In a blinding statement of the obvious, smart manufacturing projects are mostly about implementing smart technology—and rightly so. Smart technology is an extremely powerful driving force and is rapidly changing the industrial world. It’s used everywhere in manufacturing to increase productivity, reduce costs, provide new capabilities for companies to serve their customers, and provide hard dollar benefits to the bottom line. It’s all just amazing.
Ultimately, for smart technology to be successful, there needs to be more than just the technology. It must be coupled with smart people who are internet and technology savvy—people who are highly skilled and trained to use smart technology and know how to ultimately achieve the best business results.
To make the results a reality, it’s necessary to look beyond smart technology, or even the smart people, and create an environment where the people who are using the technology to make decisions, solve problems, improve manufacturing operations, and make a bottom-line actually impact the business.
Drive business results
Four principles highlight how smart people combined with smart technology can deliver the business results promised by smart manufacturing:
Technology: In the smart manufacturing world, technology provides the tools to capture, analyze, and share data and information that is ultimately used to achieve the best business results; however, it is nothing more or less than a set of tools. Technology alone can no more achieve results than a hammer can build a house by itself. Instead, it is the foundation on which people must rely for their data and their information.
Information: Accessing the right information ensures real-time data gets to those who can best use it to run the business. Getting beyond technology means getting beyond the data and turning it into useful information. Technology is still part of the solution, but human ingenuity is required at this point to apply the necessary, mission-critical information to effectively and efficiently run the manufacturing operations. Technology provides the right, real-time information at the right time and to the right people who can best use it to run the business. At this point, it’s not about technology anymore but about people leveraging the data to make decisions and run the business.
Education: Whether you call it education, training, or just plain old experience, people need to know what to do with the technology, as well as the data and the information the technology gives them. What happens when you give someone a hammer who doesn’t know how to build a house? The house doesn’t get built.
It’s necessary to provide people with training to exploit the information the technology gives them to achieve real process and productivity improvements. That means they must understand the data and information, the manufacturing and business processes, and the big picture of the manufacturing business strategy. Then, and only then, can they use the data and information they have in the context of the strategy to make decisions and run the business the way it needs to be run.
Ownership: The final principle focuses on bringing the technology, the information, and the education together to achieve the business results. To do this, people must be empowered to make decisions—to change things. They must ultimately own the outcomes. Technology, information, and education aren’t useful if people can’t do what needs to be done. Once these three elements are in place, people must own and use these newfound tools and skills. They must be empowered to make the upfront decisions and take the necessary actions and changes required to impact the manufacturing business.
So, what’s the bottom line?
Smart manufacturing includes smart technology, which is a solid foundational tool, but without smart people using it, you can’t realize your goals and objectives and make an impact on your manufacturing business.
Again, to achieve the required business results, you must put the four basic principles in place to ensure all elements work effectively in tandem.
Build a smart business
Smart technology is impacting just about everything in our world, and manufacturing is no exception. But to have more than just an impact, it’s necessary to get beyond the smart technology and focus on the people.
Ultimately, the concepts centered around the four principles go a long way toward creating an environment where the people leveraging and applying the technology can make a significant impact on the business and deliver real bottom-line results.