How Technology can Foster Connected Manufacturing

To fully tap into the power of connected manufacturing, organizations will need to engage in the main areas of hybrid infrastructure, security, data and workplace productivity. While most manufacturers already are leveraging the power of data and technology, they’ll have to use it in a holistic fashion to truly reach their full potential.

Martin Rainer, vice president of the Manufacturing Industry Segment in Northern Europe for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, feels manufacturers are moving into a digitized, intricate ecosystem of connected manufacturing. “I believe growth and long-term prosperity for manufacturers lies in the hands of those who embrace digitization…It represents a new era of manufacturing where everything is connected—plants, processes, products, people, partners, customers and consumers,” said Rainer.

Creating the “factory of the future” is a daunting task that not only requires an empowered management team, but investment in new technologies, said Christopher Homes, vice president of IDC Manufacturing Insights Asia/Pacific for IDC Manufacturing Insights International. He offers an example of an Indian auto manufacturer that has created a fully integrated factory “from the shop floor to the top floor.” Technology has been used in different ways not just to optimize the current operations, but to “future proof” the factory to be adaptable to rapid changes in customer demand.

“The approach that this team has moving forward is ‘Manage in Real Time.’ IT has visibility from the command center and a view of all 20,000 devices across the plant and the engineering offices,” said Holmes.

“Being at the top of your game in manufacturing nowadays is about adapting to succeed by integrating digital technology with business strategy and creating demand, as well as anticipating it.

Meanwhile, Rainer said that to make the connected ecosystem possible, companies will need to start with a hybrid infrastructure to expand value chains and allow manufacturers to quickly adapt while integrating more applications and processes. Such an infrastructure can support product innovation and growth through cloud-based digital prototypes.

Digital enterprises also will need protection and digital security more than ever. The 2016 Manufacturing Report by services firm Sikich said there has been growth in attacks in the manufacturing sector because cybersecurity is not at the forefront of most manufacturing companies’ priorities. Rainer said manufacturers will need to move “from reactive to proactive” security posturing to drive out threats.

“I firmly believe too many organizations are simply not prepared for an inevitable data breach, allowing attackers to linger undetected for far too long in a compromised environment,” said Rainer.

Regardless of the source and scale, data can give manufacturers more power to drive their business. Rainer said properly analyzed data can be a “goldmine” to help make better and faster decisions ahead of the competition. Data-driven organizations not only streamline manufacturing operations, but also automate the processing of unstructured data so impending issues can be identified, he said.

Finally, using technology to enable a productive workforce is a key to growth. Manufacturers can create a truly collaborative environment that increases product innovation, quality and time to market by leveraging technology to integrate people, production supply chains and processes.

“…Being at the top of your game in manufacturing nowadays is about adapting to succeed by integrating digital technology with business strategy and creating demand, as well as anticipating it,” said Rainer.