Manufacturer’s Guide to Digital Trends 2023
Not too long ago, manufacturing was primarily viewed as a labor-intensive, manual, and somewhat dangerous profession. Nowadays, digital transformation in manufacturing has become the all-important key to success. As a manufacturer in an ever-increasing global marketplace, you must either fully adopt both digital manufacturing processes or lose customers and market share. It’s just that simple.
What Is Digital Transformation?
Digital transformation is about adopting emerging digital technologies in order to fully leverage data and analytics. 5G networks, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, IoT, and edge computing all play a role in helping you reduce cycle times, increase production throughput, lower costs, reduce downtime, and improve quality.
Why Do Manufacturers Need Digital Transformation?
Digital transformation for your manufacturing company means achieving higher efficiency, higher worker productivity, and higher equipment and machine utilization. Shorter cycle times increase production throughput, which means reduce lead times and manufacturing costs.
Manual Versus Digital Processes
Think about what it takes to increase throughput and efficiency with manual processes. With manual processes, you define the root causes of downtime in each workstation or work cell by witnessing work in person. Minor causes of downtime can immediately be addressed and rectified. However, some issues require further investigation.
You must also manually track how often downtime occurs to determine corrective actions. Once trends are identified, you can calculate the impact of downtime or work stoppages on cycle times and production throughput. Some corrective actions might include the repair or refurbishment of equipment and machinery. Some may simply involve improving workflow, eliminating redundant work tasks, improving material flow, or shortening the transit time for semi-finished material to and from work cells.
Each step requires a lot of manual work. Now think about how all that data can be provided to you in seconds. That’s the primary benefit of digital transformation.
Digital transformation ensures that all this data can be extrapolated and provided in real-time to operators, technicians, line-side supervisors, and managers. With digital transformation, work stoppages and downtime are addressed immediately. Cycle times are improved, and throughput increases. Variances on cycle times, production throughput, and volumes can be assessed instantaneously, giving you more control.
Key Areas for Digital Transformation
It’s vital that you create a comprehensive digital transformation strategy before you implement any digital manufacturing technologies. When creating this strategy, focus on these three primary areas:
Product Life Cycle
Integrating your supply chain and manufacturing data with your customer relationship management data means that all three achieve increased efficiency and response times. This is the essence of the digital product lifecycle, and it will help you optimize your inventory counts, production volumes, and customer demand in one all-encompassing solution.
Again, analyzing cycle times, machine utilization, production throughput, and current production volumes is invaluable to maximizing efficiency. Using sensors, smart machines, and other digital technologies makes this a reality. Ultimately, it’s about the ability to act instantaneously instead of waiting days or weeks before making that all-important decision.
Inventory & Supply Chain Management
Lastly, matching your inventory counts of raw materials, consumables, and finished goods to current customer demand helps reduce your overall inventory costs. Digital transformation is the tool that enables you to hold the correct inventory counts. Technologies like IoT, blockchains, automation systems, digital twin, and product lifecycle management (PLM) software can help you discover bottlenecks in your supply chain, forecast and test various methods, decrease lead time, and enhance traceability.
Common Mistakes & Misconceptions
The biggest mistake you can make is assuming that it’s too late to adopt digital manufacturing processes. It’s not too late to adopt any digital process. In fact, digital manufacturing technologies are constantly evolving. Attend conferences and webinars to learn more about these emerging technologies and discover ways that you could implement them in your facility.
Another misconception is that these technologies need to be implemented as quickly as possible. However, this will do you more harm than good. Before you even implement technology, you must perform a full assessment of your application and current processes. Is this implementation sustainable? Do you have the resources available to you to maintain this technology?
It’s also important to create an implementation plan and keep managers, operators, technicians, supervisors, and other personnel in the loop on what to expect. Additionally, if you have ISO certifications, you’ll want to ensure that all equipment needed for this implementation is up to standard.
Tips & Advice
If you’re interested in digital transformation, you’ll want to follow these guiding principles:
- Adopt a Systematic Approach: Give your digital adoptions time to work. Be sure to avoid siloed digital transformation where departments work apart in pursuit of their own goals. The idea is to ensure that the entire network works together. Siloed implementation typically involves departments focused solely on their needs while ignoring the data, processes, and information critical to other departments.
- Welcome Change: Resistance to change is common in manufacturing. To ensure this is not a concern, ensure all team members have a say in the initial digital transformation strategy. Getting their feedback on bottlenecks, issues ,and processes ensures that they’re not left working with a tool they don’t understand and eventually won’t use.
- Focus on Value-Driven Initiatives: Start by defining your needs instead of adopting a technology-first mindset. Companies are often enamored with a given technology without demonstrating a precise value, benefit, or match to their specific needs, challenges, and issues. Focus on how your digital adoption will drive value to your specific requirements.
- Avoid the “Perfect is the Enemy of Good” Scenario: Encountering errors isn’t bad. It gives your team a chance to learn and adjust. In fact, encountering errors is better than trying to attain perfection before launch, only to encounter network-wide usability issues that can set you back weeks and months. Waiting until everything is “perfect” robs your team of the opportunity to learn and adjust. There will be issues during implementation. Welcome them.
- Have a Long-Term Plan: If you’re planning on executing a digital transformation, you’ll definitely need a plan. This plan should outline the phases of your implementation, the persons involved in the implementation, any new processes that need to be developed, and the overall goals/objectives of the implementation. Make sure you stick to the plan, adjust when necessary, and review it with your team to ensure everyone is on the same page. Remember—digital transformation is a long-term process. No matter how quickly you work, it’s not something that can be accomplished overnight.
Update Your Marketing to Reflect Your Transformation
Digital transformation isn’t just changing manufacturing—it’s also changing marketing. Newer technologies allow us to gain better insight into what online users are experiencing, how they’re experiencing it, and what needs to be done to increase visibility and engagement.
Your digital transformation shouldn’t stop at your manufacturing processes—you also need an effective digital marketing campaign to help bring in new customers and increase brand awareness.
At Momentum, we can help you develop and maintain a long-term digital marketing plan. We’ve been helping industrial businesses just like yours for over a decade and specialize in search engine optimization (SEO), search advertising, website development, and video production.