5 priorities to turn manufacturing into a digital industry

03 July 2015 Consultancy.uk 5 min. read

With the rapid expansion of sensory devices on the shop floor, jumping from 10.3 million in 2014 to 43.5 million by 2020, the digital factory may soon be a thing of the times. However, leveraging the information generated, as well as keeping Internet of Things technology devices sold to customers safe from cyber-security breaches, will become a key manufacturing trend, research by Booz Allen Hamilton shows. Consultancy.uk provides a summary of the five priorities for the industry.

Industrial players are finding digital technology to be further and further encroaching on their wider supply chain, with sometimes disruptive results to business practice. The machines used in industrial processes now need considerably less handling, with sensor technologies, automated controls, and advanced design software taking this out of human hands. Further, many machines now ‘talk’ to humans and each other in the wider process of production.

5 trends turning manufacturing into a digital industry

With the development of ‘intelligent’ machines, businesses that deploy them can meet with considerable gains in productivity and performance. “For hundreds of years, humans and machines have worked together. But something peculiar has happened recently: the machines are now speaking to us—and to one another,” explains Sedar LaBarre Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton. “While the potential is enormous, the associated challenges could result in manufacturers missing a prime opportunity.”

To identify the opportunities of the technology, as well as consider potential pitfalls, the consulting firm presents an analysis of five key trends affecting the transformation of manufacturing through intelligent machine development. Consultancy.uk provides a brief summary of the trends:

Production data

Harvest and integrate production data to optimise operations
One factor that is able to create considerable added value to companies is the leveraging of sensory data derived from operations on the factory floor, with the number of installed sensors expected to jump from 10.3 million in 2014 to 43.5 million by 2020.

By leveraging relevant data through analytics, the resultant understanding of industrial process may be able to considerably improve operations. According to the firm, best practice organisations will use technology to connect their machinery, and thereby grab data and turn that into insights to drive decisions around business optimisation.

Real-time analysis

Use real-time analysis to improve the customer experience
Another way to use data from devices is to better understand the use to which such devices are put, through which companies can quickly adapt products to better suit customer needs in real-time.

Gone then are the days of relying solely on focus groups and questioners. Companies can now for example, remotely collect usage data on farms from deployed windmills that reveal shifting wind conditions and immediately allow a remote operator to optimise the degree of effort that specific windmills are exerting within those farms.

Cyber programme

Design a dynamic cyber programme to match your connected environment
With the rapid digitisation of both industrial equipment and the products they produce – some of which continue to communicate with service providers – the need to create a trusted environment where the data of end users is keenly protected, becomes paramount.

One key factor in the development of the industrial sector is the intertwining of Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) environments, with a cyber-security system that protects that trusted relationship, enabling the promise of the connected product. This system needs to provide a holistically address to the information of processes, and technologies unique to the business involved and sufficiently nimble to deal with a rapidly changing environment.

Work with suppliers

Work directly with suppliers to reduce cyber threats
One feature of the new environment is that the increased interconnectivity of supply chains will create a wide number of new interfaces through which cyber-adversaries are able to operate. This comes with the potential consequence that, if your supplier networks become infected, you become infected, and possibly your end customers, as well.

Booz Allen Hamilton finds that through a close working relationship between industry players and suppliers, companies are better able to oversee the information pathways. Helping them to develop and perform deep multidimensional analytics with open source tools to identify and address risks, and eventually expand their scope of vetting to include subcontractors.

Close skills gap

Close the skills gap to compete with high-tech
To take advantage of the new developments, industry players will need to have access to multi-disciplinary talent in areas bridging computer science and mechanical engineering. Such talent is needed to produce new intelligent factory layouts, protect supply chains from cyber intrusions, and bring high-end embedded analytics to products deployed in customer environments.

Manufacturers however, face stiff competition for such talent by the high-tech industry. With start-ups presenting themselves as considerably more attractive to top talent, the manufacturing industry will – according to the consultancy – need to overhaul their legacy brands and show themselves to be more dynamic and innovative employers to potential candidates.