In part 1 of this post, you saw how you could lay the groundwork for your Smart Manufacturing journey. Now we will dive into the fun part of building your Smart Manufacturing solution.
Designing your Smart Manufacturing solution
After the groundwork is laid, your best bet is to start with small pilot projects and embrace a crawl-walk-run strategy. Your initial costs will be lower. Plus it allows you to try things, fail fast in the worst case, and learn what works best for your company.
The one thing you must never forget, is that there is no one-size-fits-all Smart Manufacturing solution. Something which worked for one company may not work for another. Of course, you can learn from other implementations, and things like standard interfaces or legal requirements will be similar across the board.
But in the end, your solution will look quite different compared to another. This may even be true for the Smart Manufacturing solution between different facilities of the same company.
Keep your eyes wide open
When introducing a Smart Manufacturing solution, you should not focus too narrowly, especially on exciting technologies. Instead, look around, see what others are doing, and shape developing standards so they suit your needs, search for the best, small building blocks.
Contribute to the development of new technology
Being active in organizations like MESA International, NAMUR or ISA is a good way to bring ideas back into your company. You can then try these ideas in such pilot projects and find what works best for you. These organizations allow you to contribute to and influence new standards as they are being developed.
Smaller projects excite stakeholders and maintain interest in the Smart Manufacturing solution because of their potential quick success and ROI. They will become blueprints for the next steps. But even if they fail, and don’t be afraid to fail, the insights gained are worth the risk.
Look at emerging technologies
Many companies are afraid of costs because of the fear that they will be required to purchase a lot of new technology, especially when it comes to machinery. But this fear is groundless. Many companies specialize in retrofit solutions for older generations of machines.
And even if you can’t find something on the market, or it is too expensive, technologies like Raspberry Pi boards are becoming more widely available. Raspberry Pi will have IO modules and suitable fieldbus gateways for connecting it to an industrial network in the next version. The boards can work together with off-the-shelf cheap sensors and make custom Smart Manufacturing solutions easy.
Focus on the goal, not on the new technology
Everyone is talking about all of the cool, new and shiny technology: Just look at most of the discussions have already had. But the focus should be on raising the top line, reducing the bottom line, minimizing bad risk, and managing good risk.
- Don’t introduce new technology for the sake of having new technology: Introduce the right technology to solve a real existing problem or gap.
- Don’t just follow the hype: Stay focused and switch technology-heavy projects to projects that focus on changing organizations or processes.
Smart Manufacturing is not a simple technology project to introduce new machinery, computers or programs. It will transform how your company collaborates to serve your customers and drive revenue.
By some point, you will have reorganized your company and found technical solutions to close your information gaps. You will have established the first version of your Smart Enterprise. But this does not mean you are finished.
In reality, you will never be finished, because from that moment on, you will want to optimize, evolve and adjust. There is no room for stagnation, like what was normal after the purchase of a PLC or robots in the 80s or 90s. Those factories still run today, unchanged from 30 years ago.
You will be driven to constantly improve, fueled by the information you can acquire through the data that you collect. Your hunt to find new sources of data, new information, and to find new ways of getting revenue, reducing cost and minimizing bad risks, will continue long after your pilot project has finished.
Collaboration is key
A new level of cooperation between companies on the journey to Smart Manufacturing must be established, which includes both the customer and the vendors that provide Smart Manufacturing solutions. The old way, where a vendor develops a solution and tries to sell it through luck and the use of classic marketing, is becoming less profitable.
Involve customers in the development of their solution
When a vendor involves the customer in the development process of their individualized solution, it ensures customer loyalty and increased revenue. In the consumer market, such models are already becoming more common. Apple and Samsung are excellent examples for customer loyalty, and Nike or Coca Cola are experimenting with ideas for customers to create their own product or packaging.
Customer-involved development is definitely in the spirit of Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing: The focus is on individual products and services to meet individual needs.
There are no one-size-fits-all solutions
Trying to create a one-size-fits-all solution like in the 80s and 90s is against the ideals of Industry 4.0 or Smart Manufacturing.
This new approach requires you and your vendor to create your own solution with small, standardized building blocks, based on common standards for interfaces, or with common requirements such as legal regulations. Your individual and optimized solution that was incrementally created from these building blocks will minimize both the time and cost of your project.
Individualized solutions are the future
I believe that creating an individualized solution is the only way a vendor of Smart Manufacturing solutions can support their client so they can create products or services to meet their customers’ needs. A solution vendor must become an essential part of his customers’ and therefore their clients’ value chains.
In future posts I will dive deeper into the steps you may need to take along your Smart Manufacturing journey.