1. Reduce Paperwork
Traditionally, manufacturing personnel relied on paper and spreadsheets to track how materials and goods flowed through their supply chain and manufacturing facility. These processes were inefficient. Data collection and data input were manual, so there was a lag between the time when an event occurred and when the systems recognized it. Spreadsheets are static and do not update themselves automatically, so they quickly become stale. Also, they are prone to human input errors. A digital manufacturing plant simplifies the data collection process by automating manual tasks and streamlining data input. As a result, productivity rises.
2. Create Smart Factories
Traditionally, suppliers had limited, and in some cases no visibility into their supply chain or production floor. Smart factories are equipped with advanced sensors, embedded software, and robotics. These intelligent solutions gather information about items, such as how quickly a robotic arm moves and how well a production run executes. Rather than paper or spreadsheets, such information is digital and immediately is sent to mobile devices. Real-time advanced analytics empowers managers, so they make better and faster decisions. If the number of defects is high, they search for and find the trouble spot. If product runs are behind schedule, they bring in more personnel.
3. Break Down Data Silos
Previously, supply chain, manufacturing, and back-office information were siloed: available only in one application used by a specific department. As a result, other groups that would benefit from the information lacked access. Modern digital technology breaks down such barriers. Increasingly, data from production processes is combined with operational data from Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), supply chain, customer service, and other enterprise systems. The change creates new levels of visibility for managers. Consequently, personnel have more information to base their decisions on.
4. The Importance of an MES
Creating new information is only the first step in leveraging it. The data has to be stored in a common place and have a standard format. Manufacturers need to deploy MES software, like PlantStar. This enterprise system acts as a traffic hub providing real-time production monitoring, synchronization, and analysis of plant equipment data. Vendors have been adding analytics, so employees correlate information and make changes that positively impact the manufacturing process. With an MES solution, they integrate autonomous manufacturing functions into their overall manufacturing operations and realize benefits, like process improvement, greater efficiency, less product variation, higher yields, and greater productivity.
5. Continually Improve Operations
A digital factory integrates production systems, machines, workers, and real-time data into a single ecosystem. Consequently, factory workers not only access and analyze data, but the system also continuously learns from their experiences. By collecting, consolidating, and then interpreting data, they see trends. They recommend new manufacturing workflows and automate many time-consuming, manual processes. Maintenance becomes more efficient. Historically, they followed preventive maintenance, where checkups are scheduled on a set basis, say every three months or when a machine completes a function for the 500th time. In this case, they make such changes before or after they may be needed. Predictive maintenance relies on the asset’s actual condition to determine when to service it. It may need to be tuned in two months or after 550 completions. With it, manufacturing companies reduce costs and improve efficiency.
6. Decrease Machine Downtime
Manufacturing factories require that machines are constantly up and running. A digital factory decreases the amount of machine downtime by providing more visibility into device performance. In the past, companies only fixed equipment when it broke down. With intelligent devices, workers spot potential machine issues before they occur and take steps to ensure the production line keeps humming.
7. Gain Business Benefits
The move to digital technology results in tangible benefits for the manufacturer.
- 10% to 20% of value-add production costs coming out.
- 15% to 30% reduction in working capital.
Yet, only 38% have not yet embraced digital technology. As a result, many suppliers would benefit from making the change.
The manufacturing industry has been a highly competitive sector, one where a slight change can be the difference between success and failure. Digital technology offers suppliers the opportunity to dramatically change their operations. Adopting it results in reduced paperwork, eliminating data silos, and lower downtime. Consequently, many suppliers need to move to it.