Siloed data is enemy number one in the manufacturing world today. However, many businesses still find themselves unraveling isolated paper-based processes, updating manual digital data re-entry procedures and struggling to integrate disparate technologies. When it comes to digital transformation in industry, companies must solve these technical issues while also driving cultural change that puts an emphasis on data-driven decision-making.
Digitalist Magazine reported that the digital transformation movement in manufacturing is encompassed in the ideas surrounding Industry 4.0. While industrial organizations have long been conservative about IT-related progress, there is now a growing movement to gather large quantities of data and use that information to drive operational innovation. This can occur in a wide range of formats, including push-service notifications, predictive maintenance and usage-based billing. The point of intersection, in all of these instances, is having connected devices automatically distributing data across multiple lines of the business.
Effective data integration is critical as manufacturers embrace digital technologies. "Part data integration in the Shop Floor Digital Twin: Mobile and cloud technologies to enable a manufacturing execution system," an essay published in the Journal of Manufacturing Systems, explained that interconnecting digital and physical systems across manufacturing operations can fuel production gains. However, these advantages are only achievable if data can be made available across all areas of operations and delivered to users leveraging mobile devices.
While tight data integration is extremely valuable, data gaps can leave users unable to operate at peak efficiency. Three use cases where integration is especially vital include:
1. Machine repairs
The lack of tight integration in traditional maintenance setups create extra clerical tasks and forces employees to interact with a variety of stakeholders when trying to complete a work order, potentially causing delays. In many instances, users need to move through multiple apps and departments to assess work requirements, gather supplies and document compliance with regulatory standards.
In a digitally transformed environment, sensors notify the maintenance team when early signs of performance degradation arise. Historic data can also be used to accurately anticipate when repairs are needed. As such, managers can schedule repairs when they will be least disruptive for production teams.
What's more, with data available across departments, a maintenance user can open a work order, follow a link to a digitized version of the equipment handbook, look up where a needed part is in the warehouse, document safety procedures in real time and notify managers when the task has been completed, all on a mobile device.
This kind of functionality is only possible if enterprise resource planning systems, warehouse management software, maintenance management solutions, sensors and similar solutions can share information with one another.
2. Sales estimates
When a customer calls in asking for a production run on one of your goods, can your sales teams provide accurate estimates in a timely fashion? Chances are, your users are likely in a situation where they have some generic historic data telling them that producing a certain number of a specific item will take a set amount of time. These estimates are useful, but, as more businesses engage with custom manufacturing and customer expectations become more demanding, better forecasts are essential.
Precise data integration, on the other hand, lets users immediately view production schedules, supply availability, vendor shipping expectations and similar key metrics that allow for accurate projections. With this kind of data in hand, your sales team can engage customers more effectively.
3. Inventory management
Many businesses are spending heavily to store excess assets, creating management overhead and a high risk of items being lost or stolen. However, maintaining high supply levels has long been necessary due to a lack of coordination between production and warehouse teams. With data moving freely across business units, you can:
- Accurately track production requirements in advance.
- Streamline cycle counts and similar inventory management procedures.
- Automate reordering when assets fall below restocking levels.
- Identify which materials and equipment are used most frequently by production teams.
With these capabilities in place, you can enact just-in-time inventory management, storing small caches of goods close to production, eliminating operational overhead and minimizing waste.
Creating a framework for data sharing and collaboration
A variety of technologies can enable organizations to create the high level of integration needed to enact digital transformation strategies. APIs can serve as bridges between management software in specific departments. Cloud platforms, such as Office 365 or Dynamics 365, can provide hubs for accessing varied apps and services. Enterprise resource planning solutions can operate as the foundational databases that offer a single source of data truth, pulling information from all of your other solutions.
Finding the right technological framework for your specific needs can seem daunting, but it is becoming critical as the opportunity offered by robust data integration is too great to ignore. ICS-Support can help you get your plans off on the right foot. We offer consulting and management services to empower organizations to modernize their IT systems and drive business gains. Contact us today to learn more.