’s SWS proved incredibly easy and cost effective. SWS was able to:

  • Provide fully customizable digital work instructions and check lists (no programming experience needed) to enhance on-the-job training, minimizing the impact of rotation and absenteeism.
  • Streamline communications by providing a digital Andon Cord that connects frontline workers with relevant information to reduce delays, inefficiencies, and quality gaps — this is the future of the connected worker.
  • Give real time data to stakeholders by providing a powerful reporting tool and data analytics to predict, prevent, prescribe, and provide valuable insights to continuously improve.
  • Add performance transparency with a digital training report, allowing the company management to perform job pairing in a smart and effective way.

In addition, change-over times decreased, while delivery, efficiency, and quality improved consistently. The overall efficiency gains increased margins and brought back the competitive edge of the manufacturing area to be in line with the company’s goals and strategy. Now they were prepared to compete as an Industry 4.0 front runner.

SmartWorkStation is the future of the connected worker.

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