How to Manage the Smart Manufacturing Revolution

For companies still reluctant to change in the face of the next industrial revolution, there are simple strategies you can take to position your company for success.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications at CIMx Software

There’s a famous quote by Albert Einstein that has particular relevance to modern manufacturing – “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

The convergence of Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT) is having a profound effect on manufacturing. The days when IT resources could get by without ever having stepped on a shop floor are gone. Operations can no longer refuse to put another “damn computer” on a work center.

In fact, more and more companies are actively pursuing IT/OT integration.

The motive for this convergence is simple – if the end goal for a manufacturing organization is improved production and profit, there are a wealth of solutions and benefits to be found in IT.

According to the Wall Street Journal, many manufacturers are beginning to see themselves software firms, hiring software and computer experts rather than mechanical engineers. “… the transformation of the nation’s factories by digital technology is not only remaking the sector’s hiring needs, but altering how it needs to operate.”

IT is shaping how the supply chain operates, how products are designed and produced, and influencing how manufacturers add value in the marketplace. According to ARC, an analyst firm, “…IT-OT integration is a necessary step, and one that will pay dividends. The results… will, ‘increase the value of existing infrastructure, provide both new opportunities and risks for manufacturing, and allow the reinvention of the relationship with the customer.’”

Process Improvement graph.

Managing change is the difference between success and failure. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Managing a Smart Manufacturing Strategy

Unfortunately, many manufacturers decide to manage change by doing the same thing, over and over again. Instead of addressing the root cause of production struggles with a Smart manufacturing solution, they contort existing processes to get by. Their strategy comes down to doing nothing.

The market is moving past paper-based manufacturing and ineffective Legacy MES. Software companies and industries that serve manufacturing no longer offer the inefficient tools these companies are clinging to. Over time, the divergence between companies that embrace change and those waiting will become so profound as to be unsustainable.

For companies still waiting, there are simple steps to managing the Smart Manufacturing revolution:

  • Foster collaboration between IT and OT. Adding an IT resource to your OT team will not only provide an important resource for the shop floor, but also train your IT team in how the shop floor operates. Over time, this collaboration will begin paying dividends as the company better synchronizes internal projects.
  • Remove paper and paper-based processes from production. Paper causes errors, is difficult to manage, and cannot support modern Smart manufacturing. With a phased implementation, you can begin eliminating paper with a flexible MES in as little as 3 months. Start by digitizing your travelers, a simple task for modern MES, and you’ll also increase production visibility.
  • Consolidate your production information. Many companies struggle with production data kept in multiple locations. Engineering will have a database. Operations will keep their data on paper travelers, while Quality stores their own records. With Smart manufacturing, you need to consolidate data in a secure, accessible location – most often a comprehensive production database. A single source of production truth eliminates much inefficiency companies often struggle to contain.

Doing nothing is not a viable strategy for managing change.  Even for manufacturers unsure or reluctant to take action, there are simple steps you can take that will position the company for success in the future.

Want to learn more, or see how an MES, the foundation for a Smart manufacturing, can help you? Contact CIMx for a free shop floor analysis and receive a personalized report that will become the core of your own improvement strategy.

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