Manufacturing is changing, as disruptive technology force companies to adapt. Learn how to manage disruption and build a successful business strategy with a few simple tips.
By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software
I was re-reading Garntner Predicts 2014 and found a quote that really brought focus to troubling trends I’d seen in manufacturing recently:
"With digital business, IT leaders must come to terms with what digital really means in the context of their work. It is bigger in scope than the typical company definition of IT, because it includes technology outside a company's control: smart mobile devices (in the hands of customers, citizens and employees), social media, technology embedded in products (such as cars), the integration of IT and operational technologies (such as telecom networks, factory networks and energy grids), and the Internet of Things (physical objects becoming electronically tractable)." Note: Bold is my addition.
Information Technology versus Operational Technology
Integrating Information Technology (IT) with Operations and Operational Technology (OT) is a critical task for any company. It’s also a task that many companies are failing.
Too often, IT and Operations act independently. Decisions are made and strategies developed in a vacuum, and then companies struggle to make it work. Recently, I’ve seen companies seek solutions to operational problems, such as new regulations, quality escapes, cost overruns, or inefficient work flow. With current technology and software tools, these problems are easy to solve. This is the foundation of the digital business. But, without an integrated IT and Operations, the solution many companies select isn’t optimized and will never deliver the capability or functionality the business needs. They end up trading one set of problems for another.
Operations needs the digital tools provided by IT. With the advent of digital business, paper-based, inefficient manufacturing methods no longer support modern production. With the right digital tools and IT support, operations will be positioned for success in the future.
IT relies on manufacturing. Manufacturing is the revenue generator for a business. The more manufacturing, the more profit for the company and the more successful everyone is. In addition, IT must support the digital tools used by Operations. IT finds success by supporting Operations with tools that won’t place an undue burden on IT resources.
IT and Operations rely on each other. They share similar goals. But, too often, they have an adversarial relationship that does no one any good. Moving forward, Operations and IT must work more closely together. The digital business of the future demands integration.
No longer can IT sit in their office and focus solely on the computer infrastructure. They need to understand how manufacturing works so they can provide a solid digital foundation and manufacturing tools.
Operations can’t focus solely on the shop floor, manufacturing in a vacuum. Operations needs to understand how important the IT infrastructure is to their success, and see it as a critical foundation to production.
Digital business is a disruptive influence that requires all of us to adjust our thinking and the way we operate, but it also offers tools that can catapult a company to success. Sure, integrating IT and Operations may seem counter-intuitive. Operations can no longer just demand a solution or answer from IT, and IT can’t demand Operations blindly use their solution. Collaboration is required. It may be difficult, even scary, but there is tremendous opportunity there for the businesses that embrace the digital business and begin to see their business not as a collection of entities operating independently, but a cohesive whole operating toward a shared goal.
The question is, how do you integrate IT and Operations? One part of the answer is cultural. We need to eliminate the information and operational silos holding us back. Teams that bring the expertise of both Operations and IT need to be built, with a focus on developing solutions that work across the business.
Technology solutions must recognize the disruptive property of new technology, and meet the needs of the business, not just individual departments. Systems designed 15 years ago (even ones cleverly packaged with a new name or in a new module) aren’t going to work under the new paradigm. The digital business needs Web 2.0 solutions that adapt to the changing needs of the shop floor and IT. They need to be configurable, to support current work flow, shop floor processes, and work instructions. Advanced data collection and business analytics are part of the solution, but not the sole focus. You need solutions equally integrated.
It’s a global change in how we look at shop floor systems, but, in the end, this is the only way to support a modern manufacturing business. The advent of digital business is disrupting past methodology processes, requiring new methods. At CIMx Software, we understand that, and we’ve developed solutions that bridge the gap between IT and Operations – delivering advanced software and technology to manufacturing in a way that not only gives the shop floor the tools they need, but offers IT simple installation and minimal support with a lower cost. The software solutions we offer have been developed not only with the shop floor in mind, but IT as well.
Want to learn more, or see how you can become a digital business? Give us a call or leave a message. We’re happy to answer questions or take a look at your shop floor or IT needs, and suggest a solution for you.