digital manufacturing, innovation, technology, manufacturing

Digital transformation continues to gain momentum in manufacturing. Recent successes have only increased the interest many companies have for further digital advancements and investments. Real-world results include:

  • An industrial manufacturer relied on manually intensive cost calculations and forecasts leading to delays and errors. The company was also in a situation where it was difficult to define and monitor production metrics. By deploying greater digital capabilities, the company can quickly assess productivity and material issues, better meet customer requirements and increase production operations transparency.
  • Akebono, a manufacturer of brake friction materials and brake assemblies, was in a situation where they lacked consistent data and rapid responsiveness to production operations. Implementing QAD Automation Solutions resulted in greater data accuracy, reliability and integrity. As a result, Akebono maximized production replenishment based on real-time schedule priorities and improved their production order pick/issue accuracy.

Common digital characteristics across these examples include:

  • Intelligent – Enabling the flow of accurate and real-time information to the right decision makers. 
  • Innovative – Leveraging new processes and digital technologies to generate business insights and progress manufacturing efficiency. 
  • Agile – Applying digital technologies to improve productivity, enhance quality and more rapidly respond to business disruptions. 

Boosting digital manufacturing capabilities serves as a leverage point to increase responsiveness and intelligence across manufacturing operations. Manufacturers gain a rapid and more intelligent approach to decision making, enabled by real-time data and analytics presented in a user friendly and personalized format. Digital manufacturing provides a tremendous opportunity to progress a manufacturer’s business objectives, and the following are just three of the areas where business outcomes can be achieved.

Enhance Demand Planning Accuracy

The recent COVID-19 pandemic is not the only situation that affects product demand causing varying degrees of spikes and order cancellations. Other events impacting demand patterns include seasonal trends, customer buying behavior, unexpected weather events and competitive product innovation. Historically, many manufacturing firms have created forecasting processes with information that includes outdated demand patterns. In the digital era, it’s essential that manufacturers access real-time customer and consumer behavior to illuminate changing patterns and adjust production operations to better meet customer expectations. With the technology available today and quicker access to information, more precise demand tracking allows for appropriate and timely production adjustments to better meet customer demands and reduce inventory levels.

Achieve Real-time Shop Floor Visibility

Manufacturers typically rely on a number of disparate IT systems across their shop floor operations. This situation reduces plant floor efficiency, product quality and real-time insights. Without immediate information access, plant managers and operators have limited visibility to rapidly respond to changing business conditions. The plant floor operations can suffer from excess waste, higher operational costs and missed customer delivery dates.

By leveraging digital capabilities, manufacturers can gain the production insights required to meet customer expectations with the comprehensive collection of operational data. Employees can gain quicker access to the information needed to cost-effectively manage shop floor operations. This specific and integrated information improves production efficiency, delivers actionable analytics and enhances product traceability

Shop floor workers are able to access all the information they need, including work instructions and inspection guidelines. Plant managers are able to boost intelligent decision making with increased visibility across their manufacturing process. As a result, manufacturers are able to access deeper insights, make real-time operational decisions, streamline work orders and improve employee performance.

Boost Asset Utilization

Unplanned machine downtime is a costly drain for the production line. The downstream effect on asset utilization rates and the potential impact to customer orders can be felt immediately. Over the long-term, downtime negatively impacts equipment lifespan and reduces the return on assets. For most manufacturers, shop floor maintenance is planned on a regular basis whether the maintenance is needed or not. In other situations, maintenance only occurs when the machine breaks or stops performing at desired levels.

What if you could gather the appropriate information to perform maintenance only when it’s required? Digital capabilities move manufacturers in this direction by collecting various states of the equipment including temperature, vibration, speed and other factors for an accurate and real-time view of machine performance and health. Analysis of the information can then be used to prevent downtime and schedule maintenance only when needed. 

How far along is your organization’s digital manufacturing transformation? Are you in the early stages of progressing digital capabilities or further along in your digital strategy? Are you considering use cases for leveraging technologies like machine learning, blockchain, data lakes, RPA or other initiatives? Now is the time to accelerate your digital transformation process and consider digital innovations for improving production efficiency, maximizing performance and becoming an Adaptive Manufacturing Enterprise.