Digital transformation has become a buzzword in recent years, and for good reason. Companies that embrace digital technologies are more likely to stay ahead of the curve, differentiate themselves in the marketplace, and meet the evolving needs of their customers.
The benefits of digital transformation can be far-reaching, from improved customer experience to cost savings and increased efficiency.
In this blog, we will explore the various benefits of digital transformation, and why it is essential for companies to embrace this trend in order to remain competitive in the digital age.
What is Digital Transformation?
Digital transformation is a term used to describe the process of transforming an organization’s business model and operations through the use of digital technologies. It’s important because it can help you stay ahead of your competition, improve customer experience and attract new customers.
The benefits of digital transformation include:
- Improved customer experience: Digital transformation can help you better understand and meet the needs of your customers. With the use of data analytics and other digital tools, you can gather insights into customer behavior and preferences, and tailor your products and services accordingly.
- Increased efficiency and productivity: Digital transformation can automate many processes, reducing manual labor and freeing up staff to focus on higher-value tasks. This can lead to increased efficiency and productivity across your organization.
- Competitive advantage: By embracing digital technologies, you can stay ahead of your competitors and differentiate yourself in the marketplace. This can help you attract new customers and retain existing ones.
- Cost savings: Digital transformation can help you reduce costs by streamlining processes and eliminating unnecessary steps. This can lead to significant savings over time.
- Innovation: Digital transformation can open up new opportunities for innovation and growth. By embracing new technologies and ways of working, you can develop new products and services that better meet the needs of your customers.
See how JR Automation saved seven figures with embarking on their digital transformation journey:
Creating a Digital Transformation Roadmap
The first step to creating a digital transformation roadmap is to identify the scope of your transformation. What are you trying to achieve? What are the goals and objectives of your business? How will you measure success?
Once this has been determined, it’s time to set up a timeline for achieving those goals.
Once these steps have been completed, it’s time for action! You should now have a clear idea of what needs changing within your organization and how long it will take before those changes become visible.
Building a Digital Transformation Team
When you’re building your digital transformation team, it’s important to define roles and responsibilities. You’ll want to make sure that everyone understands their role in the process and what they are expected to do. For example, if someone is responsible for monitoring the performance of shop floor machines, they should know what the ideal OEE is of each machine, how they are going to collect that data, and how they are going to distribute it to enterprise decision makers.
It’s also important that you select team members who have complementary skillsets and experience levels. If one person has extensive knowledge of augmented reality while another knows nothing about it at all, this could lead to problems down the line when it comes time for them both to collaborate on projects together – and no one wants that!
Finally, creating a culture where collaboration happens naturally between team members will help ensure successful outcomes throughout your digital transformation project(s).
Adopting the Right Technology
The first step in digital transformation is choosing the right technology. You’ll want to consider:
Software: What are your current needs and how will they change over time? Will you need additional features or functionality?
Hardware: Do you have enough computing power and storage space for all of your data, or does it need to be scaled up or down depending on usage patterns at different times of day/year/etc.? Do you have sensors to track data that you need for production insight?
Tools: What tools do developers use to build applications on top of this platform (e.g., Creo vs. Solidworks)? How easy is it for them to integrate their code with existing systems like databases and messaging queues? Are there any security issues with using these tools – and if so, how can they be mitigated by using another tool instead (e.g., switching from MySQL database server software to Microsoft Azure).
Developing a Digital Transformation Strategy
The first step to developing a digital transformation strategy is to define the scope of the project. What are you trying to accomplish? What are your objectives, and how will you measure success?
These questions can help guide your organization through its transformation journey by setting realistic goals for both short-term wins and long-term gains.
Once you’ve defined what needs changing, it’s time for step two: defining how those changes will happen. This involves creating an action plan that includes timelines for each phase of implementation as well as resources required for each stage (e.g., time from IT staff).
Some companies may choose to tackle multiple projects simultaneously; others might choose only one area at a time depending on their resources available in terms of money/manpower/etcetera).
