Capturing the value of digital across the entire manufacturing chain

Posted on 15 Jul 2022 by The Manufacturer

For the entire manufacturing ecosystem to thrive rather than survive, commitment to digital must be absolute. When thinking about the role digitisation can play in our value chain I often imagine a drag race. I ponder the alignment of people, culture and process required from the moment plans for the car are forged to that split second when it crosses the finish line. I think about how no amount of nitrous will secure that vehicle - and the whole team behind it if it is not aligned in the right direction. Before pressing the nitro button, the car must face the right direction.

Similarly, no amount of digital will help organisations if their people, culture and processes are not aligned in the right direction to begin with. More importantly, if implemented and scaled correctly, it can become a gel that holds people, culture and process together and the enabler of long term success. 

The pressure to succeed

It’s not easy to get to the front of the pack. And it’s even harder to stay there. Competition across our ecosystem is intense and those leading are capturing valuable benefits throughout the value chain. These companies pull ahead through paying true attention to the benefits of digitisation rollouts. Think data, analytics, machine learning, AI to name just less than a handful. 

Without having the courage to explore their potential, networks associated with companies will fall down together as it will result in an unsatisfactory return on investment. Time and money are the pressure points. But end goals get reached and a more competitive position gained when effective scale is achieved throughout a company’s value chain. 

What does the following look and feel like? Production capacity increase, uplift in customer service, environmental impact, material loss reduction, employee satisfaction and wellbeing boosts that sustain and consistently improve delivery lead times. 

Overwhelming choice (like the supermarket) and a ‘small steps’ approach

Hundreds if not thousands of potential technological solutions are available to factories and other related workplaces of 2022. So how, once people, culture and process alignment is in place, do you formulate a digital rollout that will bring forth better returns?

It can often be overwhelming; akin to the plethora of narrowing down choices an individual encounters during any trip to the local supermarket.  Pressure is much greater however. Fail with the rollout and it costs, not just significant sums, but employee energy too. 

So a ‘small steps’ approach is most certainly the way to go when absorbing possibilities of digital transformation. Particularly for manufacturers that are on the brink of making changes to their digitisation process or for those about to engage in the first leap. 

Testing a pain point with one technological solution is a start. Though it might subsequently be a small win, it’s a win nonetheless. And from that doors to other possibilities open that can lead to wider transformation across the value chain.

Courageous humans

There’s no doubt in my mind that steps taken to enable transformation across the chain requires a great deal of courage from leaders. That courage is a necessity if we are to improve on the whole as a manufacturing ecosystem. 

Get the technological applications right and all of a sudden opportunities arise across the board; from more seamless collaboration to better and more empowered employee decision making, talent retention, reskilling, upskilling and attracting the best emerging talent. 

Around a decade ago factory floors were close to unrecognisable when compared with those in 2022. Smart manufacturers of today work back when considering the product and its digital representation. 

It centres on understanding. Understanding which systems, tools and ultimately software is needed for each company, based on its specific performance parameters. In short, a one size fits all approach will not work. Next comes an assessment of the factory floor itself and how the product line can be optimised to ensure the physical product becomes something the end user cannot ignore. 

The future

As we move through the rest of 2022 and into 2023 investment in digitisation should – and I believe will – continue.  IIoT devices and data analytics systems, 5G networks, digital twins. All examples of transformational opportunities. Though none are silver bullets individually, collectively they can change the game across the value chain. 

We must be realistic and remember that this remains a work in progress however. To some extent the digitisation of manufacturing will always be a work in progress. But in the years to come there will be less valuable add-ons required within the chain if investment and smart rollouts of digital solutions continue to be made. 

At Equitus we embrace digital innovation. We see the smart rollouts of technology and the not so smart. And we address each with constructive communication due to our belief that the value chain can continue to climb the summit and perform to the best level possible. 

As engineers and designers we are not alone in our desire to push the boundaries. And that stems from our value commitment to those we work with throughout the chain.  Improved simulation models will come and many hours and resources will be saved as a result. It is an area we have excelled in for some time. Ultimately, when considering how to capture the value of digital across the entire manufacturing chain, manufacturers get two choices. 

Centre your attention on being profitable, resilient and sustainable. Or centre your attention on the disruption of value chains, complexities in technical design and the catch 22 of talent attraction and retention. Work back and decide. 

The Engineering team at Equitus definitely has the ability to help companies with roll outs of digital transformation, based on specific requirements and advantages. We’re always ready for a chat.

About the author

Raam Shankar, EquitusRaam Shankar, Founder and CEO, Equitus Design Engineering and Innovations