The manufacturing industry was gravely hit in 2020 and since then companies are trying to return to the fore. If there was one thing that the business community as a whole learned in the year 2020, it is that investing and adopting the latest technologies is no longer a choice when it comes streamlining processes and ensuring business continuity.
For the past few years, companies have shown interest in investing in new-age tech solutions and they are able to see benefits from these investments. But there is still a lot of ground to cover and scope to leverage these technologies to their fullest capacity.
Latest technologies are helping manufacturers to cut costs, optimize the process, enhance the quality of the goods and boost the overall productivity of the workforce. If your company does not ride on the Digital Transformation wave, then it is only going to become increasingly difficult for you to thrive in the coming years.
But no matter how strict a Digital Transformation strategy you have in place, you might not make the cut unless you start with the right set of tools in place. And one of the most fundamental tools that will drive you to success with your Digital Transformation efforts is a Digital Adoption Platform. This Gartner research, released in Dec 2020, confirms the same.
Getting back to the topic at hand, let’s get an understanding of the 4 biggest trends that will rule the Manufacturing industry in 2021 and how each one will play a role in defining the Digital transformation journey of the industry.
IoT has been around for a while now but it is still trending in 2020 and the trend will continue for the next few years. IoT is now widely adopted and companies are understanding its importance, it is still in trend not because it is new but the way it is being used in the industry, and with time new use cases are being identified.
The IoT spent in 2020 is somewhere around $1.29 trillion whereas it was $800 billion in 2018. Clearly, IoT devices are being adopted to overcome the day-to-day challenges across all the industries, and among all these industries manufacturing is at the forefront.
To give you a quick background into what IoT is and what it does, here is a small definition:
IoT helps you to connect different types of devices via the internet to automate tasks and to make an informed decision in real-time, based on the data available at hand.
Coming back to why IoT is a must-have for your company... This is because it can cater to a wide range of departments and connects multiple devices to find the missing piece of the puzzle.
You can manage the supply chain, detect the quality of the parts, the origin of any defect during production, ensure the safety of the workers and perform several other functions with the help of IoT.
It is evident that irrespective of the size of the manufacturer, IoT is a must-have investment for the industry and the near future presents a huge opportunity to make the most of this investment.
Big Data and Predictive Analytics
With the advent of technologies like IoT, companies are heavily investing in their cloud computing capabilities and creating an infrastructure that can help them collect data from every point of the manufacturing line. Having data in hand will help companies to reevaluate their strategies and understand their business at a granular level.
Having data is one thing and making a sense out of it is another. For manufacturers, time is money. Even a loss of one second in production could impact the revenue and profitability.
According to the ITIC survey, 81% of organizations say a single hour of downtime could cost $100,000 and 33% of the enterprises reported that 1 hour of downtime could cost more than $1 million.
So, manufacturers need the real-time data of every device in the plant to predict when a particular device might go off and at what point it may need maintenance. Predictive analytics helps to reduce downtime period and manage the machinery within the plant in a much better way.
For example: If the production of a rear window for a particular car model is delayed because of an issue in the VFD motor that runs the production line, the production of the vehicle could be stalled.
Based on the report of the production line, the company can manage the resources and start working towards replacing or repairing the VFD motor so that it does not become a reason for unexpected downtime.
Further, it also helps you to manage cross-departmental dependencies. For example, in a plant where potato chips are produced, the logistics team is running late by 3-4 hours due to some reason, the plant manager can get this data and can estimate the production for the day.
Based on the insights in hand, they could assign the employees other tasks, utilizing their time effectively. This is something that could not have been possible if the predictive analysis was not in place.
Yes, 5G is already here but manufacturers should use it effectively to bolster their smart manufacturing ecosystem. It will provide high-speed bandwidth, allow faster communication, and save valuable time.
As 5G becomes mainstream, it will help manufacturers to use multiple sensors on a variety of devices, improve the cloud infrastructure, enhance the identification of parts, and quality of the product.
Further, the future of manufacturing is not limited to devices communicating to each other rather there is a scope where the plant from location A could contact a plant at location B and could automatically adjust the production quantity based on the input.
Let's say if the production at location A is not possible because of some technical issue, then plant B could automatically scale the production and could cover up for location A, that too without any human intervention.
Well, it might look superficial but 5G can sustain this magnitude of communication. Maybe not today but definitely it will become a norm by the end of this decade.
Digital Adoption Platform
In the backend, a lot of processes take place, from handling inventory to procuring raw materials. Each of these functions is important- for instance, procurement of raw material is crucial and nearly 50-80% of the product is outsourced. When the volume is so high, entering details within the procurement application could be complicated. At the same time, the accuracy and integrity of data are of paramount importance.
Training employees traditionally might be good but difficult to scale. Online channels can be used but the engagement could be low. It is, therefore, ideal to use a solution that can help to train your employees while keeping them engaged and a Digital Adoption Platform helps you with that and more.
It helps you to train and onboard your employees within the application by guiding them to perform their tasks via walkthroughs. Secondly, the Digital Adoption Platform is not limited to walkthroughs you can analyze how your employees use any web-based application and based on that analysis, you can create the walkthroughs and other training content.
Since process compliance is an important factor, it is necessary to help the employees to fill the fields within the application as per the guidelines of the organization. But unfortunately, most of the employees are not familiar with it and even if they are, during the data entry process they tend to commit a few mistakes here and there.
These mistakes might not look like a major issue but over time it creates a lot of problems because of the inconsistency of data.
This is where the process compliance feature of the Digital Adoption Platform comes in handy. It enables this by helping your employees to enter the data within the application in the intended manner.
Moreover, you can set goals and definitions of success for each job function which helps you understand how any application like procurement, Inventory management, and CRM application is being used by the workforce and you can also even identify the employee segment that is struggling within the application.
New technologies will be invented, and the existing ones will be innovated. Since consumer demand is increasing with each passing day and companies are competing with each other to satisfy customer demands. The technologies like IoT, 5G and Digital Adoption Platform that can help these manufacturers to save time on maintenance, production and training employees will eventually take the cake.
But irrespective of the technology it is important how efficiently the manufacturing industry adapts to the change to drive digital transformation within the organization and make most of the technologies that they use.