SIs to increase US manufacturing competitiveness
Manufacturing has changed due to recent global events with an emphasis on being smarter and leveraging all around us. System integrators (SIs) can help manufacturers with digital transformation, smart manufacturing efforts.
- CSIA and CESMII help system integrators with Smart Manufacturing.
- Integrating automation and control devices and systems improves Smart Manufacturing and can improve connections with higher-level systems helping supply chain integration.
- The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) offers programs for system integrators in the fields of robotics, machine vision and motion control.
System integration, smart manufacturing competitive insights
- System integrators, with help from CSIA and CESMII, are integrating control systems and other automation to improve Smart Manufacturing efforts.
- System integration helps Smart Manufacturing make better use of automation and controls to improve quality, flexibility, make better use of scarce labor resources, and improve throughput while connecting to higher-level systems to improve supply chain challenges.
As the U.S. rebuilds its manufacturing sector post-pandemic, it creates bona fide business opportunities for the automation industry, including system integrators (SIs). Deployment, in particular mass adoption, is tied to its own set of challenges. SIs can play a key role. I am reminded of the reconstruction of the Japanese industry post-World War II. Japan proved to be very receptive to the quality-related teachings of W. Edwards Deming, an American engineer and others. Many view this openness to manufacturing quality as having significantly contributed to Japan’s reputation for innovative, high-quality products, and for its economic power in the years to come. While this competitive advantage may have faded by now as others adopted similar quality approaches, it provided the Japanese economy with decades of benefit.
Smart Manufacturing has the potential to transform the entire manufacturing sector and address new challenges, such as resiliency considering supply chain disruptions and labor shortages; sustainability; “local” production and extreme customization (batch size of one) to name a few.
The role of Smart Manufacturing, automation
While there has been cConsiderable debate surrounds the terminology and differences among Smart Manufacturing, digital transformation, Industry 4.0, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), but in this case, I will consider the terms to be synonyms. I am guided by the following definition coined by the ARC Advisory Group:
“Digital transformation is the transformation of industrial products, operations, value chains, and aftermarket services that are enabled through the augmentation of people and knowledge, through the expanded use of sensors, data and analytics.”
Automation and system integrators can help integrate related automation and systems for manufacturers.
Manufacturing needs competitiveness, automation
For manufacturing to succeed, it needs to be competitive. Competitiveness revolves around various elements, such as, cost position, differentiated and relevant offerings (customizable), access and speed to market, flexibility (with ability to adapt to changing conditions) and, ultimately, resiliency. It is not limited to individual companies. Successful companies rely on a broad ecosystem of suppliers (including automation and controls) that also need to be competitive and willing to work collaboratively with customers and suppliers.
Events like the COVID-19 pandemic and Russian-Ukrainian war exemplify dramatic changes over short periods of time and the need for rapid responses to new situations. This is easier said than done. Supply chains, including those for automation and controls, are built over time and often involve long lead times and expand over wide geographies.
On the other hand, customer demand is subject to sudden change. Smart Manufacturing uses automation to help extend the perimeter beyond the factory floor to include supply chains and aftermarket services. In fact, I would posit this holistic approach positions manufacturers for increased competitiveness. [subhead]Smart manufacturing improves manufacturing, lowers costs
CESMII is the Smart Manufacturing Institute, a US government funded, non-profit organization to drive Smart Manufacturing. It provides education and workforce development, industry networking, funded research, and a Smart Manufacturing innovation platform to enable digital transformation for manufacturing companies.
In the May “2022 Smart Manufacturing Market Survey,” by CESMII/Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), the majority of respondents (77%) recognized the potential of Smart Manufacturing and linked it to the following goals:
Better manufacturing capacity utilization (65%)
Lower production cost (63%)
Improve on-time delivery (62%)
Operational excellence (61%)
Improve quality/reduce quality risks (60%).
It is surprising only half of the respondents indicate their company is willing to invest the financial resources in Smart Manufacturing initiatives.
The study also identified three obstacles to deploying Smart Manufacturing, where automation and system integration can help:
Cost and complexity to implement and integrate.
Lack of connection between technology and business strategy.
The U.S. manufacturing base is very diverse. There are big differences between larger, multinational companies and the smaller, single-site manufacturers. The first group is more likely to have the dedicated resources, specialization, and financial means to get Smart Manufacturing deployed. The smaller players need more support. CESMII and others have been working on this.
The SI’s role in democratizing Smart Manufacturing
Smart Manufacturing was, admittedly, overhyped, creating unrealistic expectations that translated for some into concluding “this is not for us.” Fundamental to smart manufacturing is access to data. For manufacturing, this means connectivity to the production assets and visualization of instructions and information to the operators.
Establishing the foundation for Smart Manufacturing is challenging and unglamourous. Most manufacturing sites include equipment from many generations. Much of the older equipment lacks data collection capabilities; and other devices and systems require additional efforts to extract and share. For many, this part doesn’t fit into their mental image for Smart Manufacturing.
Challenges related to providing connectivity to brown-field and legacy equipment plant assets have been part of the SI’s deliverables for many years. Because of this, some SIs claim to have been enabling Smart Manufacturing way before the term was coined. What is different now is we are connecting entire enterprises and supply chains. The broad manufacturing base of the U.S. is gaining awareness of the need to embark on the journey toward Smart Manufacturing, but they lack concrete roadmaps to get there. While gaining connectivity and providing data visualization remain key, many manufacturers need help crafting a broader plan that links business and technology strategy to get funding and broad support.
Most SIs are currently enjoying a boom period of integrating automation and controls to manufacturing devices and systems. Immediate challenges relate to hiring the talent needed to deliver on all SI opportunities, along with addressing supply chain issues. The opportunity to bring smaller players to their Smart Manufacturing journey and, thus, achieve mass adoption is exciting. It will only happen through a broader support network.
SIs have developed and perfected their market approach over the years. With this approach, they can deliver to exiting opportunities, i.e., clearly specified automation, controls, and system integration projects for Smart Manufacturing. Assisting clients through paid consulting engagements around Smart Manufacturing is not very common. It could develop into a new business opportunity.
CSIA has been collaborating with CESMII and will continue to strengthen this relationship. Expanding adoption of Smart Manufacturing, particularly for the smaller producers, will require a comprehensive support network (such as methodology, consultants and implementers like SIs). CESMII has been working on this and views SIs to be an integral part of the solution.
Manufacturing needs automation, controls, system integration to stay strong
The US manufacturing sector needs to remain vital. The pandemic has taught the nation its importance and strategic nature. US manufacturing will only be viable if it remains globally competitive. Smart Manufacturing provides a path the same way an innovative approach to Lean and quality provided a path for the Japanese manufacturing sector post WWII.
The US now has a unique opportunity to rebuild its manufacturing sector with automation, controls, system integration. Let’s make Smart Manufacturing happen!
Jose M. Rivera is CEO of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). CSIA is a CFE Media and Technology content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, CFE Media and Technology, email@example.com.
KEYWORDS: Smart Manufacturing, system integration, CSIA
CSIA and CESMII help system integrators with Smart Manufacturing.
Integrating automation and control devices and systems improves Smart Manufacturing and can improve connections with higher-level systems helping supply chain integration.
Are automation and controls helping to integrate your devices and systems for Smart Manufacturing?