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Manufacturing faces industry-wide challenges in the digital thread

The digital thread is a buzz word in the complex manufacturing industry, with big responsibilities and real implications. A thriving digital thread 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. So, what’s holding you back from achieving this successful “digital thread” environment? 

Too many tools 

Most complex manufacturing companies use multiple systems to maintain different sets of data and processes.. These systems range from ERP to manufacturing execution programs. In many instances, however, the teams accessing this information might not even have a system and are using personal spreadsheets to store that data—and sometimes even to run the company. Operating in this way makes it difficult to connect your digital communications and efficiently is basically impossible. Are your systems connected? Are you duplicating work? If you ask yourself these questions and answer honestly, what do you 

The dreaded spreadsheet

The systems and software available for managing manufacturing data and processes are extremely beneficial, but like the industries they serve—they are also very complex. It takes time to understand and implement these systems. Most people who run companies don’t have time for that. Instead they dump the data into a spreadsheet and format it for their personal use. The problem here is no one else knows how to access, sort and manage the data the way that one person does. And, what happens if that computer crashes? Confining data and formulas to a personal spreadsheet on one computer puts your business at risk. 

So. many. silos.

Everybody wants their data to be visual, especially at the executive/stakeholder/VP level—they want to know where their business is at, right now. Is product design considering impacts on the manufacturing floor? Are things on/off schedule? Are there any problems? When everything is disconnected in silos, no one has the visibility to know the status of projects, or the information to make a decision right now. 

Organizational change resistance

Running a business is stressful. Every minute is precious, there’s always something that needs to be done, and it’s easy to get buried in the details of day-to-day operations, especially when those every day operations are strained with a lack of communication or inefficient processes. But in order to improve the process and remove the silos, you have to get out of the minutia and focus on the big picture and big picture outcomes. You can’t do that without your team. You have to motivate people to not only be on board with your goals, but also working towards that unified outcome.  

If these problems sound familiar, don’t worry, they’re familiar to everyone who works in manufacturing trying to muddle through a digital transformation. There are ways to get through it. In our next blog post, we’ll dive into the solutions to your struggles in the digital thread. Element Consulting is here to help companies like yours unify your solutions and your team, so processes and growth can thrive.