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Aligning Manufacturing Teams with Data, Collaboration, and Visibility

How industrial organizations can leverage trustworthy information in real time to boost their ability to aggregate, contextualize, and share data to support key business drivers such as improving productivity and cost optimization.

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As organizations manage through ongoing value chain disruptions that have been contributing to worldwide inflationary pressures, many are taking a step back to assess their supply chain strategies, including the role of the plant. Organizations are looking deeper at the adoption of technology and how they connect data to their people at the right time and in the right way to stay competitive and drive value.

In a 2021 consumer packaged goods (CPG) study by Google, digital initiatives—including data platforms and connectivity—were recognized to have the potential to unlock US$490 billion by 2023. Additionally, 90% of top CPG manufacturers are not yet using digital solutions at scale in support of workforce augmentation or automation, according to SmarterChains in a 2020 report. Taking these two data points together, one can recognize the potential opportunities and challenges manufacturers must navigate amid the ongoing need to drive agility and efficiency in support of operational excellence.

Whether the focus is on driving product quality and food safety, energy utilization, or increased production efficiency, one key step organizations should take is to give teams and individuals full visibility across operations relevant to their roles. This gives organizations the visibility and control to be agile and drive efficiency and collaboration from the edge to the enterprise. On the plant floor, this could translate to providing teams with access to information on their smart devices so that, when an anomaly is detected, operators can quickly access cloud collaboration tools and determine the next steps or call for help. Skills and knowledge development on the plant floor also becomes more critical as workers change roles or leave the organization. New technology that offers collaboration, skills development, and better ways to handle abnormal situations can help organizations manage through skills gaps and spread the knowledge held by plant floor subject matter experts.

Organizations can further expand awareness by leveraging trustworthy information, in real time, structured in a way to bring forward insights and amplify value. This becomes a stepping-stone toward an organization’s ability to aggregate, contextualize, and share its data throughout the enterprise. Then it can begin to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics to support key drivers like improving productivity and cost optimization. In the control room, supervisors could leverage their SCADA applications across a single or multi-site operation and push data to a centralized information management system. This enables organizations to gather AI-infused insights that support asset management and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) for proactive monitoring and downtime tracking.

Beyond the plant floor and control room, organizations are looking for new ways to drive awareness and performance guidance across the enterprise. Deploying single-pane-of-glass enterprise visibility is beginning to help some manufacturers uncover previously inaccessible value by converging engineering, operations, and other business data in context. These systems need to aggregate data from any available data sources, which could include HMI/SCADA, historians, information management, IIoT (industrial Internet of Things), ERP, finance, market data, maintenance, and connected worker systems. This convergence goes beyond charts and numbers to provide rich intelligence that helps analysts and decision-makers respond quickly to performance-influencing events. At this level, going beyond a plant-centric view can help guide strategies to mitigate immediate supply chain impacts and help organizations plan for the future.

To succeed in the current market environment, organizations must become more adaptable, agile, and collaborative and they must ensure that information gets in front of the right people quickly. Their technology must align to the needs of their teams and it must scale and adjust with their businesses over time. To achieve this, they must continue their transition toward hybrid (on-premises and cloud) solutions and software-as-a-service (SaaS) for greater flexibility. This helps to ensure that organizations achieve longterm benefits from the technology they employ, and specifically the software their teams require to be successful, independent of location or device, from the edge to the enterprise.

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