Manufacturing Digitalization That Works

Nov. 11, 2019
Though digitalization is a process that is often seen as great, the benefits are not the same for everyone. Asking how digitalization is going to benefit your organization may be important to your digital future.

Industry 4.0, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), connected enterprise, and smart manufacturing, among others, are all descriptive of applying digital technologies to manufacturing. Often, digitalization is presented as so powerfully good that it just needs to be done, but most are generally skeptical, asking, “Exactly how is this going to help me perform better?”

ISA-95 describes an ecosystem common to manufacturing enterprises and plants. Part one— adopted in 2000—will officially be ancient in a few months. Yet, amazingly, it remains relevant, particularly to applying digitalization to manufacturing.

Certainly, the entire standard is worthy of comprehension, but the famous, functional enterprise-control model—identified as figure five in clause six with its associated descriptions in the remainder of that clause—provides a great place to gain some immediate value. Reviewing the described functions—and their relationships—while asking the questions, “How do we do this?” and “How might we do this better/faster/cheaper/digitally?” can bring a wealth of improvement ideas to life.

After a recent implementation of digital manufacturing technology “from one end of the plant to the other” in a food manufacturing plant, our client commented:

“With everyone seeing the same information and analyzing the same data; communication, productivity, and efficiency has been improved significantly. Supervisors are helping R&D with new formulations, material managers are helping schedulers understand order and inventory, and everyone is helping solve problems. In just a few months of production, [we have] created, controlled, and tracked hundreds of batches and dozens of products. The new system accelerates our speed to market for new products and improvements to existent ones, troubleshooting issues for quick resolutions, and supporting data for nutritional label declarations.”

This is digitalization that works, not just the ever-bigger data. This is making manufacturing more consistent, safer, produces more profitably.

While you can purchase a copy of ISA-95 from the International Society of Automation ( and perform this simple exercise yourself, but you shouldn’t have to. World-class integrators can serve you as a trusted advisor in asking these questions and implementing offerings that make sense for you.

How might you get started? What parts of your manufacturing ecosystem make your life difficult? Is your organization using your manufacturing data for problem-solving? Seeking out answers to these questions from trusted advisors is how manufacturing digitalization can begin to work for you!

Timothy S. Matheny, P.E., is president of ECS Solutions, a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). He is also author of a paper on model-based control, presented to the ISA Food and Pharmaceutical Industry Division in 2014. To obtain a copy of Matheny’s paper, or for more information about ECS Solutions, visit its profile on the CSIA Industrial Automation Exchange.

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