July 12, 2021
As an essential business providing commercial and military equipment to keep transport infrastructure clear, Miller Industries shifted gears during the pandemic by implementing manufacturing automation and a new workforce schedule that optimized people and asset utilization and created safer working conditions. By splitting the workforce in half and implementing a four days on, four days off schedule, not only were employees happier, but productivity increased by up to 16%.
Because Miller is a data-driven company, such a radical change to the workforce schedule was implemented without risk. Prior to the pandemic, Miller was challenged in finding labor for a third shift (weekend/night hours) to meet manufacturing demand and forecasted growth. Instead of making a significant capital investment in opening a new factory location, the company knew there had to be a better way to utilize the assets already owned.
Using Infor Birst, Miller first tested and validated the four days on, four days off schedule in the Welding Department. When the pandemic hit and forced essential businesses to operate with a socially distanced workforce, Miller took the opportunity to implement the four days on/off shift pattern across all of their departments and locations.
“The modern cloud software we use today from Infor allows us to keep up with demand and grow our company at a rate where we can satisfy our customers. Businesses struggled through 2020, but at Miller Industries, we had the agility to swiftly shift gears and continue operations in our manufacturing facilities because we used analytics to test and validate a new workforce schedule to improve asset utilization and ensure the safety of our workforce” said William G. Miller II, President, and Co-CEO of Miller Industries.
“The pandemic allowed us to implement the new workforce system that reduced the density of people in the factory. Not only did it minimize health risks, but it also improved productivity and job satisfaction. As we enter a post-COVID world, we plan to continue this schedule and increase the density of people in the factory through new hires, increasing our manufacturing capacity and asset utilization,” added Miller.
Innovation in the workforce at Miller Industries is not limited to data-driven shift changes. Infor’s technology platform offers flexibility in extending applications to streamline manufacturing workflows and capture data to find opportunities to improve performance. The low-code development platform also enables these innovations to be implemented in a matter of weeks. This has led to Infor CloudSuite Automotive kiosks (mobile terminals) being deployed throughout the factory floor for more efficient time and work management. The kiosks will also minimize bottlenecks associated with the volume of new hires across factories.
Before using kiosks, valuable employee time was wasted when employees had to walk across the factory floor to clock in and out and manage work orders. With the kiosks in place, as soon as a job is complete, it is entered in real-time, and the next work order in the manufacturing process can begin. With these user-friendly kiosks deployed, Miller expects an increase in manufacturing throughput of between 5 and 10%.
“With the use of kiosks and capturing the data at shop floor level, we believe that we can save at least 5% of the throughput time in the plant by can eliminating waiting time. In the past, employees had to wait for the traditional reporting methods to know that the product can move to the next stage. Now, because it's all real-time, products move much faster through the cycle. The quicker product gets built, the less costly it becomes and the less labor we need to get it done,” says Sias Reyneke, CIO at Miller Industries.
With the factory kiosks placed strategically throughout the shop floor and company, employees are happier clocking in and out right where they work, instead of previously waiting in a queue at a few time clock locations at the factory entrance.
“The kiosk has given us the opportunity to clock-in and clock-out individuals at the beginning and end of their shift. It's very convenient to use the same device for receiving work orders and reporting back on time and completion. And the learning curve for our employees is lower because they use the kiosk device every day,” added Reyneke.
User adoption of the kiosks and modern software in general across the organization is essential to Miller Industries. They believe using Infor’s suite of applications enables each employee to understand the business better and grow within the company. They also use Infor Birst dashboards to track how each employee is getting trained.
Mr. Miller notes that “Our team can build a simple dashboard in a few hours, more complex ones in a matter of days. Today we've created at least 20 different dashboards for all our different departments to use, and that number increases by the month. The adoption rate has been phenomenal because each employee knows that I use the same data, and everybody knows they are being measured by the same metrics.”
Infor’s software also helps the executive team at Miller Industries meet the needs of their customers and shareholders. High-quality products, on-time delivery, and earnings per share are some of the important KPIs executives are measured on, and partnering with Infor is key to rapidly deploying new software innovations to meet these goals.
“I believe that the biggest benefit of working with Infor is the relationships that have been created with my executives. We can be on the cutting edge without the risk of these new solutions not functioning or integrating with our existing software. This gives us an incredible opportunity to push the envelope to try the latest state-of-the-art technology, without the risk factors that we might have with a different vendor solution,” says Mr. Miller.
Looking ahead to the next innovations for Miller Industries, CFO Debbie Whitmire is focusing on using more applications that are integrated with the Infor Data Lake. Ms. Whitmire is planning to use Infor EPM for budgeting, planning, and financial consolidation. Provided as part of CloudSuite Automotive, the executive team is looking forward to having a single view of budgets and actuals. On any given day, they can see the weekly, monthly, and quarterly budgets and key factors such as earnings per share in real-time.
Ms. Whitmire believes that “the technical stack was very appealing because it is a one-stop-shop. Everything is integrated, and you can even fold in third-party external data into the data lake to do analytics and use Coleman AI. Having all our data, not in traditional silos, but in one repository where all the information resides was very important to us.”