The lockdown was the real test for those who had already started making their production processes smarter, demonstrating how the industries further ahead in the smart manufacturing process were able to adapt to the imposed needs with greater speed and flexibility. In the coming years, the statistics will clearly show the data to correlate the performance and results brought about by the smart revolution, or Industry 4.0, in these decidedly atypical years, and what the future holds.
Smart Manufacturing and flexibility
By now, one of the key words in any production process is “flexibility”: with the drastic change of habits, those who have adapted faster in the various supply chain processes have adopted a winning tactic.
Think for example of smartphones, social networks, e-commerce, conference calls, delivery, etc.
Reduced to a minimum, the main requests involving the production flexibility of a company refer to the quantities per unit of time and the quality of the product itself, to differentiate and customize it. To do this, it was necessary to adopt production lines and supply chains that make the required changes feasible, compatible with the times desired by the consumer.
Flexibility and sharing
Why are flexibility and sharing closely linked? What to share, and with whom? Mainly, it involves sharing information with the customer regarding what is being produced and will be available, while, in the case of suppliers and partners, how much the material will be required to complete the production phase.
This perspective was actually already rooted in the company system, with orders, budgets and forecasts, but it changes radically when it comes to sharing one’s systems and production machines to exchange information with the outside world, thanks to a connection.
And if the machines and production systems are already connected, this sharing is much easier.
Smart Manufacturing and collaboration
Digital transformation allows us to give new connotations to connection, and to collaboration, or the creation of ecosystems that make the most of these possibilities.
An example above all: this period has won the resistance of many to work with their team on documents shared on the cloud, due to the impossibility of physically seeing each other in the meeting room and taking notes on a sheet. Or, the confidence in allowing employees to work remotely, even after companies reopen.
Business in the Smart Industry
If smart manufacturing implies dominating and having flexibility, sharing and collaboration, the customer is always at the center. But it is not or will always be the same.
Being a smart industry also means knowing how to adapt one’s production capacity to new requests or new markets, taking new paths.
If there is also a connection with the market, with demand, levels of collaboration and sharing are reached that can be revealing: research and development, optimization of products and services, expansion into new sectors …
This comparison also generates the sharing of information related to costs, seen from the supplier’s side, and to market performance, seen from the customer’s side.
The upstream supply chain
If the business and the customer are central to the new production architecture, the supply chain that feeds the production process could also repeat the same approach. From this perspective, consider that those who were previously suppliers, now become the customers who interact with their suppliers: some supplier companies have already dealt with the adaptation of their processes or with the mechanisms of interaction with customers (traceability, reduction of stocks in the warehouse, automation of orders, breakdowns or delays…) also through the sharing of work planning, and more.
The future of Smart Manufacturing
This interconnected system increases aspects such as competitiveness, productivity, quality, the positioning of the company on the market.
However, not all companies are able to face and manage this challenge, despite the invitations from the institutions and the conditions for improvement. The real benefits come when the whole ecosystem moves in this direction, creating the conditions to manage the transition and the path to be taken together with customers, collaborators and suppliers.
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