In manufacturing operations, there are a lot of moving parts—literally and figuratively. It’s not only important to understand the effects of both the upstream and downstream processes, but to make those processes as efficient and profitable as possible. One way to synchronize and streamline these processes is to move to a digital manufacturing format.
What is digital manufacturing?
Many manufacturers are making the switch to digital with an integrated approach that is centered around a computer system. It means moving from paper-based, manual processes to automated, cloud-based solutions. This transition has accelerated with advancements in the quality of systems, and the quantity of providers. It takes the daily, day-to-day processes—sales, shipping, finance, etc.—and makes them digital. The systems communicate over what is called the “digital thread.”
What is the “Digital Thread”?
Digital thread is a buzzword in the industry right now, but what does it really mean? According to ptc, digital threads simplify access to data by following a set of related data as it goes through business processes and functions to create continuity and accessibility.
“A digital thread can be created for many different entities and processes. Most commonly, a thread of a product follows the lifecycle from inception through engineering and product lifecycle management, to manufacturing instructions, supply chain management, and through to service histories and customer events.”
The digital thread is at the heart of digital manufacturing and allows for synchronization of processes and the seamless flow of information. At its core, digital manufacturing is integrating the various systems you use to get work done, and keeping them updated. For example, in a digital environment you’d enter a sales order once and it would flow through the whole process and update all the downstream systems at the same time.
Benefits of going digital
Making the transition from paper-based to digital processes in the world of manufacturing brings a multitude of both short- and long-term benefits. Efficiency and cost savings are the most significant changes you’ll see, but, there’s more substance to recognize in other areas.
- Improve your processes to create operational efficiencies
- Innovate with advanced technology
- Appeal to next gen workers
- Improve customer satisfaction
- Reduce costs
- Shorten turnaround times at all levels of the value chain.
- Gain better insight at critical decision points.
Making the switch
Deciding you’re ready to go digital is only the first step. Next comes figuring out how to get going. We have a few suggestions.
- Follow the paper – Not sure where to start? If you’re not using tablets, think about what processes require paper forms. It probably won’t be hard to find, because it’s likely that you’ve got paper forms everywhere. These are the processes that can and should go digital.
- Start small – Pick 1-2 of these paper processes to digitize first. Doing it all at once is overwhelming and isn’t conducive to success. Plus, starting small allows you to determine what works best for your team and helps you weed out the wrong fits.
- Engage staff– Gather information from your managers and from the users. Find out what their pain points are, or what challenges they face on a day-to-day basis. This solution is there to support them, so their input is crucial.
- Focus on improvement – Going digital is essentially improving your process. Make that goal clear to your entire organization. You’re likely to face some push-back, so over-communicate the benefits and even consider implementing a reward system. If the staff is motivated and engaged, they’re more likely to adopt the technology quicker.
Element Consulting specializes in helping organizations implement digital solutions, at any step in the journey. If you need help getting started, or simply want to discuss what digitization would look like for you, we are here to help. Email elarson@element-consulting to connect with us.