Implementing the Digital Transformation Plan
Develop a timeline. The first step in implementing your digital transformation plan is to develop a timeline with milestones that will help you track progress.
Set goals and objectives for each milestone. Once you’ve established your milestones, it’s time to set goals and objectives for each one of them so that everyone involved knows exactly what needs to be done at any given time during the project.
Track progress regularly by reviewing dashboards or reports generated from data collected during testing phases of development projects (if applicable). It’s important not only for managers but also employees on lower levels within organizations who may not have access
Monitoring and Evaluating Performance
Monitoring and measuring performance is an important part of the digital transformation process. It allows you to identify areas where you are successful, and areas that need improvement.
Monitoring can be done using a variety of tools, including:
Data Analytics Dashboards (e.g., Thingworx Analytics)
Real-time Data Share (e.g., Windchill, EAC Productivity Apps)
Digital Twin Performance (e.g., Augmented Reality)
Adapting and Adjusting the Plan
As you progress through your digital transformation, there will be changes in the market that you need to respond to.
If a competitor introduces a new product or service, or if something happens in the industry at large, it may change how you approach your own strategy.
You might also find that your goals and objectives have changed since they were first set out; perhaps there’s been an increase in customer demand for something specific that wasn’t previously considered important enough for inclusion on the list.
The best way to handle these situations is by reviewing them regularly with other members of your team – and making sure everyone has input into decisions about how best to adjust course as needed.
Communicating the Benefits of Digital Transformation
In order to communicate the benefits of digital transformation, it’s important to understand who your stakeholders are and what they want.
If you’re working in an organization with a large number of stakeholders (such as a government agency), then there may be multiple groups that need convincing. For example:
The board wants to see results from their investment in IT infrastructure. They’ll likely be interested in metrics such as ROI and cost savings.
Executives want quick wins that will help them achieve their goals, but they also need proof that this new approach will work before they can commit time and resources to implementing it throughout the organization.
Employees want something tangible they can hold onto when explaining why this change is important for them personally (and why it matters).
Digital transformation is a powerful tool that can help you achieve your business goals. It’s important to remember that digital transformation is not just about implementing new technologies, but also about changing how you work and think as an organization.
Digital transformation requires commitment from everyone involved in the process – from the C-suite down through every level of your organization.
To be successful, it must be an ongoing effort rather than a one-time project or initiative. You will need to continuously innovate and improve what you’re doing if you want to stay ahead of competitors who are also pursuing digital transformation strategies.
In conclusion, digital transformation is becoming increasingly essential for companies to stay competitive and meet the needs of their customers in the digital age. However, the process of digital transformation can be complex and challenging, which is why EAC assessments can be extremely helpful.
By conducting an assessment of your organization’s current digital capabilities and identifying areas for improvement, you can develop a roadmap for digital transformation that is tailored to your specific needs and goals.
EAC assessments can help you identify gaps in your digital capabilities, streamline your processes, and develop new products and services that better meet the needs of your customers. By embracing digital transformation and leveraging the expertise of EAC assessors, you can position your company for success in the digital age.
The Factory of the Future is a connected world of everything.
We will explore the benefits of IoT in manufacturing, including asset monitoring and utilization, quality control, predictive analytics, automation, safety and compliance, OEE visibility and productivity, and more.
With IoT solutions, companies can achieve their Industry 4.0 goals and increase their bottom line.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects, people and other assets that are connected to the internet. IoT allows you to collect data from devices and analyze it in real time.
The goal is to make processes more efficient by optimizing performance and reducing costs.
IoT can be used to monitor machines in factories, track inventory at warehouses or even monitor traffic conditions on roads. It’s also used for home automation tasks like turning off lights when you leave a room or adjusting your thermostat based on your location inside (or outside) the house.
An IoT ecosystem refers to the network of devices, sensors, software, and services that are interconnected and work together to collect, analyze, and act on data.
They are often utilized to gather data on connected assets, and tools in order to gain real-time insights into their condition for predictive maintenance purposes.
The goal of predictive maintenance is to detect and address problems before they cause equipment failure, downtime, or safety issues.
