manufacturingtechnologyinsights

Technological Innovations in the Manufacturing Space

By Cathal McGloin, VP, Mobile Platforms, Red Hat

Cathal McGloin, VP, Mobile Platforms, Red Hat

Scope of Analytics in Manufacturing Space

With increased data volumes as well as regulatory and competitive pressures, global manufacturing supply chains are facing new levels of complexity that require greater traceability and faster reactions to changing conditions. Manufacturers that have a handle on their analytics should be better positioned to prevent errors and more efficiently resolve ones that do occur—and many manufacturers are getting on-board with connected technology and IoT to do so.

“Due to the rapid innovations in manufacturing, largely driven by the adoption of digital technologies, the role of the manufacturing CIO is constantly evolving”

Many manufacturers that have put mobile app solutions in place are seeing the benefits. A recent Red Hat survey found that IT decision makers in the manufacturing sector reported the highest mobile app success of all industries surveyed, with 92 percent of respondents reporting positive ROI on the measurement of their mobile app projects. Take for instance the use of self-monitoring equipment that sends real-time updates to a mobile app, which cuts down on the need for manual checks. This technologycan save time and enables engineers to focus on other tasks.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) for Manufacturing Industry

With an ERP system in place, manufacturers can automate tasks such as data entry to help streamline processes, minimize errors, and get a clear view of those processes in real time. Manufacturers have to juggle many hats from production to inventory to delivery. An effective ERP system can help all departments coordinate internally, as well as with one another. These ERP systems are increasingly being extended to mobile devices so that data from the ERP applications can be leveraged with device features to enable even better and timelier decision-making.

The relative value of ERP for manufacturers lies in the data feeding into the system, and more data is going to be generated from new connected and mobile devices. According to Tata Consulting Services, the manufacturing industry had the greatest revenue boost from leveraging IoT technology, with an average increase of 28.5 percent between 2013 and 2014. Knowing the status of materials, whether they are in inventory, the shop floor or the fulfillment center, is one of the keys to streamlining the manufacturing value chain. A step that manufacturers can take is to mobilize their ERP implementation so that workers can access critical data and collaborate remotely. For example, manufacturers can expect productivity gains from the conversion of paper checklists and web-based order forms into digital forms on a mobile app, which can shave off time spent delivering physical memos and provides a reliable storage place for those documents on the go.

Benefits of Cloud Computing Transformation

The cloud plays an essential role in managing and sharing the data that manufacturers need to make both day-to-day and long term decisions. In this sense, the cloud can act as a middleware and data abstraction layer between legacy back-end applications and the connected sensors and mobile devices that both generate and use the data (e.g. through technology such as Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS). Data between back-end systems and connected devices can be stored and managed from the cloud in a flexible, scalable, and affordable manner. With business logic, security, integration, and analytics managed centrally from the cloud, this model can also give manufacturers more visibility.

Innovation in ERP Implementation

Successful ERP implementation is an outcome of an organized effort. First, organizations must identify the specific areas they are looking to improve, whether it is simplifying existing processes or reducing product defects. Next, the manufacturer needs to determine the primary values and objectives for all stakeholders including line technicians, shop floor managers, distributors and field service workers. Manufacturers need to determine the data and assets needed, such as product quality data. To form a cohesive, actionable ERP plan, manufacturers need to perform an honest assessment of their mobility strategy, enterprise information management, IT delivery and support and device strategy as well. Pulling together all those variables, a manufacturer should then build a one-year strategy and continuously revisit and refine.

ERP on its own is not necessarily modern or industry-changing. It is the adoption of IoT, mobile and digital technologies that are integrated with ERP systems that have the potential to transform the manufacturing process from sales to production and inventory management. ERP systems should be continuously monitored and improved so that they can evolve with the pace of newer digital technologies.

The Role of the Manufacturing CIO

Due to the rapid innovations in manufacturing, largely driven by the adoption of digital technologies, the role of the manufacturing CIO is constantly evolving. There is an understanding that CIOs are expected to drive transformative initiatives in their organizations but this should not be misunderstood as a siloed effort. Itis important for CIOs and heads of business to work together on innovative efforts, as these upgrades can affect more than just IT departments.

In recent years, the role of the CIO has become more focused on developing unique, flexible solutions that can be scaled and improved upon. For example, in previous years, connected technology in the manufacturing sector focused on narrow RFID and barcode technology in factories and warehouses, and proprietary hand-held devices in the field. More recently, CIOs have been favoring enterprise apps on smartphones and tablets for the same purpose as they can be more agile and can be connected and synced with back-end enterprise systems.

Smart manufacturing has the potential to transform traditional factories and directly change how goods are invented, made, shipped and sold. Effective implementation can ultimately create a more efficient global manufacturing industry. CIOs need to keep in mind that changes are unlikely to take place overnight, but the manufacturers who dedicate the effort to set these standards in place can see ROI in the near term. Manufacturers have been some of the early adopters of connected technologies, and manufacturing CIOs should keep that momentum moving forward as their organizations bring together intelligent connected mobile devices, compelling mobile applications and flexible cloud infrastructure and architecture.

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