The Realities Of Innovation In Manufacturing

Kevin Jinks

Many leaders in manufacturing say, “There are things on our shop floor we wouldn’t want anyone to see.” When they say this, they mean the sheer amount of manual effort needed to keep things running. They mean paperwork, Post-it notes, and a lack of automation at the operational, tactical level. Throughout the industry, my customers are talking about operational efficiencies. I’ve learned that no matter the size or location of your business, there are plenty of people who share your problems.

Operational efficiency: goodbye Post-it notes and paperwork

If you’re like most of my customers, you’re taking a hard look at how well your shop or plant functions. Demand forecasting, for example, is a tough call when data about markets is not tightly aligned to production.

A single-system approach can be part of the answer to these problems. New technologies give you solutions that are end-to-end, capable of automating your shop floor and then delivering cognitive technology to help you figure out failures in advance. This gives you fresh insight into demand.

Realistically, the best way to help improve your businesses is with pre-built solutions; these become the core to your success because the commodity work that you normally do on your nickel has already been done. And when you can remove risk, it’s a good thing.

To predict demand, you don’t need 40 systems; you need one

Even the best-run shops struggle with how to predict demand. Let’s say your forecasting is way off – you completely underestimated demand and market. This missed forecast becomes a missed profit opportunity. And your competitors will be quick to step in.

That’s why a digital approach works so well for manufacturers. Technology is a powerful tool here, because it can deliver input into the demand side. If you can do this well, you won’t undermake or overmake. You’ll optimize profits.

The latest “digital core” solutions for manufacturing are robust. They’re provable. And when you have the building blocks into which you can add robotics, prepare to be surprised. The best solutions use AI to mine data that you’re not thinking of, including strong social media mining. This is the kind of information that lets you refine your products – or launch new ones.

You don’t need 40 ERP systems to improve your business; you need one. Imagine a plant that uses the IoT and real-time sensors to read equipment and perform predictive maintenance; you’ll keep the lines running. Plus you’ll keep track of how many products you’ve created and can sell. You’ll be able to tell which products consumed lots of raw materials, which means that plant managers are armed with the information they need to proactively understand what’s going on. Again, it’s not about the number of systems you have in place, but the effectiveness and reliability of just one.

The realities of change

You can’t gain a lot of insight if you have 40 different systems. So when you’re investigating a single-system approach, make sure that you’re adopting best practices, rather than designing best practices. Your projects should involve adopting processes, not creating them.

Today, digital transformation is not a design/build project. After all, there are already solutions available that determine how you take an order, process that order, store your inventory, pick it and ship it. So don’t spend your time on an accounts-receivable aging report. Instead, seek out technology that lets you take advantage of AI, cloud, security and deep, predictive analytics. You’ll surround great code with advanced tech to get you light years ahead of the competition.

Learn more

To take advantage of all the benefits described in this post, request your HANA Impact assessment today. IBM will be at SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual SAP Conference this June 5-7 in Orlando. Visit IBM at booth #612 and talk to IBM-SAP experts – check out our event website to see what we’re doing at the event.


Kevin Jinks

About Kevin Jinks

Kevin Jinks is Vice President & Partner / Industrial Sector SAP Leader for IBM Global Business Services. With more than 22 years of IT consulting and client management experience, he has extensive knowledge in ERP systems, architectural design, system development and implementation management for major clients globally.