Smarter, connected networks add complexity

Enterprises need a combination of operations technology's (OT's) reliable data and information technology's (IT's) and innovation to become a smart, connected enterprise that will embrace and profit from the digital transformation.

06/28/2017


http://www.isssource.comA smart, connected enterprise can embrace the digital transformation in the coming Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) world by collecting data that could result in new levels of collaboration, operational excellence, agility, and profitability.

But the reality is that total adoption of IIoT is a ways off, and users today need to start the digital transformation for their enterprise to reap benefits before the total technological integration. In many ways, and contrary to what the old guard thinks, the way things used to be are just not the "good old days" anymore.

In a move to enhance productivity and to remain more competitive in an emerging global landscape, companies need to apply smarter and more connected technology. While that can add complexity to solutions, nothing—not even the plant floor—can be an island anymore.

Living in a more "connected" world is why being able to understand and monitor what is occurring on the network gives operators needed visibility into what is happening in the complex world they oversee. With the advance toward digitization, users will need increased data granularity, as well as a near real-time measurement of how applications are running with key performance indicators (KPI's) that provide insight on overall performance.

Manufacturers will adopt technologies that will transform operating models and allow for digital connections of processes, events, actions, internal workers, and external partners. This transformation will allow manufacturers greater agility and flexibility for regional or global production. On top of that, information about product usage, production capabilities, customer requirements, and market requirements will allow for greater information intake so it can end up analyzed and shared faster than ever before. Becoming a stronger and more utilized digital enterprise could mean worker productivity increases, but that knowledge can spread across the enterprise, which will be a vital manufacturing strategy advancing any manufacturer's footprint.

Established tool

From an IT perspective, digitization has been happening for years. In the IT space, everything needs to drive data into the cloud. If it can't end up in the cloud, then it needs to integrate into another set of tools. If it can't do that, then why have the technology?

A user needs to be able to monitor and effectively manage a solution. People are scrutinizing their processes more these days than they have in the past because the driver from the business says "we need to be more efficient, we need to save money." That means no one can implement a technology that is dead in the water. Rather, a user needs something that is scalable, will improve the business, will communicate with everything, and will save money. In terms of process improvement, these capabilities have been in the IT space for years. With automation, such a huge drive in OT, linking the two is now a big push.

Traditionally, all companies have an IT infrastructure, any manufacturer will have that as well, but add the aging, but evolving OT technology foundation on top of that and executives know the potential for huge gains in productivity and profitability is through the roof. So, the big driver right now is to ensure IT and OT can mix and match.

Time is now

While the digital evolution of the $10 trillion global manufacturing sector will take time, manufacturers need to reap benefits today, according to a McKinsey & Company report. A few cases from the report show:

  • Manufacturers are starting to use data analytics to optimize factory operations, boosting equipment utilization and product quality while reducing energy consumption. With new supply-network management tools, factory managers have a clearer view of raw materials and manufactured parts flowing through a manufacturing network, which can help them schedule factory operations and product deliveries to cut costs and improve efficiency. One major metal plant used digital tools to make step-change improvements. Real-time performance visualization for operators combined with daily problem solving led to a 50% increase in production rate in one of its lines. By mining data, engineers are gaining new insights into the failure characteristics of major equipment modes and making continuous improvements in reliability.
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturers cultivate their deeper understanding of end-to-end processes to develop continuous manufacturing suites with footprints less than half the size of conventional factories. Some have even developed portable factories that can go in 40-foot trailers. They are also using the digital thread to improve quality control: Continuously monitoring conditions within mixing vessels, tablet presses, lyophilizers, and other critical equipment.
  • The aerospace-and-defense industry is using digital tools to integrate a complex supply network. A modern jet turbine engine has hundreds of individual parts, some of which the engine manufacturer makes in-house and others it sources from a network of dozens of vendors. The complexity of sourcing can multiply quickly, since making one design modification can impact the manufacturing of other components. Cloud computing-based tools allow suppliers to collaborate faster and more efficiently. This type of information sharing and transparency reduces the labor required to manage design changes, reduces risk for the engine maker and suppliers, and speeds changes across the supply network.

Those cases all point toward extreme networking and making sure everyone from the operators to the engineers to the C-suite know what is going on at all times.


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