From The Assembly Line To Digital Ecosystems

Since the invention of the assembly line, manufacturers have become experts in developing processes that boost efficiency and streamline the factory floor. Unfortunately, its credentials haven’t extended to other areas of business with little being done to develop digital ecosystems within the industry. Over the years, the industry has shown a trend of favouring operational investments (that often result in minimal cost and time savings) on the factory floor, instead of transforming the way business and data exchange is conducted.

In order for manufacturers to improve processes and efficiencies, efforts should be redirected to build digital ecosystems to break down silos within organisations (and between organisations) that typically don’t interact with each other. This will allow organisations to access and act on critical data, and troubleshoot production and quality issues at a much earlier stage. In addition, digital ecosystems allow businesses to conduct sales directly through e-commerce channels providing an overall better customer experience.

The journey ahead

Building a digital ecosystem is not an overnight project—it takes a lot of time, effort, resources and leadership. However, the end result will see organisations reap benefits that were previously not possible, gleaning informed insights that lead to better decision-making and a longer-lasting impact on the bottom line.

In order to develop digital ecosystems, organisations must adopt data collection and machine learning technologies that improve communication between organisations and/or departments—it’s the first step to “breaking down the walls”. With more complete information and real-time data analysis, manufacturers will deliver higher service and better product quality, leading to increased profits.

Predict unexpected maintenance

Manufacturers have always navigated regular maintenance schedules however operations can be thrown into disarray if machinery breaks down or needs urgent maintenance. This not only has the potential to cause major disruption to operations but creates unexpected costs. By implementing modern technologies such as IIoT sensors, manufacturers can collect signals on how different equipment and processes are operating, allowing teams to identify and predict potential problems before they occur. The business can then take the necessary action to address the issue saving time and money.

Connect the Supply Chain

Equipment and processes are only one part of manufacturing, with the broader supply chain being an integral component. As the supply chain includes a number of parties from differing organisations, it can be difficult to track and accomplish shared goals. To overcome this challenge, manufacturers should invest in technology that allows them to aggregate and analyse data to see where issues may occur across the entire supply chain.

By having unprecedented levels of visibility, organisations will be able address issues quicker reducing the amount of unwanted disruption. For example, if fresh produce is found to have been contaminated after it has been distributed to multiple stores across the country, it’s imperative to act quickly. With AI-powered search and connected data sources, the produce can be identified in a timely manner, the appropriate information (such as where the produce was sent, the relevant contact, etc.) can be found immediately and recalls can be actioned. In this instance, if all parties act quick enough, no one will have consumed the produce, potentially stopping many citizens from falling ill.

Digital; from beginning to end

As previously mentioned, moving towards a digital ecosystem isn’t a small lift, it’s a major project and requires a lot of adjustment. However, it’s an essential process for manufacturing organisations to undertake.

Just as the manufacturing process turns raw materials into a finished product, manufacturers must take data (raw material), glean insights and use it to improve processes and ultimately the quality of the finished product. Finally, the finished product should be presented and distributed to customers via their preferred channels, which often includes digital platforms.

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