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The Roadmap To Digital Manufacturing Transformation

Graham Immerman
November 29, 2017

Industry 4.0: Hype or Hope?

Amid the hype surrounding Industry 4.0, IIOT, and digital transformation, the introduction of Industry 4.0 has caused a bit of a culture shock for manufacturers. The benefits of data-driven manufacturing are far too significant to ignore and will enable many to deliver competitive advantages in an ever-competitive landscape. Digital transformation is about changing business models and about companies not just taking advantage of the huge opportunities created by these latest technologies but also preparing for their constant evolution.

However, a great deal of hesitancy exists for manufacturers to embrace the technology and modernization that solves these new challenges. This hesitancy is a product of a few specific factors:

Lack of clear vision and strategy- Roughly 50% of US companies admit to not having a systematic roadmap or toolbox for easy rollout of digital manufacturing solutions. Because no standard roadmap for digital manufacturing exists, companies are often uncertain around where to start and what foundational capabilities are required to succeed.

Lack of knowledge about relevant tech partners- 15% of all US companies identify lack of knowledge about suitable providers as their biggest obstacle - Business leaders need to understand which technology solutions address their core business problems as well as the right criteria for evaluating solution providers

Difficulty managing and attracting digital talent- 21% of all US companies are facing a talent war as their biggest obstacle in transformation - companies need to build capabilities in-house in order to implement new strategies and tactics; experiential learning is the most effective way to build capabilities quickly

(data attribution - McKinsey & Co.)

Thus, many manufacturers are still caught in a state of reactivity. While some manufacturing analytics companies have attempted to develop various solutions to address problem but it has yet to be truly solved as there is no silver bullet. There is, however, a starting point. MachineMetrics was designed to help companies overcome the challenges along the digital transformation journey and to advance them forward from reactivity, to proactivity, and to predictivity. We are dedicated to empowering our customers to not just employ the latest technology but to achieve success along their individual journeys. How do we do this where so many other companies have failed? It’s all about knowing where you stand and planning for the road ahead.

You can't know where you're going without knowing where you are. 

To build a roadmap to digital transformation, more often than not companies are looking into the future, attempting to visualize where they want or need to be in twenty years, and planning backwards. For many however, a more proactive approach to planning would be to accept that “You can't know where you're going without knowing where you are now."

We often talk to companies who have predictive and preventative aspirations but who still don’t have machines networked, the necessary IT infrastructure to capture and aggregate machine data, or the internal organizational resources required to decipher the data and implement continuous process changes.

This roadmap should actually be quite logical at its core: let’s become as capable as we can and have all our ducks in a row to ready ourselves for the greater journey ahead. Once we’ve optimized capability, it’s time to digitize our assets, visualize our manufacturing data in real-time, and measure the success of our KPI’s using our tools. We can then advance our use of this data to begin applying predictive and preventative models to our processes with the hopes of furthering our optimization efforts. We can then virtualize these efforts into an integrated manufacturing system framework to support the interoperability between our digital factory tools to solve any real time problems as they arise, and finally link design, engineering, manufacturing, supply chain, distribution and services into one intelligent (smart) automated system that can be used to self-improve both products and processes within the system.

It's all about preparation

Like any good action plan, it’s all about the preparation. Here are a few areas of focus for any company to consider when building out their roadmap:

Organization: Does your team have the right people in place to implement new technology? Are there project leaders capable of owning this project? Transformation requires buy-in at all levels, from the front office and on the shop floor, but it also requires internal leadership.

→ Communication: Does your team have an environment capable of communication and applying process changes not just from the top down but from the bottom up? The information is almost always available, but the hard part is actually capturing it. Operators have a lot to learn from Upper management, but Upper management has a lot to learn from Operators. Don’t let a lack of communication stand in the way of change.

Key Performance Indicators: What are the key performance indicators that you want to measure as a benchmark for improvement? Do you have any information now that can be used for this benchmarking? Having specific KPI’s will allow you to assess, analyze and track our manufacturing processes, as well as to evaluate success in relation to goals and objectives.

Tools: What tools do you want to use to measure our efforts? Of course, every company will need tools to help them optimize their capabilities, but for this job some tools will make more sense than others. Your KPI’s will help you assess which tool will allow you to capture the information you are looking for that best fit your company’s needs.

Digital Connectivity: Are you ready to digitize our assets? Do you have the technical assets in place to capture and store the data? Networking your machines and ensuring that all production data can be captured is one of the most essential capabilities for real-time analytics.

Visualizing your roadmap and where your organization lands within it will help define what steps you can take to create immediate value, where/when to invest time and resources, and most importantly how to advance forward to the next stages.

It’s time to shift the focus from the future to the now, and the questions you need to ask yourself really should be: how do we know where we are now so we can know what the next step is? Do you have the technical assets in place to take that next step? Do you have the assets and buy-in necessary for that step to succeed? Does your organization have the necessary institutional support to begin your Digital journey?

In next week’s blog we’ll break out the digital transformation journey roadmap in greater detail while sharing insights from both our customers and our personal experiences, including successes, failures, and specific challenges along the way (both the avoidable and unavoidable!). Stay tuned!

Why MachineMetrics?

With installing web-enabled shop-wide machine monitoring systems being the first and most important step toward data-driven manufacturing and Industrial IoT/Industry 4.0, MachineMetrics is delighted and eager to work with manufacturers to help them learn about the solutions available and develop a roadmap to digital success so they can take this initial and crucial step forward.

We've simplified IoT for the shop floor and are empowering manufacturers to develop their roadmap toward manufacturing excellence with the easiest to use and simplest to integrate manufacturing analytics software on the market. MachineMetrics is driving efficiency by more than 20% on average for our customers and we are proud to be developing the future of manufacturing alongside them.

Book a demo now and learn more!

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