Post-Covid manufacturing transformation
Digital rebirth in the supply chain has to be about more than just cost effectiveness
The global supply chain has experienced an unprecedented level of disruption and forced manufacturers to think about their operations in an entirely new way.
Manufacturers are under a significant amount of pressure to produce essential products such as hand sanitiser, face shields, respirators and ventilators. Despite all these efforts, it has been difficult to keep up with rapidly changing demand.
Digital transformation in the supply chain has to be about more than just cost effectiveness. The ability to continue operating and fulfilling customer and partner obligations even under the most unexpected and challenging conditions is equally important in an age where agility and resilience are paramount.
According to a study by McKinsey, digital manufacturing technologies will transform every link in the manufacturing value chain, from R&D, supply chain and factory operations to marketing, sales and service.
"Advances in virtual and augmented reality, next-level interfaces, advanced robotics and additive manufacturing are all opening the gates to digital disruption," found the study.
Many industrial manufacturers have started their transformation journey with plant and machine automation. Plant equipment automation minimises manual operations and maximises physical throughput.
To further improve equipment utilisation, IT and software applications have become the basis for improvement strategies such as replacing paper-based work instructions and data collection.
The use of software such as manufacturing execution systems (MES) has provided more benefits than increased operational efficiency through core application functionality. Modern data analytics offer additional payback opportunities by providing optimisation insights.
Visibility of operational execution and inventory status, based on automatic data exchange in near real-time, enables better decision-making and collaboration between plant and enterprise functions. Manufacturers can now make changes and adapt faster.
Effective collaboration of people and systems in a digital, automated and integrated fashion is also key. Digital transformation of operational processes mixes best practices with electronic workflows, connecting assets and systems, establishing systematic people and system collaboration, and empowering the mobile and next-generation workforce.
Connecting systems together can also better orchestrate processes across functional domains (horizontal integration) and can integrate them with business functions (vertical integration).
Enforcing consistency of operational procedures and automating workflows with electronic records of manufacturing execution activity and data preserves the investments in existing plant systems. At the same time, it offers significant potential for improving operational efficiency.
IT harmonisation is the foundation to digitally model, integrate, execute and govern operational processes and related information flows consistently across multiple plants. Standardisation of operational processes is possible with the following components:
- An open engineering and run-time platform, hardened for industrial use and designed to enable integration of business, manufacturing operations and production processes and data.
- A broad suite of industrial applications, scaling from equipment performance optimisation for rapid return on investment, to full manufacturing operations management functionality.
- A reusable operations process modelling approach, which standardises all operations and simplifies deployment of processes to equipment, systems and people.
The role of a manufacturing IT platform is to provide adaptability to local plant conditions, and a plant asset model that applications can use to blend human and automated activity.
The platform adapts to local physical equipment and automation, while maintaining the data and information models of the processes and flow of data to other applications and the enterprise.
This transformation establishes a digital twin of the manufacturing plant, allowing manufacturers to shorten lead times, reduce inventory and improve supply chain performance.
When consistently implemented across multiple sites, the digital twin of the plant becomes the enabler for agility, velocity and traceability. It can support the new business models, product and customer engagement that digital transformation is enabling at the business level.
From optimising asset performance to raising productivity and elevating quality, there are countless reasons to pursue manufacturing operations transformation. Improvement requires changing processes and systems, and continually training the workforce. This often requires replacing paper and legacy systems with software that provides automation, and ensures work processes are in line with targets.
Modern MES deliver the platform for this transformation with connectivity to business systems, data lakes and automation, and Industrial Internet of Things systems to deliver the next level of benefits though predictive analytics and prescriptive planning and scheduling.
Cloud computing-based tools will also allow suppliers to collaborate faster and more efficiently: an engine maker can share 3D models of component design within its network, and each supplier in turn can share information about price, production timelines, quality and delivery.
Connectivity is the future -- and available now.
Having built-in connectivity to existing plant systems, devices and equipment will eliminate inefficiencies, maximise profitability and empower your team to respond to future external disruptions.
Ravi Gopinath is chief product officer and chief manufacturing officer of Aveva, a multinational industrial software company. For further information, visit www.AVEVA.com