factory of the future

How to become a Factory of the Future

How can your business become a Factory of the Future? Our latest article tells you how.

Business leaders are increasingly waking up to a profound and rapid digital transformation taking place across most industrial sectors.

As with any significant change, the opportunities to get ahead of the competition and tap into growth are huge. However, it is also true that the current transformation is accompanied by unique challenges that all businesses will have to navigate.

How do you determine what your next digital transformation steps should be? What steps bring the most value? And what steps can be taken to avoid being left behind? These are the questions industry leaders are repeatedly asking themselves.

In this article, we consider three key trends that are producing a profound a effect on modern business and will continue to do so over the coming years. These are:

  • The greater need for visibility and data insight
  • Growth of the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • The migration of ERP applications to the cloud

Many of these trends go hand-in-hand but they are linked most powerfully by their potential to swiftly transform modern industry.

By considering the following steps, you can prepare your business for these challenges and make your organisation ‘future-ready’, whatever your circumstance.

 

Data-insight and visibility

Data analytics is one of the key components needed for any business that wants to be ‘future-ready’.

Without it, you deprive yourself of minute-by-minute data on the most essential business functions.

This means, all-to-often, your decision making is based on clearing up the mess rather than anticipating it. Real-time data allows you to be more proactive.

By processing information as it happens and drawing informed conclusions, you can resolve any problem before it becomes a crisis.

Unfortunately, for small-to-midsize businesses, data can be a bit of a stumbling block. This is because it usually takes some specialist expertise to turn the data into insight that can be acted upon.

Thankfully, data tools are becoming much easier to use and their interoperability with modern ERP systems has made them more accessible than ever.

It’s now possible for managers and decision makers to dig more deeply than ever before to eliminate a substantial number of tactical challenges.

The key is to use your analytics to move gradually from information to optimization, all the while increasing the value brought to your business.

This starts with simple operational reports that shines a torch on your business functions and tells you what is happening.

You can then progress through descriptive and diagnostic analytics that begin to uncover why a certain problem is occurring.

The ultimate aim of course is to reach a stage of predictive analysis: when you can predict what is going to happen through machine learning and greater insight and then act upon it.

Only once you reach this stage can you consider your analytics fully utilised.

 

What to look for from data-analytics

Most businesses want a solution that provides a ready-to-go solution straight out of the box.

In an ideal world, you won’t need specially trained experts to operate or interpret your data. Therefore a pre-built analytics solution is usually the way to go.

Having said that, make sure there is flexibility to customize, build your own views, reports, and dashboards as you become more confident.

Finally, make sure you ask your ERP provider about their support for predictive analysis and get familiar with their roadmap and vision for how it could work in your business. They should be able to offer guidance at every stage.

 

How will the ‘Internet of Things’ transform my business?

IoT-based smart devices are opening new windows of visibility into the manufacturing process.

In turn, industrial organisations are using this visibility to make more informed, accurate, real-time decisions.

Those who have already embraced this approach are already finding themselves more capable of responding quickly and effectively to unforeseen events that would previously have represented a significant challenge to business operations.

The “Internet of Things” is not as complicated as it first appears.

It describes a worldwide network of physical objects (e.g. machinery or parts) that have technology embedded within them. This technology allows you instant insight into their internal state (are they working or not?), while receiving updates on their status and acting on the data you receive.

Integrating physical parts that are the bedrock of your organisation into the digital world allows you to streamline, simplify and improve your operations and customer service.

It also allows you to automate certain functions that used to be manual, since many devices can be set to act on certain data automatically.

To consider yourself ‘future-ready’, you’ll want you approach to the IoTs to be both deep and broad.

This means being able to deploy more sensors to more devices. In doing so, you’ll be able to derive the maximum amount of information from all areas of your operations.

As you take your first steps, you’ll want to invest in an ERP system that can support all of your IoTs functionality, both today and tomorrow.

Some of the key considerations will be the ease of interoperability and whether or not the solution is built for industry specifically – those built for retail or healthcare are unlikely to work for your purposes.

Finally, automation is all well and good this is also about making life for your staff easier. Therefore ease-of use and application to their genuine, routine problems should be a primary concern when choosing a solution.

If you want to be a Factory of the Future you’ll want to make life easier for staff, not more complicated.

 

Migrating applications to the cloud

While it took a while to get going, the prevailing view is now that industry-leaders are managing their operations better through cloud-based applications.

The availability, flexibility and scalability that cloud represents is just too powerful to ignore.

Now if you want to be considered a Factory of the Future, cloud seems to be the way to go.

People can now access the information they need from anywhere, so long as they have internet access.

It also enhances internal collaboration since so many departments within a business can come together on a single platform.

These benefits even extend beyond the business itself and to suppliers and customers, since visibility and process integration can be extended beyond the confines of the organisation.

This may come as a surprise to some, as cloud was initially treated with a healthy scepticism.

For example, in 2009, 80% of businesses were favouring on premises ERP solutions.

Now the pattern has been flipped on its head, with 59% of businesses choosing cloud-based software.

However, not all cloud-based implementation projects are created equal. And there are a few things you’ll want to look out for.

First of all, you ERP solution needs to have a cloud-ready architecture. Some packages are better at cloud than others, so make sure you do your market research.

Also, things are so fast moving that even if you decide to go for an on-site solution now, it would be prudent to ensure the solution is cloud-ready in the future.

Keep these two things in mind, and whatever you choose, you won’t be caught out later down the line.

Did our article make you want to be a Factory of the Future? Talk to one of our experts here.