Why Manufacturers Are Reluctant to Digitalize (and Why They Shouldn’t Be)

May 20, 2024
A certain level of digital maturity isn’t required to begin your digital transformation. Even a factory with older equipment can benefit with as little as a few IoT sensors for less than $1,000.

The biggest myth we come across in the manufacturing industry is that they think they need to be an industry giant to fully digitalize their operations. 

Digital operations (DO) starts with the installation of smart sensors on equipment or connectivity to existing control systems with information from these sources feeding into connected software to capture and analyze real-time data from your factory. This connectivity delivers a production system capable of monitoring equipment, tracking materials and managing people across every step in the manufacturing process.

Many manufacturers, however, believe they must go from zero to one hundred to gain any benefit. But manufacturers should realize that they don’t need robots, artificial intelligence (AI) or augmented reality (AR) to improve efficiency. Capturing and standardizing processes is a relatively easy goal when the right approach is used coupled with the realization that overall equipment efficiency (OEE) is not the silver bullet many manufacturers think it is.

Why you need more than OEE

Remember that OEE is a rearward looking KPI reflecting past events—mostly around equipment stoppages. While this may be a predictor to some degree, the information captured often lacks context, particularly when it comes to activities, tasks and issues leading to a downtime event. ? This equipment-centric perspective can be constraining when aiming for broader improvements that encompass the entire production process. A more holistic view is required.

Of course, aiming for a zero-error environment is almost impossible, but it represents a goal that can only be achieved with technologies that have powerful rule-handling capabilities.   

Operators are already digital natives and realize digital tools make their jobs easier, benefiting the efficiency of the business. In environments where a single mistake can translate into substantial financial losses, a manufacturing DO system has major benefits.

Unlike traditional shop-floor systems, DO places the frontline worker at the center of its approach. It revolves around the interaction of people and machines, assisting in the end-to-end manufacturing process, covering crucial steps such as loading raw materials, configuring machine parameters, conducting quality checks, performing maintenance activities and cleaning.

A consistent workflow process

Looking at food packaging as an example, a single product might require hundreds of intricate steps to create a finished product, each reliant on the operator's precision. 

Mastery of these steps—their timing and the intricacies involved—form a critical part of the operator's training. Typically, an operator has to rely on printed work instructions to determine each step in the process. Missing one of these steps poses severe risks, from potential audit complications to jeopardizing certifications and even customer refusal to accept a shipment.

A DO system relieves this operator burden, as the system intelligently issues the necessary instructions where and when they are needed. With a DO, the operator has a screen displaying priority tasks in a sequence. Once one activity is complete the system prompts the operator with the next series of activities. It's a straightforward, efficient cycle enabling a move up the maturity curve in a company’s digital transformation.

With a DO system like TilliT, you can include step-by-step standard operating procedures across the factory floor so that even complex procedures can be picked up quickly by new staff members, guided by their digital co-pilot. Armed with a knowledge management process that gives the operator the right information at the right time and in the right place can reduce training time by up to 80%.

James Balzary is the CEO at TilliT, a SAGE Group company. SAGE is a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about SAGE Group, visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.

Sponsored Recommendations

Measurement instrumentation for improving hydrogen storage and transport

Hydrogen provides a decarbonization opportunity. Learn more about maximizing the potential of hydrogen.

Learn About: Micro Motion™ 4700 Config I/O Coriolis Transmitter

An Advanced Transmitter that Expands Connectivity

Learn about: Micro Motion G-Series Coriolis Flow and Density Meters

The Micro Motion G-Series is designed to help you access the benefits of Coriolis technology even when available space is limited.

Micro Motion 4700 Coriolis Configurable Inputs and Outputs Transmitter

The Micro Motion 4700 Coriolis Transmitter offers a compact C1D1 (Zone 1) housing. Bluetooth and Smart Meter Verification are available.