Manufacturing process management: smarter & more connected

Posted on 21 Nov 2016 by The Manufacturer

Manufacturing is on the brink of a paradigm shift as a range of disruptive technologies continue to emerge with the potential to transform business models and relationships between suppliers, producers and customers.

These developments include the industrial Internet of Things (IoT), advanced analytics, human-machine interaction, manufacturing process management, and additive manufacturing. While some will take longer to reach the market than others, they are all expected to transform the industry in the foreseeable future. This means there’s a very real risk that those who continue with business as usual could be outplayed by a new generation of tech-enabled rivals.

While every enterprise has its own vision, the overarching aim of the digital renaissance that underpins Industry 4.0 is to create a smarter, more connected factory. Essentially, this involves bringing isolated functions closer together to form a fully-integrated, automated and optimised manufacturing flow that both grows and diversifies revenue streams.

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Adopting more service-oriented business models allows manufacturers to diversify revenue streams and helps lock-out competition.

Beyond production

Another trend that is emerging due to these technological advances is a move from product-focused business models toward service-oriented solutions. Manufacturing has traditionally focused on converting raw materials into physical products or components. Now, as more customers want holistic or cost-effective solutions to their business challenges, physical production is becoming one step in a much broader value chain.

This shift in demand is enabling manufacturers to diversify their business interests by providing services that leverage the capabilities of their products. For example, MAN Truck & Bus UK met the financial challenges of its customers by providing financial services, service contracts, fleet management contracts and vehicle rental – growing its turnover from £50m to £500m in 10 years.

Servitization enables businesses in the sector to diversify into new markets. In the UK and Europe, where many firms are under pressure from low-cost rivals in the developing world, it also gives manufacturers an opportunity to compete beyond cost and offer a unique value proposition. This ultimately increases customer retention, builds loyalty and locks out the competition.

How can manufacturers begin to leverage these opportunities?

These trends present tremendous opportunities for forward-thinking firms. Now is the time to put the right foundations in place by developing a business strategy that will prepare your organisation for the future.

This involves investing in employees with IT-related skills and innovation abilities. These employees will not be able to help move your organisation forward, however, if they are given the burden of outdated IT infrastructure and technology that is incapable of serving their needs and leveraging their capabilities.

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Technology that enables tech-savvy users to create their own tools to work smarter is becoming an increasingly attractive proposition to manufacturers.

As manufacturers re-define organisational structures and workflows, technology that enables tech-savvy users to create their own tools to work smarter is needed. This technology also needs to connect business functions such as human resources management, product development, warehouse maintenance, storage and the supply chain.

By bridging siloed processes, managers have a clear view across the enterprise and the organisation can operate in a more streamlined, efficient way with empowered IT employees.

Making strategic technology choices

Technologies do exist that can help manufacturers achieve these goals and lay the groundwork for smoother adoption of Industry 4.0.

Flexible business applications are valuable in creating a scalable manufacturing process management platform that easily bridges gaps between people, data, decisions and systems across the value chain.

This low- or no-code app technology can be manipulated and customised by users who are not IT specialists, which means it can be deployed much faster and more cost-effectively at any level of the organisation. It also leverages existing IT investments by integrating effortlessly with existing frameworks and driving efficiency across all departments.

For example, a business process application can manage a product from the concept phase through its entire lifecycle with collaboration, workflow and data pulled from across the organisation. This technology can help you to better identify fault patterns and use this intelligence to eliminate product defects earlier in your production process to boost quality and slash production costs.

A scalable manufacturing process management platform can increase efficiencies along your supply chain by tracking, reporting and automating inventory management. It can also grow to manage and track all activities in your custom management process, including compiling declarations, procedural compliance and reporting.

These are just a few of the benefits that today’s business process application technology can bring into the sector. Ultimately, today’s manufacturing leaders must be ready to rethink their business models, workforce capabilities and technology infrastructures to take advantage of rapidly emerging opportunities. Now is the time to position your company for change.

Manufacturing process management

K2 turns complex work into powerful business process applications. With K2’s application platform, organisations can use visual designers to rapidly build and deploy low-code apps that are agile, scalable and reusable — resulting in modern processes that quickly and easily connect people, data, decisions and systems.

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