The drone technology always fascinates me. From aerial photography to search and rescue operations or surveillance, monitoring of acres of agricultural lands to managing shipping and delivery, drones are creating magic in various industries thanks to their maneuverability.
Are you wondering where this drones story has come from? Well, just to clarify, this blog is not about drones. I am just thinking – what if a drone hovers over an IoT-enabled manufacturing establishment, what would it find? A wide range of disruptive technologies and trends such as digitization, sustainability, global consolidation, regulation, globalization, connectivity, personalization, and servitization are already radically transforming the manufacturing value chain.
Let’s see what our drone finds.
So, it’s 8:00 a.m. as our drone silently hovers in the parking lot of a leading manufacturing company in the world. A quick search on the Internet shows that this company is a well-known name in the industry and is known for its smart manufacturing or IoT-enabled manufacturing initiatives. Ah! Makes me curious. Let’s see what they are doing there.
Our drone has entered the Product Design department where it sees the Product Manager brainstorming with his team on how to create differentiated products while retaining a common core design, how to reduce the product development time and hit the market faster, how to make testing more efficient, how to ensure compliance with all the regulations, and how to effectively manage the IP without hampering the collaboration between the product development and design teams.
As the drone takes a closer look, it finds that the use of disruptive technologies has helped this company battle all these challenges. The drone has found that the company employs a cloud-based product life-cycle management (PLM) systems that allow this company to work collaboratively with its suppliers on designs in real-time and round-the-clock. The advanced use of mobility is empowering the engineers to communicate and access data in real-time from anywhere, anytime allowing them to test the systems and sub-systems from virtually anywhere. Using big data, the engineers are able to perform what-if analysis on a variety of parameters and reuse information from existing programs. This is helping them evaluate a lot of innovative concepts early in the program development process. The company also leverages 3D printing which allows the engineers to make prototypes without tooling, test multiple configurations to determine customer preferences. No wonder the company is able to launch products faster with minimal risks.
Next, the drone flies to Manufacturing division and the discussions it listens to are about maintaining cost efficiencies while keeping the production closest to the demands, efficiently producing a variety of products using the same production set up, cutting of maintenance costs, maintaining quality while producing the desired volume and variety, and real-time monitoring of production environment.
Here again, our drone sees the magic of technology. All the plant floor workers use mobile devices and receive work instruction in real-time. The flexible and intelligent assembly robots serve an increasingly diverse range of customers. The plant also uses 3D for creating complex shapes and structures in a short period, thereby; dramatically reducing the overall production time. The complete plant scheduling and material logistics are managed via the sensor to advanced cloud-based big data analysis. The advanced analytics along with business intelligence enabled visualisation offers automated reports of critical manufacturing data to the stakeholders – anytime, anywhere – right on the mobile devices.
Fascinated by the efficiencies in product design and manufacturing, the drone is now curious to see how the overall supply chain is managed. Like all other companies, here the supply chain leaders are working towards reducing costs and increase responsiveness while making the supply chain robust, increasing the order fulfillment rate and reducing the response times while controlling the overall warehousing costs, making the transportation networks more efficient while being careful about the carbon footprint, managing the overall material sourcing from different countries to meet the needs of the diverse manufacturing plants, and predicting the demand with increasing market segmentation and economic uncertainty to manage the procurement based on that.
Mobility, Device connectivity, interoperability, Cloud, Big Data, Business Intelligence and Visualisation are showing their charm here as well. The mobile solutions are helping in streamlining logistics through accurate tracking of shipments and, thus, improving the productivity in warehousing operations. Using cloud computing, the company is able to quickly ramp-up and ramp-down the process volumes based on the volatile demand. Using Big Data analytics, the stakeholders are able to do the what-if analysis of the supply chain to a variety of disruptions and mitigate the supply chain risks. By using risk analysis, the company is able to identify and mitigate weak links in the supply chain and also create a strong disaster recovery plan. Device/sensor to cloud approach, and Big Data is also helping the stakeholders in the optimization of inventory levels and transportation networks. Through scenario analysis, sourcing material from different locations and suppliers is a breeze.
Lastly, the drone hovers over the customer connect division to see how does this company manage the sales and marketing for a global customerbase? What does it do to increase customer satisfaction? Does it have any strategy for reducing service fulfillment time and keeping the service technicians updated on the frequent product changes? What about dealer management – how does the information flow about latest products and customer data between the dealer and the company? How does this company ensure the availability of the spares at the right time at the right place?
The drone finds an extensive use of the sensor to cloud connectivity, protocols, interoperability, big data, analytics, cloud computing, and mobility. Through advanced analytics, the company is able to exactly know the customer and their needs and it puts together a marketing plan and campaign based on that. By analyzing the data from search engines, social media, directories, focus groups, and dealer networks, it gets insights into the customer trends and preferences to define the right marketing and sales campaigns. It also helps in optimizing the service parts inventory and increasing the forecast accuracy. The communication with the service technicians is maintained using augmented reality combined with visualization tools. These tools help the engineers look through a set of instructions as well as see the instructions overlaid on the actual product through use of a mobile device and its camera.
One of the peculiar things which our drone notices is the perfect harmony and integration between Information Technology and Operational Technology (IT-OT). The structured data from a variety of IT systems such as ERP, CRM, SCM etc. and the semi-structured data from PLC/DCS, SCADA, RTUs, Smart Meters, Middleware, Historians systems is securely assimilated and aggregated to offer a comprehensive 360-degree view of the overall operations and helps in achieving the operational excellence, along with cybersecurity.
This slice of time of the IoT-enabled smart manufacturing establishment has left us thoroughly impressed. In a few days, our drone is coming again to take a deeper look at all these sections to get more such examples. Till then, it’s flying off to other missions!
If you enjoyed reading this article, then you might like my other articles which offer more in-depth overview of specific things in smart manufacturing. Do have a look and let me know your views on those