By predicting maintenance needs in advance, organizations can schedule maintenance during planned downtime, minimize the impact of maintenance on operations, and extend the lifespan of equipment.
A smart, connected product (also known as a smart object or SCoT) is a product, asset, or other object embedded with processors, sensors, software, and connectivity that allows data to be exchanged between the product and its environment, manufacturer, operator/user, and other products and systems.
Smart, connected products enable the comprehensive monitoring of a product’s condition, operation, and external environment through sensors and external data sources.
This technology stack provides a gateway for data exchange between the product and the user and integrates with other systems to enable a new level of customer experience.
Similar to connected products, a smart, connected factory is a digitized manufacturing facility that uses connected devices, machinery, and production systems to continuously collect and share data.
This data is then used to inform and improve processes and proactively address any issues that may arise.
It is an interconnected network of machines, communication mechanisms, and computing power, which uses advanced technologies to analyze data, drive automated processes and learn as it goes. It uses the sensors and software of the connected products to bring together the factory floor.
A connected factory is implemented to track the overall equipment efficiency or effectiveness (OEE) of the factory.
A smart connected factory is the telltale sign of a manufacturing floor that is functioning at its most optimal ability.
Having access to data insights regarding production health helps companies optimize earnings and minimize production downtime.
Integrating augmented reality (AR) with IoT involves using sensors and other IoT devices to collect data from the physical world, which is then used to augment the user’s experience in the digital world.
For example, AR can be used to display real-time data from IoT sensors, such as temperature or humidity, on a user’s mobile device. When a cell phone or tablet uses Augmented Reality (AR) to display data, it overlays virtual information on top of the real-world view seen through the device’s camera.
This can be particularly useful in industrial settings, where workers can use AR to monitor the performance of machines, detect any issues immediately, and take corrective action. This kind of data can be turned into a Digital Twin.
With a Digital Twin, you create an exact replica of a working product, process, or service as a simulated model in a virtual space that performs under real-world conditions.
A Digital Twin in manufacturing helps companies find performance issues, schedule predictive maintenance, reduce downtime, and minimize warranty expenses.
This allows anyone to take a digital version of your factory with you anywhere in the world and know the exact, real-time data of how it is functioning. This is extremely helpful for decision-makers who often travel and need to know how their factories are doing.
Additionally, a digital twin of your factory helps maintenance teams find precisely where an issue may have occurred by giving them visual prompts of where the problem is originating from.
The Benefits of IoT in Manufacturing
IoT has a plethora of benefits for manufacturers that overall saves companies time and money, and solves frustrations with outdated processes and siloed data.
Bellow are different ways the IoT solutions could benefit your production process:
Asset Monitoring & Utilization (AMU) & Real-Time Production Performance Monitoring
Gain real-time insights from connected assets and legacy systems such as your PLM and ERP systems to align your IT and OT systems
Make more informed decisions faster
Increasing flexibility and agility
Monitoring the status of inventory in real-time
Monitoring Distributed and Outsourced Processes
Spare parts management
IoT sensors allow organizations to gauge the specific use and deploy practices for more effective usage of resources.
Machine Learning & Predictive Analytics
By integrating machine-learning capabilities there is a whole new level of predictive intelligence brought to the factory floor – identified problems and resolved issues with minimal impact on operational performance. Other benefits include:
Detect problems before they occur
This helps to maximize factory production utilize data analytics to perform predictive maintenance
Optimizing Maintenance Schedules
Automation & Connected Work Cells (CWC)
In manufacturing, many processes are streamlined with IoT technology. For example, one IoT strategy is to use Automation. With IoT, using sensors allows you to automate certain tasks such as temperature monitoring or product tracking.
This means less time spent on manual labor and paper-based processes while increasing productivity simultaneously!
Safety & Compliance
Making sure that machines are running at a safe capacity and within the compliance standards creates a well maintained work area that brings employee satisfaction and confidence in a safe workspace.
