Manufacturers are facing a crossroads in today’s digitally driven business landscape. They can either choose to dive into the 21st century and begin to transform their facility into a smart factory, or continue on with their operation as if nothing has changed. On the one hand you are making use of new technologies that will give you a leg up on the competition and on the other, there is no need to make any substantial change to your current facility. The fact is, manufacturers must embrace this digital transformation to stay on par with customer demand.
The issue that’s holding many manufacturers back is that there is no out of the box solution that can completely upgrade your facility and turn it into a smart factory.
To truly become a ‘smart’ manufacturer there are steps that you need to take to ensure your investment and time does not go to waste. We will walk you through some of the important steps a manufacturer must take in order to upgrade your facility to optimize profits and increase efficiency across the board.
Set Your Goals
Without a clear goal in mind you will be doomed from the start. It is necessary to understand exactly what you want to get out of this investment. When we talk about investment, we’re not just talking about money but your time as well. Your entire operation must be on board and understand exactly what the end goal will be. By understanding exactly what the goal will be it will help build excitement and your team will be more determined to make the transformation.
Make sure goals are realistic and specific. Do not over inflate the benefits and don’t under represent the possibilities. Setting realistic goals will give your business something achievable to strive for and if these goals are not met, you can analyze and re-strategize in order to succeed.
Once goals are in place it will be time to come up with a strategy. Appeasing the customer should always be the end game in creating the smart facility. Yes, having these advanced technology systems in place will make the facility run smoother but it’s important to understand that a more productive manufacturing operation will transfer over to the customer. Creating a strategy will allow you to see when specific goals should be reached and if they aren’t, the strategy needs to be revisited and revised. Without a strategy in writing, it is much harder or even impossible to understand where something went wrong. There will be challenges along the way. In a perfect world an operation would work exactly how it was planned, but in reality there will be road bumps and hurtles to get past along the way. Don’t be discouraged if something goes wrong, think of it as a lesson and revisit the strategy to try something new.
A Team Effort
As stated previously, creating a fully digital facility cannot be done alone. Every department must be involved to fully implement all of the new technology and systems you wish to employ. Appoint a leader that will be in charge of the decision making as well as clearly define the roles each team member will have. This has to be a top priority for the company as a whole to truly make this initiative work. Create separate teams with different goals and expectations in order to create manageable tasks that they can accomplish. If one team or individual is overloaded with responsibilities the entire system can fail. By dividing the teams into specific roles you can encourage and ensure each individual can take the time to research and become an expert on their specific role, such as data analysis, configuration tools, quality control systems, and digital server systems.
Take Small Steps
If you plan to dive head first into creating your smart facility, there is more of a chance this transformation will fail and a company will return to its old habits. Starting small and continuously building on that success will be much more manageable for your teams as well as every employee that needs to learn these new systems. This phase in approach also allows a manufacturer to get a better understanding about where their new strategy fails or succeeds. It is much easier to fix a problem if there is only one new system in place rather than searching through countless new processes to locate what went wrong. Once the first step is achieved, moving to the next step in the strategy will be much easier on everyone throughout the company. Remember, each employee might have to learn how to work with these new digital systems. Training takes time and learning something new is always easier when it happens in manageable steps.
Analyze and Continuously Improve
Once a facility has completed their transition into becoming a smart facility the journey doesn’t end there. Continuously analyze your progress to see if you can set new goals to go above and beyond, but remember to keep them achievable. Ask around and see if anyone in your facility is having trouble working with a particular system. If there is an issue, relay that information to the team that’s in charge and have them come up with a new strategy or process to correct this problem. Always look for ways to improve. Even if productivity, customer satisfaction and efficiency is higher realize that there is always something to improve. Especially when it comes to a smart facility, there is new technology being released all the time. There may be a sensor, or system that is coming out that can improve your smart factory even further.
The move to a fully digital smart facility is not an easy one, but can come with countless benefits. Not only will productivity improve but your customers will see the difference. Once you are confident that you truly have a smart factory it can even be added to your marketing effort. Customers want to deal with the most streamlined and advanced companies out there. These kinds of smart companies can offer more than the competition. If these steps are followed, a manufacturer will have a much easier time bringing their operation into the 21st century.