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Enabling Smart Manufacturing through a Connected Enterprise Strategy

The script to the Kevin Costner movie “Field of Dreams” featured one of the most iconic and memorable lines in the history of film: “If you build it, they will come.” It was an inspirational message that played a pivotal role in the plot of the movie, but when it comes to your smart manufacturing strategy, it’s not the best advice to follow. Unfortunately, that’s likely a driving factor behind why so many smart manufacturing initiatives fail, or large-scale alignment never takes root in the organization.

In this article, we’ll explain steps your organization can take to avoid these expensive and unnecessary hurdles, and implement a smart manufacturing strategy that sets you up for future success.

man in smart manufacturing environment monitors performance

What is Broken in the Typical Automation Scenario?

In industrial facilities, automation is often seen as a technology issue. These companies take a very functional and siloed equipment-centric approach, introducing a piece of software or hardware to solve for a very specific situation. In other cases, the operational technology (OT) people on the plant floor are considering how to make processes more efficient and streamlined. They’re focused on one piece of equipment, one process, or one department. IT and OT traditionally operate separately because they report up through different arms of the company: IT through the financial arm to the CFO, and OT through plant management and engineering.
There are three major reasons this approach often leads to limited success:

  1. It’s fragmented and typically reliant on the scope of a single piece of technology.
  2. It’s a bottom-up approach, not aligned with the overall strategic objectives of the organization.
  3. It’s not embraced in a large-scale way across the organization.

How a Comprehensive, Top-Down Approach Fosters Success

Our knowledgeable team can support your smart manufacturing journey and help formulate and execute a top-down approach. When viewing smart manufacturing through an enterprise lens, the odds of success are dramatically improved for several key reasons:

  1. Leadership is driving the initiative to address overall business goals. They know what they want to accomplish and have a long-term vision for how to extract business value from the technology.
  2. Discussions are more purposeful, because they revolve around how to leverage technology to arrive at their shared vision. Technology alone can’t address overarching organizational objectives, fix organizational challenges, or drive a company into the future. Without that vision, a technology-driven initiative often creates new and unanticipated problems.
  3. A top-down approach creates departmental alignment and collaboration between IT and OT, removing barriers between them. It fosters a shared ownership for achieving business goals.

It also empowers teams at all levels to have a role in changing the way business processes are run, ushering in culture change that can lead to higher employee engagement, productivity, and satisfaction.

Key Steps for a Connected Enterprise Strategy

Woman in smart manufacturing environment explains performance stats to male colleagueThis process starts with examining your business needs. Where are the gaps? Where does the company need to go and how fast does it need to get there to address your market in the future? Some of these goals are larger and longer-term endeavors. Others are more manageable and can be prioritized within the next 12 to 24 months. Identify those with the biggest payoff and put a business change management plan and technology plan in place to start getting some traction.

Next, pull together a team of people to play a role in envisioning what the next generation of your organization looks like. What is your future state? What will you be doing, who will you be serving, and what does your product look like five years from now? How far off are you from being able to deliver on that vision? The people close to the product and processes will know where these gaps are.

Once the group has identified the gaps, begin assessing the gains. In other words, if we fix these issues, what will it be worth to the organization? You can then begin working on the details in terms of processes and technology required to arrive at the solution. This point in the process starts to bring forward things that IT people like to talk about and the things that OT teams like to work on. Both sides can see their role, and the value of working together. This is the part in the process that bridges the gap between the two disciplines, and creates cooperation towards a common, organization-wide goal.


Pitfalls of Not Implementing a Top-Down Enterprise Strategy

They say the most dangerous words in business are “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Reinvention mode is, and always has been, the standard mode of operation for success in the world of manufacturing. You’re either setting the pace or trying to catch up. Top-down strategy helps the organization envision what’s next, map out a path to get there, and identify the processes and technologies to make it happen.

Beyond competition, there are also economic risks. The technology-centric approach to automation is ultimately more expensive. A bottom-up approach does not breed success and the chance of choosing the wrong or outdated technology solution that isn’t supported across the entire company is high.

It’s nearly impossible to achieve a connected enterprise and realize the value of smart manufacturing if you approach it from a purely tech perspective with disconnected business processes and organizations. Those who embrace this process and forward-planning will be the leaders of tomorrow, while the rest risk being left behind.

Are you interested in learning more about taking a connected enterprise approach to your smart manufacturing initiatives? Agilix Solutions partners with clients to map out the process and ensure the right steps are followed along the way. Reach out to your account manager or contact your nearest branch location to start the conversation.