All these things can be tracked through IoT technology, along with others:
Increasing energy efficiency of machines
Reduce human errors
Ensuring Products Comply with Set Standards
Increased employee and customer satisfaction
OEE Visibility & Productivity
A factory enhanced by IoT solutions offer complete visibility into all of your factory operations. You can see all of your work orders, lines, and all critical KPIs through dashboards that pull together
IoT sensors allow organizations to gauge the specific use and deploy practices for more effective usage of resources.
Increase bottom line
Decreased Machine Downtime
Optimizing Factory Production
Reduced lead time
Improvement of Operational Performance
These are just some of the many ways companies can reach their goals with Industry 4.0. With out-of-the-box solutions or even custom IoT apps, the possibilities are endless.
The first step in implementing IoT in manufacturing is to identify your goals. Are you looking to improve efficiency, reduce waste or increase profitability?
Do you want to improve customer satisfaction by delivering products on time, or do you want to create new revenue streams with data collected from connected devices?
Once you’ve determined what kind of impact IoT can have on your business, it’s time to evaluate the current technology that’s not only available but that easily integrates with your current systems and shop floor.
Finally, develop an action plan for implementing these strategies broken down into digestible phases. It’s critical to understand what solutions fit best and most align with your unique business and prioritized initiatives.
We hear from companies all the time regarding what challenges they feel stops them from implementing IoT in manufacturing.
The first is cost. However, with any good investment, the benefits of using IoT solutions offset the cost. While IoT ROI doesn’t happen overnight, the full impact IoT has on manufacturing organizations is tenfold.
NORMA Group met with EAC experts to understand what sort of impact an IoT initiative would have on their business growth and determined the challenges were well worth the wait – something we find other companies can relate to. Another early adopter, JR Automation was able to save $1.4 million by investing in IoT.
The second common challenge that comes with implementing IoT is security. This includes both physical and data security issues that need to be evaluated and addressed before implementing any type of data management change.
Finding a solution with integrated automated tools and detailed monitoring is key to preventing attacks. Check out this article that talks further about data security and how PTC’s Kepware supports cybersecurity.
Another challenge we see is considering how well your organization will be able to manage the new information coming from all over your facilities. It’s key you create a plan to integrate the new data flow into your existing systems.
With user-friendly IoT-connected solutions like PTC Thingworx, data is captured, consolidated into a dashboard, and presented in a consumable visual format for real-time insights.
Another consideration is requirements: What sort of hardware do you have to support that software change? Replacing or updating existing systems and hardware to increase efficiency may be necessary to keep up with the fast pace environment of shop floors.
There is no doubt that these are important things to consider when making enterprise-wide changes. While implementing IoT can feel difficult and intimidating, it does not have to be.
EAC has a number of business assessments that can help you evaluate your current state and create a highly strategic roadmap to successfully scale your digital transformation initiatives.
Ultimately, Digital Transformation is a game changer for manufacturing companies who are unsatisfied with the “status quo” – and IoT will open up major opportunities for long-term success and sustainable growth that would not have been possible without making changes.
Empower your organization with enhanced connectivity to your products, systems, and customers.
IoT can provide significant advantages for manufacturers across the enterprise, but it is important to properly evaluate, plan and implement the right technology and the right solution at the right time in order to maximize the potential benefits.
Our IoT consulting and connect services provide comprehensive support from extracting valuable insights, and developing strategic plans to executing and implementing efficient IoT solutions that accelerate your digital transformation.
Chat with one of our experts on how we can help you identify the best IoT solution for your needs and how we can help your company implement it the right way.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s a hypothetical situation to paint the story ‘how real-time information and predictive analytics unlock value.’
To start, imagine a fully functioning assembly line with a robot, pneumatic system, a series of conveyors, and a vision system.
Lets pretend the supply station in the back is bringing in our raw materials. The robot is assembling those materials with precision. The resulting assemblies are than passed on to the quality station, and the vision system inspects each of those assemblies to insure proper alignment of the parts.
This is a pretty generic operation, but it can show how unified real-time information and predictive analytics unlock value.
Now imagine yourself as a maintenance engineer, who wants to check the status of your asset pool.
