According to a report by Gartner, the worldwide manufacturing industry will spend $561 billion on IT in 2018. Emphasis on digital transformation is driving this spend. However, businesses shouldn’t blindly invest in IT without aligning it to their business goals. Here, George Walker, managing director of industrial automation specialist Novotek, explains.
Business goals and values are important for decision making. For instance, if a company’s business objectives focus on reducing waste, maintaining sustainability or reducing overheads, its manufacturing processes — and subsequent investment — should be defined with these specific goals in mind.
Consider American brewing company Anheuser-Busch as an example. In its 2025 US sustainability goals document, the business outlines a company-wide commitment to maintaining sustainability in its manufacturing processes. Among several other sustainability schemes, the brewer recycles its spent grain into bioreactors to be broken down by bacteria and turned into fuel. By doing this, the company saves money, reduces its carbon emissions and, vitally, remains in line with its company values and objectives.
But, how can manufacturers use new IT investments to help them achieve business goals? Efforts to reduce waste in production provides a good example of this. Let’s say a manufacturer hopes to increase its profits by reducing avoidable wastages in production. A sensible investment would be a data collection software that would allow the manufacturer to identify the six big losses in its facility — a term used to describe common reasons for productivity losses in manufacturing.
The best way to identify these losses is by using an IoT platform to collate and analyse data from processes across the factory floor. A perfect example is GE Digital’s IoT platform. When companies install an IoT platform to monitor their production, they could make some shocking discoveries. Unexpected wastes, such as breakdowns, faulty setups, idling, misalignment, defects in processes and start-up losses become apparent.
With Novotek, after installing an IoT platform, we carry out an analysis based on the six big losses. This allows you to measure and track all your wastages and understand their causes and effects. We would then be able to help recommend suitable fixes.
In the case of a quality defect, the IoT platform would identify if there were any problems, such as micro stops or changeover. Then, using six-sigma-based approach methods to rework processes to reduce waste could be identified. From this analysis, a detailed long-term IT solution can be formulated based on your company values and goals. There are indications from Gartner that manufacturing spend on IT will grow by a CAGR of three per cent through to 2022. It will be more important than ever to make sure IT investments carry forward fixes inline with your business goals and values. As the emphasis on IT focused fixes continues to grow, it will become vital to form cohesive IT strategies.