Fluctuating customer demand means you need to plan ahead so you’re in sync with your customers and closer to your operations. Customers can find just about anything they’re looking for by doing a simple web search. Empowered by their newfound ability, your customers are becoming increasingly demanding about product quality, diversity, and price. They’ll choose only the vendors that can provide the exact product configuration they want on the timeline they desire at the price they want to pay.
You’ve got to constantly find ways to increase efficiency and lower costs while meeting customer demands. Forward-thinking manufacturers are meeting the challenge with connected manufacturing—using cloud computing, mobility technology, analytics, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in harmony to gain insights that lead to faster, agile, and cost-effective manufacturing.
1. Planning with Pragmatism
While you can’t always know when or how customer demands will shift, you can be as prepared as much as possible. It’s starts with planning. A supply chain plan will drive your materials requirement plan (MRP) and your master production schedule (MPS). Begin by looking at historical data: your strategic activities, confirmed and projected orders, trends—and some intuition. Then collaborate on your plans by getting cross-functional input from sales, marketing, finance, engineering, operations, and upper management.
With connected manufacturing, you rely on a real-time data for a holistic view of the business so you can adjust plans as needed. This gives you the best of both worlds, preparing for what you know and flexibility for last-minute changes. Because the system that supports connected manufacturing is available to everyone in the company, all those affected also know when the plan shifts. Connected manufacturing also gives you the ability to augment and automate your plans using modern technologies such as predictive planning and artificial intelligence.
2. Connecting at All Levels
Do you feel like you’re spending more time fighting fire than being proactive? Likely, it’s because you lack visibility across your operation. This is the result of disconnected systems, disconnected/manual processes, or transactional systems that can’t give you a holistic view of your business.
To be proactive, you need real-time connectivity from the top floor (business management) to the shop floor, so your people have the information they need to identify problems, find solutions, and implement them. This is what the cloud delivers—and it’s why the cloud is at the center of connected manufacturing.
Cloud manufacturing enables you to connect your machines and your business more cost-effectively than ever. Gone are the days of large investments in hardware or database storage. Your cloud platform provider worries about that, all you need to do is focus on your business. With the cloud, your people don’t even have to be onsite, the cloud gives everyone the ability to connect from anywhere, on any device. This “always-on” connectivity gives you real-time insight into how your operations are actually performing, so that there’s no longer any guesswork as you seek to maximize efficiency.
3. Shop Floor Control
The shop floor is where material moves, products are created, and work gets done. And operational excellence is still key to differentiating your business from your competitors and keeping customers happy. This will be virtually impossible if you’re still using manual, paper-based processes.
With the cloud as your foundation, you can capture and digitize shop floor activities then automate operational processes to see what’s happening in the “manufacturing moment.” You’ll know when inventory is too low, how you’re doing with quality management, and where materials are in the production process. The more you connect and automate your shop floor processes, the more visibility and control you’ll have over your operations.
4. People Power
Connected manufacturing isn’t just about getting more out of your machines and materials. It’s also about getting the most out of your people.
Your people are critical to helping you accomplish your goals. Connected manufacturing helps you break down information barriers and departmental thinking. It delivers the right information at the right time so they can do their jobs more effectively.
When you break down the barriers to communication, you can more easily focus your highest-value employees on your highest-value work. Employees can spend less time on mundane tasks and more time focusing on process improvements.
Connected manufacturing is also a way to attract younger, skilled talent who are looking for technology-forward environments. Not only this but you can also focus people on leveraging the data you generate each day to learn more about how to drive even more efficiency.
Connected manufacturing can drive lower costs, higher product quality, greater efficiency, and faster responses to customer demands. In short, it offers the promise of sustainable competitive advantage.
Your journey to connected manufacturing begins in the cloud. Find out why in a new infographic from Plex: Success is the Connected Manufacturing Cloud.