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Uber didn't change your need to get from work to a dinner across town, it just allowed you to choose, schedule, confirm, and track a car, real time, with the same device you use to text your mom. By doing so they circumvented regulations and traditional scheduling processes (i.e., gambling with a rush-hour cab hail). At the end of the day, moving information from paper and people to systems allows new information to be creatively applied to old problems more efficiently and at a rate and scale not previously possible.
The customer-facing examples of these digital advancements (Uber) are easy to see; but how they impact the complicated world of operations is not always as visible. In many cases these enablers are working behind the scenes to improve processes, drive decisions and solve problems more effectively. For instance, traditional product design processes are now more efficient thanks to modeling and simulation enablers, which can be integrated with traditional ERP solutions; allowing companies to shorten the product development process and “publish” the resulting bill of materials to support Procurement and Manufacturing processes.
Some digitally advanced operations are able to collect, monitor and actively engage the disparate data collected across all of their manufacturing process and equipment. What would you be able to do if all of the information that is manually recorded in a system, generated by a connected press, or created by another system in the manufacturing process was aggregated into a single dashboard or database?
More mature digital operating companies not only store their data for ad hoc analysis, but integrate advanced analytics solutions to continually monitor and analyze this information, in real time. Doing so allows them to constantly identify inefficiencies and production slumps, improving reaction time and decreasing overall scrap and wastes. Those that are furthest along on the maturity scale have integrated real-time response, as well as predictive intervention (e.g., preventative maintenance initiatives) and also use this data to drive decision-making in areas outside of operations (e.g., enabling sales teams to adjust expectations and pricing based on machine-level information).
Beyond just monitoring your process and product quality, today’s digital enablers allow you to vary them real time based on operators, temperature, raw materials, time of day (… and the list goes on) to drive more consistent output. What used to take months and was a singular analysis of a snapshot in time is now dynamic in both data and application. GE, for example, currently monitors and analyzes 50 million data elements from 10 million sensors on $1tr of managed assets daily to move customers toward zero unplanned downtime.
Companies around the world are acknowledging the benefits of identifying and integrating such game-changing solutions. Thirty-eight percent of the largest 200 companies by revenue, across sectors, have set up Innovation Centers to help identify and build out these digital initiatives (with 58 percent of top Manufacturing Companies having established them, compared to only 30 percent of Consumer Products & Retail – where innovation is thought to be the most prevalent). The age of digitally enable operations is upon us – the question is: what can your company do with this information?
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