I risk a dramatic title because I believe that if you don’t digitize your factory, you will be out of business. It’s not a matter of if but when. In our age of disruption manufacturers need to innovate, or their competition will take over their markets.
One question that I hear all the time in regards to digital transformation is “Where do I start?”. You know that you need to do something but not sure what or how. Here are four entry points for your digital journey.
1. Achieve Operational Excellence
Do you want to operate your business at peak efficiency with your existing systems? An easy way to start your Digital Transformation Journey is to focus around Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE). This principle can be broken down into three areas: productivity, quality, and availability. If you think one of these three areas is an issue already, you can start there. Viewing OEE as an overall can help you benchmark and allow you to drill down into the three contributing factors that are affecting your process.
Connecting your equipment to collect and store data fulfills the first step to achieving Overall Equipment Efficiency. Connected thus and receiving data from your equipment, you will then be able to visualize the data. This data then becomes information you can act on. Visualizing the data will make it easier to find bottlenecks and inefficiencies to fix or replace, improving your processes.
2. Connecting Islands of Data
Many manufacturers still analyze islands of data. Over the years, as new systems were installed, they were not connected to a main system to produce an overview of the process. The data within the equipment is available as an island, but is not easily related to other data.
By connecting these isolated systems, manufacturers can start taking data from several systems; this data can be converted into information, and that information can prompt action. This could be as simple as having a central alarm system sensing alarms from all different processes in one system. Having information from the entire process can be invaluable to manufacturers to enhance business decisions.
3. Battle Waste
Where do materials, energy, and time cost you money? More than likely inefficiencies lurk throughout the plant. You should look at areas such as energy usage by the building, lighting, and production processes. Reducing scrap in a process not only reduces material costs but improves productivity as well as lowering energy costs. Facility energy reduction alone can easily save 10-20% of energy costs.
The only way you can see these problems is by equipping the systems to collect data. That data can then be put into context and analyzed to find savings. Digitizing the information is the only way to accomplish this.
Today, manufacturers are having to do more with less. Teams have been shrinking, and the pace of production is increasing. Productivity has increased 250% since 1985. So we are making a lot more products with fewer people. If you are not automating processes, you will get left behind.
Automating a process gives you several benefits. First, it helps eliminate mundane, low-value tasks such as manually collecting data and generating reports over and over. Second, it improves efficiencies to help speed up the process. Third, it is repeatable. Fourth, it gives the operators more time to do value added processes.
I hope this will give you a place to start looking in your manufacturing facility to start you on your digital journey. Take no first step, and the longest journey will always seem an impossible dream. Reading this far could be your first big step.
Want to learn more? Contact me directly!