The best way for any manufacturer to stay ahead of their competition is by embracing innovation. Anyone caught standing still or letting their business regress is at risk of falling behind everyone else. To make sure you’re ahead of the curve, think about implementing some of the tech trends currently dominating the manufacturing industry.
- Predictive Analytics
- The Connected Worker
- Recognising Data as an Asset
- Embracing Low-Code
- Reimagining the User Interface
1. Predictive Analytics
No-one can know the future but with predictive analytics, we can get pretty close. Predicting when machines need maintenance or when outages might occur boosts efficiency and better decision-making.
This is a move away from reactive maintenance. Don’t wait until a machine needs to be repaired to carry out fixes. Use predictive analytics to identify a machine’s future problems and act accordingly.
This improved way of managing maintenance is good for manufacturers. What’s even better is the impact predictive analytics has on operational efficiency.
Imagine the relevant people instantly receiving a notification when a certain line is consuming more energy or raw goods than usual. Or, being able to highlight optimal batches and spot behaviour through machine learning, rather than hoping that a pattern is identified and understood by a human.
The same concept applies to decision-making. Business decisions should be based on real-time data, not gut instinct. Predictive analytics isn’t a passing trend, it’s an absolute necessity. Not every business is currently set up to work in this way but it’ll soon be the norm for everyone.
2. The Connected Worker
Being able to connect workers in the plant with those back in the control room saves time, energy and resources. For this to be a reality, both parties need to be able to access the same information to be able to carry out their work.
This connectivity can be achieved through digital business process capture, forms and workflow capabilities. It’s about accessing the same data but augmenting it to suit the device and needs of the users. Augmented reality (AR) is just one route that’s leading businesses towards the connected worker.
Pokémon Go is probably the most famous use of AR to date. Its huge success showed that the technology works, not just for catching Pokémon but also practically within the manufacturing industry.
Imagine an engineer sent to diagnose a fault with a machine. AR allows the engineer to hold up a tablet over the machine and receive valuable insight about what’s going on beneath the surface.
To correctly identify the issue and find a fix, they need all of the associated essential information. AR ensures the plant floor worker receives the same data as those back in the control room, although it’s augmented in ways to suit their specific needs.
It might be that they need assistance from a colleague after identifying the problem. Connected worker technology enables another engineer to dial in remotely so that the two can discuss possible solutions. Issues are dealt with in a much faster way thanks to AR and the link it enables between systems.
Repairs are carried out quickly and the engineer can move on to their next task. The engineer can get through more tasks in a day and there’s less downtime because they can identify the issue without having to carry out further investigations.
It might seem like science fiction but the reality isn’t far away.
3. Recognising Data as an Asset
Many people predict that data will be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th. Organisations that recognise that can utilise their data more effectively to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals.
The predictive analytics we mentioned above is just one way that big data can be utilised effectively. IoT is ensuring that every device and machine collects useful data that can inform decisions and provide unrivalled insight into a business.
Data collection isn’t necessarily a new trend but the way it’s being harnessed and organised certainly is. It’s then up to the manufacturers themselves to decide what to do with the data they’ve collated.
Improved production, better responsiveness to market trends and being able to proactively address issues are just some of the ways that manufacturers are currently using real-time information.
4. Embracing Low-Code
The more expert knowledge that’s needed to manage a system, the more rigid a business is. We’re seeing more manufacturers look for off-the-shelf solutions that are described as low-code platforms.
These platforms require less technical expertise and a lower skillset to use. They can be understood and harnessed by a wider range of team members which is an efficient use of resources.
Low code, digital business process management enables fast and effective multi-site rollouts as the specifics of each plant are configured, rather than recoded. This means that the second, third, fourth and all future rollouts are so much easier - perfect for large manufacturers.
Manufacturers have to do more with less. Talented individuals are hard to find and even harder to hire. It’s much easier to use low-code platforms that can be used by everyone. If you can get to grips with one, then you have the skills you need to use all of them.
The low code digital business process management allows for agile manufacturing enablement. It allows for faster New Product Introductions (NPI), quick changes to recipes and downloads and faster digital responses from the business that may drive manufacturing production. This approach supports fast experimentation and an agile, iterative strategy, both of which help to drive growth.
5. Reimagining the User Interface
We expect there to be a shift in how user interfaces are thought about, not just how they can give manufacturers the ability to make better informed decisions but also how they look and feel.
Consider some of the trends that have been dominant in the IT world recently. We’ve seen a focus on usability, speed and user experience. If something is limited or unnecessary, then it’s expected to evolve or it becomes obsolete. Imagine if a certain product or service wasn’t available on your phone, you’d head straight to a competitor.
These evolutions, that are led by good user experience, are growing in number within the manufacturing industry. We’re already seeing a shift from HMI towards Operations Management. Traditional SCADA is elevated so that it can take on more operational considerations and enable better decision making.
For manufacturers to enjoy reimagined user interfaces that lead to increased productivity, there has to be a shift in awareness - from equipment to process and operations. This can be a stumbling block for anyone that’s resistant to change but without changing input and processes, they can expect to see the same output.
To fully take advantage of new technology, manufacturers need to bring together their existing IT and OT teams. Convergence is probably an idea that’s been considered before thanks to the improved agility and shared security expertise that it brings. Fail to align these teams now and your business runs the risk of falling behind the competition.
Aligning Your IT and OT Teams
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