How technology is connecting the dots in manufacturing

At Smart Factory Expo, The Manufacturer had the opportunity to catch up with James Nightingale of Columbus and took the chance to discuss what it is that makes manufacturing such an exciting place to be.

Columbus stand @ Smart Factory Expo 2017The conversation took place on Columbus’ stand at the expo, where the company was exhibiting some of its newest technologies, including the analytical capability of its technology.

What are you excited to share with manufacturers?

I think the most exciting piece is the ability to bring all of these technologies together and to start to feed the imagination of manufacturers to see how they can utilise this technology to differentiate themselves from the competition but also from other manufacturers around the world and also help develop UK manufacturing in to a powerhouse for the future. We are having great success with manufacturers building solutions based around Dynamics365 and using the full suite of applications to maximise outcomes, but there’s still a lot more to come and that is the really exciting thing!

When it comes to the future of manufacturing, there are many issues that are facing manufacturers, but the biggest challenge is change itself.

I think the challenges are the actual changes themselves, so our tools bring a framework and a toolkit to businesses but it’s not a silver bullet that will suddenly solve all of their problems. It is often the change itself within a business that is the challenge. Understanding that change needs to happen is one piece but then changing a culture within a business is a lot more challenging. It’s about preparation, picking the right partner to work with, making sure you understand what your end game is. Finding the technology is actually the easy part really.

Creating a culture of change is itself, very difficult, but it is important to understand the end goal for your manufacturing business when it comes to adopting new technologies. Many want to have a smart factory or manufacturing, but what does that actually mean and what does it require?

Smart factory as a term is essentially an example of where the future is heading, so connected devices for example is not a new thing but bringing that together with a richer toolset to give you the ability to analyse, to understand trends in that data and to be able to maybe use that data to bring in new revenue streams in to your business is really how I see smart factory or smart technology driving manufacturing.

It will enable manufacturing businesses to offer other services that they may not have been able to offer before, like servitization for example, where a manufacturer can provide a service instead of just a piece of equipment so that can then give a longer-term relationship with the end user and therefore a longer term revenue stream so it’s not just a one-time thing, it’s driven across a long period of time.

 Creating new revenue streams, adopting new business models and extending service offerings are all being enabled by smart technology and the framework that supports them is increasing the capabilities of manufacturers. Being able to capture, interpret and act on data gives manufacturers insights they have never had before, but making sure you have the right framework in place to make the most of it is hugely important.

Columbus are a global Microsoft partner so they’re able to bring the Microsoft product portfolio to manufacturers and bring a platform and a framework to help transform their businesses in to a new generation of factories, new business models and other key metrics that manufacturers are looking to do to differentiate themselves in the future.

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