In Part 1 of the ‘Fit for the future’ series we looked at the lack of innovation and investment in manufacturing in the UK and the threat posed by the ‘make do and mend’ mentality that plagues many manufacturers. In this post, we discuss the question, “Are your systems fit for the future?” and look at how to check your level of readiness and begin to map out the first steps to buck the trend to start on a path of innovation which will lead to operational improvement.
Modern manufacturing facilities rely on a plethora of systems from the shop floor sensors, instruments and PLCs through SCADA systems, MES, databases, scheduling and ERP. Customers consistently report that their biggest pains are lack of visibility, unplanned downtime, inconsistent quality and excessive production waste, so making improvements to overcome these pains would be a good place to start on an innovation journey. The good news is, many of these existing systems are the building blocks of a smart factory but innovators understand the need for interoperability between these systems. Silos of information are the nemesis of a modern, highly efficient manufacturing operation.
In addition to lack of interoperability, many manufacturing plants rely on hardware and software that is well past its expiry date to run their processes. What would happen if those systems were to fail? How much would it cost to replace them in an emergency, how much loss of production would you suffer and would your customers switch to another supplier for their products in the meantime? Then consider the cost of a potential cyber security breach in terms of lost production and the potential ransom demand, plus the disruption caused by the encryption of huge volumes of files and data.
Ensuring your systems are up to date therefore offers many benefits. Firstly, they are likely to be less susceptible to cyber attack and therefore less likely to be compromised. Secondly, they are less likely to fail or the impact of failure will be greatly reduced because a suitable and current replacement is likely to be sourced. Finally, there are many consequential benefits from keeping your systems up to date, such as access to new features and improved interoperability, providing opportunities to streamline operations.
Consider therefore, how much the potential gains you may be missing out on are worth to the business. Imagine what it would mean if you were able to prevent unplanned downtime before it happened or were able to make critical decisions based on real-time data rather than opinions by sharing data, improving visibility and enabling operators to make informed decisions.
In our experience, wholesale changes of systems are not required to realise many of these improvements. Performing an *assessment of your existing systems and identifying those in need of attention through a simple RAG survey is a great place to start. From here you can come up with tactics to address the gaps and issues and begin to map out your journey to operational improvement, leveraging innovation and the latest technology to stay ahead of the competition.