The odds are stacked against any organization that refuses to transform to digital operations in today’s market. The world of manufacturing today is ultra-connected and more competitive. Shifting consumer buying habits, instant online access to a world of products, emphasis on social responsibility, and complex global logistics and supply chains make it imperative for every manufacturer to move all operations into the digital realm—especially quality management.
5 Reasons to Implement Digital Transformation Now
It’s surprising to think that in many manufacturing organizations, quality and production management are still functioning with manual systems—spreadsheets, siloed data caches, and even paper checklists.
Manufacturers who fail to fully digitize these central operations—which sit at the very heart of their business—are left with a huge data gap that stifles innovation and creates significant risks.
Let’s take a look at five reasons why manufacturing needs digital transformation now more than ever.
Reason 1: Do More With Less for Efficient Manufacturing
We simply need to do more with less these days. This mantra is driven by two critical business needs: reduce costs and increase agility.
If you’re in an industry where demand is down, you must reduce operational costs as much as possible.
If your industry is one that’s seen demand skyrocket overnight, you still need to optimize production operations. You might need to juggle supply disruptions, adapt to a reduced workforce, and handle increased remote work.
And if your business in somewhere in the middle, you always need to:
- reduce waste, energy, and resource consumption
- maintain the highest possible efficiency
- stay price competitive
- ensure compliance with industry, regulatory, and customer standards
- produce the highest possible quality
Reason 2: Be More Agile and Responsive
Adapting to volatility and uncertainty on both the demand and supply sides is critical. Even mainstream and traditional manufacturing sectors continue to see big spikes, upticks, and downticks in demand. You’re being forced to make decisions very quickly about how to adapt operations to cope with those abrupt shifts.
To become more agile, we need to be more responsive. We need to reduce the latency between when we start to see changes and when we respond. The decision-making process must be reduced from weeks to days—or hours.
That means you need to have your finger on the pulse of your production operations—in real time.
Reason 3: Quality Never Rests
Regardless of demand, market, and supply chain volatility, if you produce sub-par goods, people won’t buy them. If you ship goods that are unsafe or non-compliant, the authorities will soon be knocking at your door.
Quality is absolutely critical. Therefore, quality control methods must remain consistent throughout the challenges we face. How do we do that? How do we maintain the high bar of quality when we've got so much disruption happening around us in the business? By enabling visibility across products, processes, lines, and plants.
And you can’t create that level of transparency with paper and spreadsheets.
Reason 4: Tribal Knowledge Is a High-Risk Strategy
Tribal knowledge is all the knowledge that has been gained on the plant floor, from years and years of manufacturing your products. Your operators know each machine’s personality. Your plant floor supervisors almost have a sixth sense about how production operations run.
But when that critical knowledge is locked in the heads of the people who have garnered all that experience, your business is at risk. If your workforce is impacted by attrition, layoffs, or other restructuring, that knowledge goes right out the door (literally). If you find yourself having to draft workers from different areas, shifts, and roles to fill in for absent workers, then that tribal knowledge is of little use to them.
How do you solve that? By centralizing critical information, best practices, and standard operating procedures in a single-source data repository that everyone can access.
The benefits of moving away from tribal knowledge go even further.
When you codify that tribal knowledge into facts, it enables you to take a cold, hard look at the reality of your production environment. You may ask where you have gaps—do you have the data, analytics, and intelligence you need to make fact-based decisions?
Nay-sayers no doubt argue that the idea of centralizing and standardizing operational information imposes a culture of rigidity and inflexibility. They fear that individual empowerment will be limited. But with today’s technology capabilities, that fear is unfounded. When you capture and convert that tacit tribal knowledge into explicit rules, procedures, processes, and workflows, you give workers the practical information and tools to ensure they can do their jobs better and more consistently.
Reason 5: Remote Work Is the New Reality
Almost overnight, manufacturers have had to embrace remote working—a concept that seems impractical if not impossible in an environment where you are making things. And for a portion of the workforce that performs physical tasks, being onsite is essential.
However, workers whose jobs don’t require a physical presence have already had to adapt to working offsite. And manufacturers had to pivot very quickly to enable that shift. It might mean a production supervisor working in an office at a different location in the plant. Or a quality supervisor overseeing multiple plants from a regional location. Or an executive looking across all sites in the organization to find opportunities for improvement.
Now, it’s important to ask whether those workers who work remotely actually have access to the critical information that they need.
These workers may have access to corporate applications like manufacturing execution systems (MES) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, but they don't have easy access to production interfaces like supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, human machine interfaces (HMIs), and other information sources on the plant floor. So that is problematic.
We must find a way to give people access to the data, the analytics, and all the information they need. That’s why digitizing production and quality data is essential.
The Cloud, SaaS, and Beyond
Digital transformation can help us address all these challenges. Today, competing and succeeding in manufacturing requires increased visibility. The best way to increase visibility into your operations is through unification and centralization of all your data.
And the best way to achieve unification and centralization is with cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. The value and power of the cloud is becoming more evident with every passing day. It is inherently remote, unified, and real time—by design.
And it’s remarkably cost- and time-effective. InfinityQS SaaS solutions, Enact® and ProFicient™ on Demand, are quick to deploy and inexpensive. You no longer need to rip and replace infrastructure in place, plan for a bank of servers, or worry about costly configuration and updates. The speed of deployment now matches the requirements—and the urgency—of the real manufacturing world.
Digital Solutions for Transformative Thinking
Let’s face it: manufacturing is notorious for planning and changing at glacial speed. Now, digital transformation can happen at a Silicon Valley pace.
It’s Darwinian at this point. If you do not adopt digital transformation technologies in your manufacturing operations—specifically, on the plant floor—then you are doomed to be left behind. It’s time to take your organization to the next level. Rise up to the cloud.
InfinityQS cloud-based quality platforms make critical production data actionable in real time. To learn more, visit our website.