Scaling the smart factory to a smart network

Posted on 22 Oct 2020 by The Manufacturer

The importance of maintaining an agile supply chain and efficient manufacturing operations has never been greater than in the wake of the global pandemic.

Smart manufacturing systems, enabled by concepts such as the Industrial Internet of Things, mixed reality and advanced analytics can enhance a company’s ability to manage its workforce and supply chain risks, as well as production scheduling complexities.  This can yield material benefits around improved capacity, more responsive changes to address market demand, reduced costs and addressing sustainability.

Organisations wishing to explore smart factory solutions usually start with small pilot projects. However, many run the risk of starting too small, which can make it challenging to scale these initiatives across the plant network. Companies often end up implementing discrete solutions in pockets within the organisation, declaring victory too early and thus limiting the value they can bring.

The Deloitte Scaling the smart factory report explores how companies can scale smart factory solutions globally and execute locally, while minimising disruption and the overall cost of ownership.

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What are the challenges?

  • Business models and operations challenges. Local processes, measurement of value and culture can differ significantly between factory locations.
  • Technological challenges. Technological infrastructure – including production equipment, IT networks, data models and architecture – may vary by location and plant.
  • Talent and leadership challenges. While solutions are usually piloted in facilities with strong leadership support, it may be more difficult to secure similar sponsorship in facilities elsewhere.
  • Data management challenges. Managing and utilising data from multiple sources within a smart factory and across a number of plants can be enormously difficult. Even more challenging is to gather data from legacy equipment and ultimately store, manage, protect and use the diverse dataset to improve business operations at scale.

How to overcome these challenges and scale up?

Successfully scaling smart factory solutions requires a common purpose and well-defined value. Successful network-side smart factory transformations have several key characteristics:

  • Enterprise-wide vision and alignment: With a strong focus on value, a smart factory vision should be expanded to facilities in other locations with the view of digitising manufacturing and achieving operational benefits. Organisations should draw up a flexible road map for rolling out the expansion programme, whilst generating excitement across the Top Floor (by communicating the “the size of the prize”) through to the shop floor (winning hearts and minds and finding change champions).
  • Programme structure: A strong programme structure needs to be established through regular engagements with all relevant stakeholders – IT, production, quality, finance and many others. Some organisations are establishing a dedicated Digital Manufacturing Group that drives consistency across the organisation while also accounting for local nuances. Identifying and deploying the next generation of leaders within the programme structure to provide the levels of energy and determination needed to overcome the many challenges.
  • Planning and creating templates for solution rollout: Timelines should be created for solution rollout for most plants and map out overlapping timelines for sharing leading practices with checklists of dependencies and prerequisites for creating templates for the solution rollout. A “scaling toolkit” should be part of the arsenal.
  • Execution to scale: The rollout of smart factory solutions needs to be based on scalable technology ‘building blocks’ that can adapt to multiple plant characteristics and accommodate loosely coupled systems. Frictionless coordination between various work streams consistently across plants is typically a corner stone of successful network-wide execution.
  • Deployment: Smart factory networks will need rigorous data management infrastructure and processes to avoid potential errors. One way to mitigate potential errors is to use automated deployment tools.
  • Post-deployment support: Managing end-user experience and adoption will be crucial in the post-deployment phase. For this multi-tiered, centrally tasked, well-trained resources will be essential.

How to lock in success?

Once the smart factory is scaled to multiple plants, focus should shift to maintaining successful operations in the long run by ensuring:

  • Leadership involvement. Senior leadership should continue driving the sustained adoption of smart factory solutions at newer plants.
  • Communication management. There should be consistent, regular messaging from leadership about the programme’s progress, successes and lessons learned.
  • Funding support. Creative strategies should ensure the continued funding of the scaling programme.
  • Business continuity. Operational disruptions should be prevented and limited with lessons learnt in one plant and implemented in others.

Deloitte is the headline sponsor of Smart Factory Expo taking place on 9-12 November. Connect with Nick Davis, UK Industry 4.0 leader at Deloitte who will gladly share his perspectives and lessons learnt from others who have been down this path before. If you’re looking for a new podcast that brings you insights from opinion leaders, business leaders, academics and researchers on key developments and their experiences across the sector, subscribe to the Industry 4.0 Ready podcast series. This podcast explores the importance of digital transformation across the manufacturing sector – and its impact on how businesses design, make and service their products.

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