As we enter a truly digital age, manufacturers are increasingly looking to technology to help in ways they might never have imagined before. IFS’ Antony Bourne explains.
While technology can obviously have an incredibly positive effect across a business, it’s important that manufacturers don’t bow to industry peer pressure and adopt something just for the sake of it.
You need to take a step back and think about the goals you’re trying to achieve with the specific technology – how is it going to support your workforce? Will it make you more profitable? These are all questions to consider before getting involved in the digital world of manufacturing.
Below are some key things to think about when digitising your manufacturing process.
Devices, devices, devices
People have a choice of mobile devices they can use these days and manufacturers need to ensure that the systems they have in place accommodate this.
It’s no longer about mobile phones and tablets alone, but thinking about the Internet of Things (IoT) and the ability it offers you to link to devices that are external to the company.
These devices are often in the field and they can increasingly allow smarter and better decisions to be made. An example of this is devices that can give you usage patterns and information around the wear and tear of components thanks to big data analysis.
Individual departments are gradually being broken down and companies are adopting a more process orientated approach to manufacturing. This means that collaboration requirements are greater and often involve external parties like suppliers and customers.
For example, we have customers that share their forecast data with suppliers to help ensure that there are no surprises when the demand schedule is created.
As mentioned in my previous post on demand forecasting, make sure you think about these external influences on your business as these can be hugely valuable and must not be overlooked.
An integrated business solution
As we move towards the digitisation of manufacturing there will be a need to have a business solution (or perhaps more than one) that is integrated so that analysis can be done at any stage of the manufacturing process, or with strategic goals in mind.
You need to make it easier for employees to interact with machines based on feedback from the machine. Without having this as a streamlined and simple to use process, employees may not realise the full potential of integrated machines.
As a result of the increasing digitisation of manufacturing, security is becoming ever more important. With data saved in a range of places including servers; the cloud; mobile devices; collaboration platforms, and more, it’s crucial that as a manufacturer you have a strategy in place to manage and control this.
Compliance is a key driver in the manufacturing industry so you need to be confident that you are keeping up with current standards and guidelines, and regularly auditing your systems and ensuring your security needs are being met.
Not only can the digitisation of manufacturing provide manufacturers with better internal processes and enable greater efficiency and thereby improved profitability, but it can also enable them to attract more employees.
The creation of a more modern workplace where employees can work with current technology both in the office and at home, ensures that they don’t become frustrated in the workplace.
This is especially pertinent when you think about the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend.
When looking to exploit the new digital age of manufacturing, it’s important not to discount the human impact of digitisation, both from existing and future employees.
A simple way of making your workplace more appealing is by embracing digitisation and ensuring you are getting the most from it.
By considering the above areas, you can come out the other side with a realistic and effective digital strategy that will see you truly move into the 21st century of manufacturing.