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Digital transformation is the high-hanging fruit that all industries are trying to grab. Many embarked on the journey quite some time again and are approaching maturity. Others are just starting out, seeing that it is inevitable and counterproductive to an organization’s success.
In order to drive higher efficiency and productivity at reduced costs, manufacturing industry has always been at the forefront of innovation. This was the industry that has been driving the industrial revolutions since their beginning. Due to this, its digital nascence can seem perplexing, but is true nonetheless. When businesses across industry are rushing to achieve digitalization, why is it that the revolution is knocking the doors of manufacturing industry just now?
One reason for this delayed ‘digital awakening’ was the unfathomable idea of merging digital and physical in manufacturing. The lack of a seamless and connected data flow was another hurdle that has been stopping factories from becoming smarter, technology-wise! Having said that, manufacturing industry is not entirely untouched from the digital influence or the technical innovations. But the usage has been scarce and scattered. Digital transformation entails an all-inclusive change in processes, technology, culture, and people. Thus, the dispersed usage of technological advancements does not reflect in the overall digital progress of the industry.
Manufacturing and digital transformation have been running parallelly to each other, having influence on every industry, affecting their trends and processes. Now that they are at a point of intersection, it will become possible to channel a visible, comprehensive channel of communication in the value chain. As predicted by McKinsey, “in the next decade, digital manufacturing technologies will allow companies to connect physical assets by a “digital thread”—unleashing a seamless flow of data across the value chain that will link every phase of the product life cycle, from design, sourcing, testing, and production to distribution, point of sale, and use.”
From design, procurement, testing, and production to field operations and sustainable services, digital thread becomes integrated with every aspect of a product’s lifecycle. According to an LNS research, a digital thread provides significant payoffs for manufacturing by empowering 20% increase in successful new product introductions and 16% improvement in on-time and complete shipments. By saving both time and money, digitalization will drive a fundamental amplification in terms of manufacturing workflow.
Since digitization in manufacturing is still in its infancy, there is an absence of industry standard practices. With the digital revolution all set to breach the walls of manufacturing industry, here is how organizations can brace themselves to extract advantageous outcomes.
1. Let the walls down
In order to establish a truly connected communication framework that encompasses all the elements involved in a production value chain, the first step is to break down the functional silos. Without demolishing the siloed structures, it is not feasible to facilitate end-to-end visibility.
As per a recent report, almost 80% of the factories do not have a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) in place. An MES is the core solution for tracking and documenting the entire production process, from procurement to deployment. In addition to connecting, monitoring, and controlling the manufacturing process, this computerized system ensures unobstructed data flow for an effective execution of product development cycle. For an MES to do so, the first requirement is the demolition of siloes and flattening of factory floor operation architecture.
2. Prepare the army to embrace the change
Recruit. Retain. Reskill. These three Rs form the principle to strengthen the army of workers for a digital factory.
Recruit the people with the relevant and required acumen of the latest, technologically-advanced solutions. These tech-savvy workers will become the optimizers of obstructed processes in case of a glitch. Their technical aptness will come handy to create a blueprint for digitalization of the factory.
Retain the workers who have been an integral part of the factory operations and know what goes where, how it goes, and why it goes where it goes. There familiarity of the existing processes, when combined with the know-how of new, tech-savvy recruits, can help build a bespoke plan to tackle the incoming digitalization.
Give them the tools needed in the form of automation, robotics, AI, ML, and computerized systems to decrease laborious tasks and enhance adaptability.
3. Resist the herd temptation
Despite digital revolution being a new phenomena in manufacturing industry, despite the lack of tried-and-tested industry best practices for a successful digital journey, avoid following the herd mentality while building the strategy for digital transformation.
While the overall processes are more or less the same for each factory and organization, the devil lies in details. These tiny details are the idiosyncancies that distinct one organization from
another. Therefore, it is critical that during strategy development, all these aspects are taken into consideration. Based on them, the content of the suitcase for the digital transformation journey should be decided.
4. Allow disruption, avoid destruction
The digital transformation of manufacturing is indeed about disruption. However, it does not dictate the destruction of existing processes entirely. This revolution is more about taking the old methodologies, putting them into a transformational pipeline, and obtaining freshly-brewed, technically-sophisticated, highly-efficient processes on the other end.
There is, in fact, a very thin line between destruction and disruption. To make sure that you do not cross the line, it is absolutely essential to implement an effective digital assurance strategy. This strategy will go hand-in-hand with the digital transformation plan for the manufacturing industry, while guaranteeing that the desired destination is reached.
While keeping design, manufacturing, and enterprise in a single loop, digital assurance and testing enable a smooth flow of production planning, scheduling, tracking, tracing, and factory floor execution. Digital assurance, integrated into a digital transformation strategy, guarantees glitch-free operations of a smart factory for tomorrow. Leverage Cigniti’s Digital Assurance & Next Gen Software Testing for Manufacturing Industry to increase your ROI and operational efficiency.