Staying Competitive – 4 Things You Need to Consider in Your 2018 Budget

It’s that time of year again – planning, prioritising, and setting budgets for your plant for the coming year. What are you going to budget for in 2018?

You will, of course, have similar priorities that you always have in your yearly plans and budgets – productivity gains, efficiency savings, capital equipment investment, staffing and recruitment, staff training and upskilling, etc. You may also be allocating additional budget to some current hot topics. Cybersecurity is a good example.

You’re probably coming close to finalising the 2018 budget but before you sign it off completely, here are some things you should consider.

What Should Also Be on Your Agenda in 2018

While all the above are important, there are other things you should consider including in the 2018 plan for your plant. This includes new and developing technologies that will provide a foundation you can build on to help you remain competitive in what is a constantly evolving and often challenging market.

If you haven’t considered the following four topic areas, you should look at them before finalising your budgets and plans for 2018:

  • Factory 4.0
  • Compliance and serialisation
  • Computer systems validation
  • Data analytics

Let’s look at each in more detail.

Factory 4.0 – the Birth of a Revolution

Factory 4.0 (or industry 4.0) is gaining a reputation as being a buzzword. It is more than a concept for the future, though. In fact, it’s a commercial reality now so it’s probably not something you can leave until future years.

Where do you start, however? It’s such a huge topic and there is no way you can achieve major change over 2018, right? Of course, but you should start now or you risk falling behind.

A good approach is to conduct a scoping exercise in 2018 regarding factory 4.0. This should look at what the technology and processes will mean for your business while also assessing your existing position in relation to modernising your facilities. Examples include:

  • Do you need to buy new equipment?
  • What additional expertise and third-party assistance will you need?
  • What new software will you need?
  • Will your existing systems integrate?
  • And more

Once the scoping exercise and assessment are complete, you can measure the expected ROI of factory 4.0 in your plant and start planning for implementation.

Compliance and Serialisation

Depending on your industry and region, serialisation deadlines may affect your business in 2018. You should be some way along the road of getting ready by now. If you are not, however, you will need to allocate more of your 2018 budget to catch up and ensure you meet the deadlines.

Computer Systems Validation

As you know, process validation is always a major priority. Machines are getting smarter, though, and the world is becoming more software driven. In addition, the world’s regulators are starting to shift their attentions more and more towards software validation.

If you haven’t already started investing more of your budget on software validation than you have in the past, it will be beneficial to start in 2018. This will keep you ahead of the curve, it will improve your operations today, and it will ensure you are more equipped for the future.

Data Analytics

Data analytics will improve your business as your team will have more accurate information and less paperwork to deal with. This means they can focus on the data so they can plan more efficiently and identify areas for improvement. In addition, more accurate data will give a better insight into your operations.

Where do you start, though, and what exactly is possible? How can machine A effectively talk to machine B and how can systems built on completely different platforms interact seamlessly, i.e. in a way that benefits your business and doesn’t just cause you more headaches? What will be the real impact on operations, intended and unintended?

These are all valid concerns but the problem with data analytics is not the technology as it exists and is effective. The problem is having the expertise to roll it out.

Therefore, this is what you should look at in 2018. Add to your budget in 2018 a plan to bring in the expertise. Again, this is often best achieved through a third-party specialist. Also, you should look at implementing data analytics on a stage-by-stage basis so you can measure success, analyse the benefits, and ensure the full roll out goes smoothly.

Usually, the best way to start is with a pilot, ideally focusing on a problem area or problem machine in your facility. You can use this pilot to measure ROI and then plan to roll out implementation to your full plant in late 2018 and into 2019.

Moving Your Plant Forward in 2018

Each of the four priorities above is likely to be a part of your thinking when planning and budgeting for many years to come. The time to start is now.

Shane McLaughlin

Shane is SL Controls’ Business Development Manager and has extensive experience and a demonstrated history of working in the regulated automation industry. His areas of expertise include Verification and Validation (V&V), Process Control/Monitoring, Medical Devices, Pharmaceutical, Bio Pharma, Failure Mode and Effects Analysis, and systems engineering. He also has experience leading technical teams and delivering to demanding schedules.

View all posts by Shane McLaughlin