Have you ever seen the show “How It’s Made”? It’s a great look at the manufacturing processes of many everyday products.
Inspired by the show, I look around to find interesting manufacturing stories to share. Every day I work with a wide spectrum of industries, each with a unique manufacturing process.
In today’s episode…
The story of corrective lenses started a long time ago in a galaxy not so far away, in 13th Century Italy to be exact, with the same objective as today: assist people with poor or declining eyesight. At this time, magnifying glass were made from a transparent quartz and beryl lens until Alessandro di Spina invented a method for embedding them into eyewear that was available to the community. Since then, quartz and beryl lenses have been replaced by glass lenses which are easier to produce at great scale. Today’s corrective lenses are a perfect combination of science, technology, art and fashion.
Per the video above, manufacturers have come a long way since the 13th Century; scientific progress has greatly improved the intrinsic quality of the material. In addition, manufacturers have improved the lifespan of eyeglasses by applying a scratch resistant solution on the lens. Today’s manufacturers can rely on high-tech machines for most of the production steps, however, to create real masterpieces, human supervision and expertise is needed as machines are not artists, yet.
Corrective lenses are high-tech medical devices, which means they face very specific constraints in terms of production and distribution creating many supply chain challenges. When talking about corrective lenses, it is clear that “one size does not fit all.” It is not a generic consumer product, almost every lens needs to be perfectly adapted to the consumer’s prescription. This type of customization means that companies cannot anticipate the demand, plan the production and subsequently hold stock. The manufacturing process starts when an order is received and the main goal is to fulfill the customer’ order with the right product at the right time.
For many manufacturers, optimization is defined as using 100% of their production capacity. This strategy relies on sales forecasts which are not available as sales cannot be anticipated for these products. Manufacturers need to be able to handle a new order at any time and some production lines need to be available to avoid delays and waste.
Components also need to be available when needed. Manufacturers cannot wait for a sales order to occur before purchasing the required components. Sales forecasting is almost impossible for the final product as the components supply cannot be anticipated. However, the components required to produce every lenses are usually similar. Therefore, we can use historical production data to uncover a pattern in the use of each component; here is where the planning begins.
The Case of Essilor
Essilor is the world leader in ophthalmic optics and a key player in visual health. They design, manufacture and distribute quality products and services, such as corrective lenses all around the world.
As many companies, Essilor want to maximize their customer service level, to reduce their cash-to-cash cycle and to optimize logistics costs. These are common objectives, however when combined with the challenges we previously mentioned and Essilor’s specific constraints, they need to find innovative solutions to reach their objectives.
First, Essilor decided many years ago to adopt a S&OP process as the key element of their supply chain strategy. Since this process is difficult to manage alone, Essilor needed a tool to improve S&OP’s reactivity and to simplify it. Thus, they selected a Demand & Supply Chain Planning (DSCP) solution and quickly noticed an improvement of the visibility on their whole supply chain. The DSCP solution led to time saving and increased their reactivity; in addition, Essilor reduced its stock and supply chain costs. Furthermore, the tool also allows them to utilize a “What if” simulation solution and efficient reporting using reliable KPI’s.
The Future of Manufacturing Tends to Hyper Customization
Essilor and other corrective lenses manufacturers constraints and challenges can also be applied to many other industries. Companies with a Make To Order (MTO), Assemble to Order (ATO), Configure To Order (CTO) or Engineer To Order (ETO) strategy can face them. The DSCP solution used by Essilor can also help these companies to reach their goal; with the right processes and solutions, there is no impossible problem.