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‘At the cusp of something awesome’

By Michael C. Anderson Contributing Writer

Stanley Black & Decker is making smart manufacturing easier to implement, with enterprise-sized value

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Sudhi Bangalore, CTO for global operations at Stanley Black & Decker.

Sudhi Bangalore, chief technology officer for global operations at the tool giant Stanley Black & Decker, champions the global movement toward smart manufacturing. He acknowledges, however, that the movement is not quite as global as it ought to be at this point in time.

“There are a lot of people missing in action,” he said, citing a 2019 Deloitte/MAPI study that reports that only 49 percent of industry in the United States is participating in Industry 4.0 improvements. “Many of the companies that are participating are still in pilot mode.”

In an effort to help other organizations to get out of “pilot purgatory” and move toward a full-scale transformation, Bangalore, in his keynote at The Best of SMX Virtual Event, outlined how Stanley Black & Decker itself is transforming its culture and, along the way, its technology.

Stanley Black & Decker is the largest tool company in the world, with 145 factories, nine major distribution centers and 61,000 employees. Bangalore heads up a $250 million program to improve processes by leveraging automation, digital technology and a culture of empowerment across the workforce. This last item is of particular importance to him.

“My passion is technology innovation for the purpose of making an impact with people on the factory floor, starting with operators first and then moving on up,” he said. “We want to keep people at the center.”
How? First, automate the dull, dirty and dangerous tasks.

“There’s a huge dearth of talent in manufacturing—so why use that precious talent to do repetitive, dirty and risky work if it can be done with robotics and automation?” he said. Automating such tasks “elevates thought content for the people on the factory floor,” freeing them up to use their creativity and problem-solving skills.

The program ensures that as automation comes in, career paths for the displaced workers are created.

“We keep people in the center, whether it is upskilling, re-skilling or other training,” Bangalore said. “We are actually innovating to make this a sustainable component of the [digital] transformation, not just training people for the sake of training.”

At the same time, the program has a goal of quickly and efficiently translating the reams of data generated in the modern smart factory environment into standard work. “It’s not enough to translate data to analytics in the form of pretty visualizations—charts and graphs we’re all familiar with,” he said. “They need to be translated into action” in the form of standard work.

Another goal looks at how to “care and share” the company’s process-improvement innovations with the manufacturing industry at large.

“How do we help the larger industry benefit from some of the artifacts and solutions we’re creating and using within our partner ecosystem?,” Bangalore said. “This care-and-share philosophy is central to what we’re doing in this transformation.”

The Manufactory 4.0

Ground Zero for the company’s innovations is its 23,000-square-foot Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence, called “Manufactory 4.0.”

The nearly two-year-old facility was named after Frederick Stanley’s first plant in Connecticut, which was founded in 1823. It showcases advanced technologies and how they’ll be implemented into facilities worldwide. About 50 Industry 4.0 experts there focus on innovations in automation, digitization and process improvement.

The Manufactory 4.0 facility is connected live 24/7 with the company’s plants around the world, he said: “Our Industry 4.0 team, many of whom are based at the Manufactory, engages across businesses and our technology partners, to enable new ways of collaboration across our plants, sharing best practices from the shop floor and providing shared services around process improvement and maintenance management.”

Automated continuous improvement

The Stanley Black & Decker transformation program has had to grapple with the same challenges faced by other continuous-improvement programs.
Such programs, whether designed for lean, quality or other improvement, all depend on empowering individual workers to discover, flag and try to solve inefficiencies in their part of the production process.

The goal is to create a culture of continuous improvement. But it is not easy to develop and maintain such a culture.

“Continuous improvement... has always been a very manual endeavor,” Bangalore said.

The irony is that most related programs are anything but continuous, he noted. They are often highly manual, performed by centralized teams who can leave at any time and take their expertise with them.

“So, while the concepts of such programs are still solid and relevant for companies, we wanted to use technology to actually make implementation of a continuous-improvement program more efficient,” Bangalore said. “What if there was a platform capable of proactively identifying opportunities for improvement and delivering actionable, streamlined workflows to the hands of plant managers and operators? What if we could speed up the time from data to action from weeks to minutes?”

Meet DCIP

The company has developed an answer in the form of the Digital Continuous Improvement Platform, or DCIP.

“DCIP is an intelligent industrial collaboration platform that uses artificial intelligence to constantly detect and analyze performance opportunities, delivering insights and [proposing] actions to everyone from the front-line floor workers to global operations leaders,” according to Bangalore.

DCIP hunting algorithms analyze and report on optimization opportunities and identify potential issues across all elements of the enterprise, including safety, labor assets, scrap, material flow and inventory. It enables workers to quickly collaborate with colleagues or off-site experts and act on this data analysis in their everyday work. What could be weeks of analysis is accomplished in minutes as DCIP’s underlying data architecture pulls from a wide range of sources within the factory with machines, labor and IT systems.

“AI can analyze all of these sources of factory data in seconds,” he said, providing plant operators with targeted insights and actions, supported by a network of experts and continuous improvement specialists. “Plant operators are able to immediately run these new workflows, changing their approach to improvement on the fly, in their own KPIs [key performance indicators] in real time, updating key implementation data from their mobile device. And all this optimization effort can be tracked, aggregated and served up to global operations leads.”

Sharing expertise with the larger industry

The DCIP is already in use within the Stanley Black & Decker production environment. But the company expects to make it, and more of its expertise, available to other enterprises.

Having demonstrated the value of AI solutions in internal operations to its own satisfaction, the firm is positioned to scale that expertise into a service that will drive success for customers’ operations, Bangalore said. “We believe that our work here is not only going to help us transform our [own] operations and set the stage for the next few decades to come but also, hopefully, we can now leverage this passion and some of the critical components we’re building to actually help the larger industry.”

Developing and scaling up an efficient, self-improving smart factory environment is “really not just about investments,” Bangalore said. “It’s about passion for manufacturing and the people at the center of manufacturing. It literally takes an entire ecosystem” to make the possibilities of Industry 4.0 become real.

“There’s no way a company can do this alone. But, boy, when we do this, what an opportunity,” he said. “I think we’re at the cusp of something awesome.”

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