Over the decades many industries have experienced significant change as new technologies became available and evolved. One key to success is being among the first to recognize the potential of new technology, and adapt more quickly than your competitors. Today’s companies find themselves in the midst of a new phase that has been defined by its potential for extreme data saturation. This article will look at data management in the manufacturing industry as an example and consider the path going forward.
What Came Before – Industry 3.0
In the third revolution of manufacturing, we had the introduction of computers. This created a large focus on data generation, collection, and automation. This phase truly leaned into the saying “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Technology allowed us to rapidly start measuring nearly every aspect of production. Businesses are now facing a challenge where the amount of data being generated and collected is overwhelming. This has ushered in what many are pointing to as the next phase of evolution called Industry 4.0.
As this phase unfolds, it is characterized by enhancing the adoption of computers and automation with smart and autonomous systems fueled by data and machine learning. The problem is no longer gathering the data, it is now effective data management. Now the need is to analyze and pivot efficiently based on the patterns and insights gained from a mountain of data. “With the increase in IoT applications, especially on the manufacturing floor through Industrial IoT, more real-time data sources are coming into play from disparate systems,” says Sam Mahalingam, Global Strategist at Altair (Industryweek.com). It’s impossible for humans to do it in a reasonable timeframe, but the introduction of industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies has created opportunities to better utilize all that data.
There is Still Work to Do
The shift to integrated smart systems and adoption of the cloud are key to breaking down the existing data silos and unlocking your data’s potential. Most companies agree on the importance of this goal, however the trick lies in how to move towards accomplishing it. If you’ve found yourself struggling with making the transition, you’re not alone. A recent survey posted by prnewswire.com found the following:
- Ninety-five percent of survey respondents still use paper-based vs. digital processes, while 27% use paper for over half of all activities.
- Nearly all survey respondents (98%) indicate that they continue to use manual spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel, even while taking steps toward digital transformation. In fact, half (50%) of respondents say they use these tools for “the majority” of processes.
- Nearly half (47%) of U.S. respondents strongly agreed that many discrete manufacturers in the U.S. could cease operations in the next decade unless action is taken.
Not Just for “the Big Boys”
It may be easy for smaller companies to look at this type of transformation and think that it’s out of reach. But as is pointed out in the last bullet above, that could be a mistake with serious consequences. It’s true that it may be prohibitive or impractical to completely refit or build with fully integrated networks, IIoT devices, and data analytics systems. However, there are many smaller data management steps available to make day-to-day operations more efficient, and open up the option to take on larger, more complicated client projects that would have been logistical headaches before.
Utilizing 5G bandwidth and simple data analytics can help cut through the torrential downpour of data, and get you the information you need to make tactical decisions. Things like the digitalization of warehouse inventory can add automation possibilities and cut down on manual organization. It doesn’t take a complete overhaul to realize quicker, easier wins that affect your bottom line in meaningful ways.
Finding the Right Partner
As you consider your path through to the other side of Industry 4.0 and beyond, it is important to understand your options and their impact on your unique business processes. Find a trusted partner with experience in data management solutions and systems integrations to help you plan. Other things to consider:
- First, review your process with fresh eyes and see if it can be made more efficient and effective before you introduce new technology. After all, technology generally won’t fix a bad process, it will only speed up a bad process.
- Be sure to do an ROI analysis so you can confidently prioritize the changes that are best for your company.
- Keep an emphasis on technology that is flexible and will match your proven process. Technology should be pulled by the business, rather than pushed onto the business.
Ultimately, any solution you choose should make it easier to do what you do, and be more profitable while doing it. With over a decade of experience, Dorian Solutions is here to discuss your needs and help you find the right fit. We can help at any point in the journey from process review and analysis, to software development, integration, or implementation. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or to request a call. Our mission is to provide you with the tools you need to get back to growing your business, and not just running it!