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The Digitization of Modern Manufacturing

Richard Welford
By Richard Welford Chief Development Officer, Tata Technologies

Today, the ideal factory can achieve levels of self-controlling (and perhaps self-learning) production processes, in which production reacts autonomously to changes or faults and takes appropriate measures. This brings systems engineering, production IT, and business systems to a new level.

Structured well, it is completely realistic to break the silos between engineering, manufacturing, sales and marketing, service and support. Industry 3.x (and eventually Industry 4.0) will enable integration and complexity management, creating an underlying framework for modern manufacturing such as new collaboration networks that are more intuitive and flexible, including enabling tools and technologies as an open innovation platform.

The expectation is that “Industry 3.x” will lead to new business models and value propositions enabling the circular economy, with less waste and energy use, increased efficiency, fast turnaround, better quality, less rework, faster time-to-market, high-value products, new kind of jobs, supplier chain transparency, and improved IP security. To that end, it is important to understand the digital roadmap that will lead to creating the “factory of the future.” Over two decades, Tata Technologies has developed tools and techniques for assessing digital maturity in a holistic manner—from product development to manufacturing across five strategic axes:

  1. Innovation: activities leading to cost reductions and new revenue opportunities.
  2. Customer centricity: activities ensuring that products (and related services) are meeting customer expectations.
  3. Operational excellence: activities related to productivity and efficiency across processes and functions.
  4. Agility: activities preparing the response to internal and external changes, including the modernization of existing legacy plants and the integration of new modern plants – i.e. roadmap to consolidate and integrate the ‘big picture’ digital landscape, looking at both leading and reacting to market changes while sustaining operational excellence.
  5. Scalability: activities preparing for business expansion and growth in new markets or new territories, looking at the current business performance and proactively taking the relevant measures to discover new business opportunities with predictive analytics.

It is important to understand the business maturity, vision and roadmap, in terms of how it needs and wants to move toward the next “Industry 3.x” iteration. The digital maturity model leverages multiple parameters across the people, process and technology dimensions that underpin manufacturing (a.k.a. the ‘golden triangle’ of change):

  • People: all stakeholder groups involved in the organization and across the extended enterprise; the knowledge, skills, structures, governance, education, and other elements required to deliver the final products and services. This includes the cultural factors that underpin how the organization operates and its ability to change over time.
  • Process: all “end-to-end processes” and functional operating models that create or manipulate data, how data is shared, integrated, managed and used across the product lifecycle and the manufacturing processes; linking to quality improvement (better decisions through better data)—e.g. improving right first-time and WIP reduction.
  • Technology: all tools and applications, automated or not, integrated or not, and how they leverage new technologies, taking into consideration their criticality to the business as well as their technical maturity in isolation and in context of the enterprise architecture – e.g. embracing hyper-connectivity (including product traceability, supply chain data capture, etc.) and moving towards service level engagement models such as Manufacturing IT-as a- Service (ITaaS).
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