Using a software, such as ThingWorx Navigate by PTC for example, you launch a role-based maintenance application. All of a sudden you see a complete list of your assets with real-time performance stats and relevant alerts or notifications. You also have a complete list of all your outstanding maintenance work orders.
From here, you have the ability to drill into any of your assets, but you start with the quality station. You immediately see the key characteristics of the station. You see that speed vibration and temperature are all operating within their specified range. You could also see notifications of any warnings, malfunctions, or potential future problems.
Next, you use your device to take a look at the pneumatic system. The pneumatic system also looks fine. Both pressure and flow are operating within the specified range, and there are no outstanding maintenance tickets or work order notifications on your screen.
Now, let’s consider a situation where there was a leak in the pneumatic system. Let’s say a loose fitting was releasing pressure, a fairly common problem in pneumatic systems. Now, rather than looking fine, your device displays flow readings outside of the designated operating range. Furthermore, an alert has automatically been sent to notify you of a system has an error. The overall status indicator on your screen has now switched from green to orange – operational, but not optimal.
Your software solution’s machine learning is now predicting that this air leak, if not repaired, will result in a pneumatic gate failure in approximately 10 day’s time. The good news for you is the system has already issued you a maintenance work order address the problem before asset failure and unplanned downtime.
This scenario is made possible by a system equipped with primary and secondary sensors, and a complete Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solution that can turn raw machine data into valuable information.
For example, your pneumatic system has an air flow sensor, as well as a pressure sensor. The conveyor systems are equipped with motor temperature sensors and vibration sensors.
In addition to the sensors, the rest of the assets on your line are controlled by typical PLCs, which are connected to a software such as ThingWorx and Kepware.
You have also used your software to integrate manufacturing floor systems with a real-time IT applications, asset maintenance tools, and ERP systems. This provides you with a real-time alignment of your IT and OT systems.
Now, all of your systems are throwing data out at a staggering 800 data points per second.
Your software’s machine learning then uses that real-time streaming data to establish a baseline of normal operating conditions. This way it can immediately connect and broadcast any anomalies that occur. It uses these anomalies, in conjunction with its prediction capabilities to notify you of future problems, just as in the case of the pneumatic failure.
Now that you have an understanding of what is happening under the hood, let’s take a look at how all this comes together to enable real-time operational intelligence.
Pretend you are a production manager. Using software like ThingWorx Navigate and Kepware you have complete visibility into all of your factory operations. You can see all of your work orders, lines, and all of their critical KPI’s.
On your device you notice an orange status indicator on line one (that was created from the air leak earlier). Once that air leak has been repaired, everything returns back to normal, just as you would expect.
Let’s explore one more hypothetical situation. Consider yourself to be an operator. In this case, you have just been assigned a new order for a thousand units that need to be delivered and expedited for an end of day delivery.
You’re notified of the order and in this smart connected scenario you, as an operator have a single portal from which you can see and execute all of your work. Through a single pane of glass you now have access to your business systems information and your operational data including the KPIs from your line.
On your device you also have up to the minute visibility of the OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness). You see real-time data measurements of your manufacturing operation’s availability, quality, and performance.
Let’s see how some of these metrics might change if we go ahead and speed up the line to accelerate the current order, in order to make room for that expedited order.
To do that you switch the line speed from level one to level two. What you see in seconds on your device is that line speed has increased, and your assemblies are still passing the quality check.
Within a couple minutes and a few additional cycles, on your device you see both your performance and OEE trending upwards.
As an operator you now are assured that you are going to meet your end of the day deadline.
Using these hypothetical situations, together we have painted a picture demonstrating how you can connect disparate assets from different vendors, to provide real-time information.
You’ve also seen how you can leverage role-based applications that combine business systems information and operational data to empower your workforce with real-time actionable intelligence.
By integrating machine-learning capabilities you brought a whole new level of predictive intelligence to your factory floor, identified problems, and resolved issues with minimal impact on operational performance.
This is exactly how real-time information and predictive analytics can unlock value for your organization.