Advances in Smart Manufacturing technologies are changing the manufacturing sector forever. However, those technologies don’t change your core priorities and goals.
New technologies or not, you still need to deliver high-quality products that your customers need and want, plus you must maximise competitiveness, productivity, and profitability.
Marrying up a transition to Smart Manufacturing with your goals and priorities is not always easy.
We have looked at specific, practical, and cost-effective approaches to implementing Smart Manufacturing solutions and moving your production lines forward in other blog posts. A good starting point, though, is to consider the business case for doing so.
Of course, you will probably need to develop a specific business case for your facility. However, buying into the high-level pitch for Smart Manufacturing is an important first step.
Smart Manufacturing – The Business Case
The reality is the technologies that make smart manufacturing possible will have an impact on your business. This impact applies however quickly you proceed and how far down the Smart Manufacturing route you go in the near term.
Even if you do nothing regarding the implementation of Smart Manufacturing technologies in your facility over the next 12-24 months, by not moving forward, you risk falling behind or missing opportunities that could be beneficial to your business.
Why? Many of the challenges and opportunities that are becoming more important to the manufacturing sector are being driven by market trends, advances made by your competitors, regulatory requirements, and changing consumer behaviour and expectations.
Here are two examples by way of illustration:
Smart manufacturing technologies make it possible for manufacturers to move towards the mass customisation of products. This mass customisation trend will change the offering that is available to the consumers and users of the products you produce. In fact, marketplace expectations are already changing.
While industries like pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing are not as far advanced as other industries, the direction of travel is firmly towards mass customisation. Manufacturing flexibility is increasingly important too.
New Product Introductions
The practical and regulatory requirements for introducing a new product on the market are as complex today as they have ever been. However, Smart Manufacturing technologies throw an important consideration into the mix.
Specifically, Smart Manufacturing technologies streamline and automate many NPI processes. Therefore, organisations that embrace Smart Manufacturing solutions will introduce new products faster while maintaining compliance and quality standards. This reduced NPI timescale greatly enhances competitiveness.
The Sooner the Better
The above are just two examples of the many ways that Smart Manufacturing can (and is) impacting your business. So, the summary is the sooner you get started with implementing Smart Manufacturing solutions, the better.
How you do that will depend on your business. The process requires a detailed assessment of the readiness of your organisation, as well as an analysis of where first to target Smart Manufacturing solutions with a focus on maximising improvements, delivering a healthy return on investment, and ensuring scalability for the future.
Benefits of Smart Manufacturing
- Improvements in OEE – overall equipment effectiveness.
- Increased efficiency, but not just in the operation of machines and equipment. Smart Manufacturing technologies also enable the more efficient use of resources, as well as delivering material efficiency benefits and helping make your operations more energy efficient.
- Reducing both planned and unplanned downtime through digital twin technologies, machine learning, and predictive analytics.
- Improved quality control.
- Opening up the potential of new business opportunities with the introduction of new product lines, mass customisation strategies, and more.
- More effective and efficient regulatory compliance processes.
- Increased output that will improve revenues and profits while also delivering capital expenditure avoidance.
- Improved customer satisfaction by consistently and reliably delivering high-quality products, in addition to responding quickly to queries and complaints.
- Building a closer direct connection with your customers.
- Increasing the variety of products that you can produce on a single production line.
- Overall improvements in productivity.
- Enhanced insight at all levels of the business, from supply chain management to how customers use products to predicting future market demands.
Drivers for Transitioning to a Smart Factory
When making a business case for Smart Manufacturing, it also helps to understand the drivers of change. Some of the most important of these drivers include:
- Customer demand and expectations – these constantly evolve, with one major current trend being mass customisation. Market factors that increase or decrease demand unexpectedly and/or in short periods of time are also factors.
- Agility and flexibility – i.e., ensuring your business is in a position to take advantage of the new opportunities that Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing technologies present.
- Productivity and improving OEE – the constant push to improve performance and efficiency, particularly in the face of increasing demands.
- Availability of skills and resources – many businesses in a range of industries struggle to recruit and retain the operatives and technicians they need, so they are looking to technology as the solution.
- Compliance – additional compliance requirements on manufacturers, particularly in highly regulated sectors like pharmaceuticals and medical device manufacturing, results in a push for innovative solutions. Some of this comes from regulators, but manufacturers striving to keep compliance costs under control are also a factor.
- Business opportunities – Smart Manufacturing technologies have the potential to transform businesses, creating opportunities in new markets, product development opportunities, business model innovation, and more.
- Sustainability – sustainability is increasingly important in all businesses. Smart Manufacturing technologies can increase energy efficiency and reduce waste across the entire product lifecycle.
Getting Started with Smart Manufacturing
The business case for Smart Manufacturing is strong, although the way it is presented and tailored will differ depending on your organisation. To move to the next stage, find out more about the practical and cost-effective ways to transition your current facility using Smart Manufacturing processes, methods, and technologies.