As we’ve stated before, the future is here. We now have the technology to converge manufacturing and the digital world.
But where do you start? No matter what type of improvements are needed, what is the process to ensure:
- Wise decisions are made at every juncture.
- Investments yield the return you expect.
- Risk of change is minimized.
Even more, how do you know you’re ready to move closer to the future?
In the information that follows, we’ve outlined key considerations for manufacturers in relation to their unique needs, goals and budget. We’ve also included a downloadable Move Toward the Future of Manufacturing Readiness Checklist to help you determine out how ready your company is to take action.
Before ascertaining that, though, it’s important to understand the three basic strategies for implementing manufacturing intelligence specifically, and, interestingly, the first two strategies are also relevant when implementing other types of improvements:
Strategy #1 – Begin on the Plant Floor: Implement technologies or make other types of changes that improve plant floor tasks and then integrate those with enterprise resource planning tasks.
Strategy #2 – Start on the Top: Begin at the enterprise resource planning level and then integrate that technology or other solution with plant floor applications and/or processes.
Strategy #3 – Lay the New Solution on Top of What Already Exists: Include a smart manufacturing solution as a second layer of technology and integrate that with the plant floor systems, enterprise resource planning systems or both.
The strategy you select will depend on your company’s needs, challenges and goals – and these will also help you determine if its time for action – whether you are considering implementing manufacturing intelligence solutions or any results-focused improvement.
The steps that follow outline the implementation process and will aid in determining which strategy is best:
Step One: Evaluate Where Your Company is Right Now
The first step in moving toward the future is taking hard look at your company today. What are your current performance metrics? Where is there room for improvement?
Step Two: Identify the Problem Your Company is Trying Solve
Based on your analysis of your company’s current situation, what are the most pressing challenges? What improvements would make the most difference in terms of profitability and the future health of your organization?
Step Three: Get Consensus from Management
Implementing manufacturing intelligence and general improvements that move your company toward the future in service of achieving better results require support from the highest levels of management. While on the surface it may look like you’re recommending a technology solution, equipment change or process rewire, etc., manufacturing intelligence and other results-related improvements are actually business solutions. This means that decisions need to be made in consideration of the company’s overarching strategic direction, current and future goals and strategies. So, plan on enlisting the support of key stakeholders by demonstrating the value of taking steps toward a new way of doing business.
Step Four: Clarify What You Want from Your Manufacturing Intelligence Solution or General Improvement
The more exactly you can articulate your needs to potential consultants and vendors, the more on target their recommended solutions will be. The evaluation you conducted at the beginning of this process will help you clarify what you want the business solution to help your company achieve.
Step Five: Test Drive Consultants & Providers
After initial discussions with potential consultants and/or vendors, ask for full proposals from the top three on your list and compare their offerings and processes. Request that each potential partner perform a proof of concept with your data. When you’ve collected all proposals, consider which one best addresses the challenges your company is facing and the results you want. Additionally, ask to speak with customers who are similar to your company and find out whether or not those customers were pleased with the consultant or vendor.
Now that you’ve reviewed strategies and the steps for making improvements (technology or otherwise) that move your company closer to the future, ascertain your company’s level of readiness.
In other words, is now the right time? And, what strategy and specific improvements will most cost effectively take your company to the next level?
Our Move Toward the Future of Manufacturing Readiness Checklist will help you answer the first question, and we are following up on the checklist with a complimentary conversation focused on understanding the challenges your company is facing and your best strategic next steps.
We think you’ll find both the checklist and the conversation with us extremely valuable as you consider how to best leverage new technologies and general improvement options for better results.