Most manufacturers have a storm of initiatives, ideas, wishes, desires, thoughts, and, most importantly, projects all brewing and bubbling simultaneously. They are charged with thinking both strategically about preparing for the next five years and tactically about staying afloat in the next days and weeks. They’re juggling multiple priorities for long-term stability while keeping the facility running and operations happy. These critical tasks require juggling at once while considering other concepts and items that may be less essential but are still very important. These pieces are likely to eventually become urgent as well and can include:
· Standards: Documenting and illustrating how you want to have new systems delivered to your facility and what technology platforms are to be included;
· Support: Structure to enable your people to independently support their systems and—if they can’t execute a fix themselves—a mechanism and resources path to use for help;
· System architecture: Developing a structure and roadmap for automation and manufacturing information technology (IT) network and systems to maximize the benefits of the new Industry 4.0 devices flooding the market;
· Additional functionality and user experience feedback: A plan to address user functionality requests and manage their feedback to implement enhancements to systems that increase the bottom line; and
· Program pace and cadence: Once you start down the path, providing structure to continue to rollout the enhancements and functionality that gets the return on investment expected (and promised) becomes essential.
These “soft requirements” set the structure for a healthy and strong control and information system environment. Once this environment exists the details need to be communicated, learned and managed by the network of service providers and individuals that may be touching the system for projects and enhancements. Each of those enhancements and components have their own potentially varied set of circumstances and requirements and keeping them straight requires guidance and leadership. Without leadership, multiple resources will run adrift and vacillate from the manufacturer’s goal.
Before 2008, manufacturers directed these tasks and owned them. Now, those same manufacturers are too busy keeping operations running and their heads above water, and don’t always possess the broad skill set needed to address these diverse issues.
In many cases manufacturers have turned to an Umbrella System Integrator to administer and manage these diverse needs and goals. The “umbrella” provides coordination and addresses skill deficits, helping to manage the deluge of priorities manufacturers face. Umbrella System Integration is a unique approach, one that’s responsive to the needs of manufacturers and their assorted goals.