Design To Operate: Manufacturing For Empowered Customers

Mike Lackey

Part 3 in a 5-part series on Design-to-Operate with the Digital Supply Chain

In this blog series, we’re looking at the design-to-operate (D2O) product lifecycle, which spans the phases of design, plan, manufacture, deliver, and operate. The first installments focused on design (by Thomas Ohnemus) and planning (by David Vallejo). My focus here will be on manufacturing.

Breaking down silos

Today’s customers are connected, informed, and always on. They demand high-quality, individualized products and faster delivery. When it comes to the manufacturing function, manual processes and isolated information silos make meeting these demands increasingly difficult, putting your organization at a competitive disadvantage.

A lack of data transparency, for example, impedes consistent performance measurements across plants and contract manufacturers. It makes scheduling production runs a tedious chore. It clouds insight into quality metrics while also impeding manufacturing agility – a key requirement for delivering what customers want in an individualized, dynamic, and highly variable market. How do you quickly accommodate new product introductions when you can’t even get the engineering bill of materials (BOM) to align with the manufacturing BOM?

Today’s manufacturers are also challenged by highly variable demand from customers who expect individualized products and experiences. This means that organizations are increasingly moving to product platforms that enable greater configurability while still keeping costs down, quality up, and lifecycles short. The move is one from mass production to mass customization – where the ability to deliver the lot size of one is what helps you deliver to customer expectations and demand.

What’s needed are connected manufacturing processes that are integrated across the entire D2O product lifecycle to break down silos and enable visibility across the phases of design, planning, logistics, and operations. This can enable next-generation business processes that leverage intelligent technologies to analyze root causes of inefficiency, predict machine and process failures, and speed execution.

Integrated D2O for manufacturing

An integrated D2O environment for manufacturing can help you compress cycle times, speed time to market, minimize costs, and meet manufacturing demand with greater efficiency and agility – despite growing variability. To get an idea of how such value can be realized, let’s take a quick look at each phase:

  • Design: When engineers share data with production teams, they can better understand issues of manufacturability from the get-go – making production processes far less likely to break down mid-process. An integrated D2O process, moreover, helps align engineering and manufacturing BOMs so that you execute the handoff from one phase to another in a more seamless fashion. Ultimately, this speeds product delivery to the end customer regardless of configuration complexity.
  • Plan: To serve customers demanding more individualized products, planning and manufacturing teams need to collaborate more closely. With connected manufacturing processes, both teams can share information to more effectively respond to variable product demand. Planning, for instance, may need to shore up smaller lots of inventory and stage raw materials in more defined increments to meet production requirements. Simulation tools can help planning teams prepare more effectively for these more individualized production runs. Meanwhile, manufacturing needs to quickly plan and adapt production schedules to current plant conditions, capacity, and demand – while also communicating back to planning on any bottlenecks in production that create gaps between the plan and actuals on the shop floor.
  • Deliver: Increasingly, organizations are under pressure to move produced goods directly out of production and into the delivery phase. To honor SLAs for same-day delivery, the handoff to logistics teams needs to take place virtually immediately. This requires increased levels of cohesion between the two groups such that the timing of production – which can be variable according to demand – is aligned with the scheduling of trucks and other delivery vehicles.
  • Operate: The capital equipment used in production needs to be constantly monitored to avoid the breakdowns that lead to downtime. At the same time, products and assets that are produced for end customers can also be monitored to yield insightful usage data for improving product quality or managing after-sale maintenance businesses. Whatever the use case, manufacturing and operations teams can work together to share information with an eye toward increasing efficiency, maximizing uptime, improving products, and revealing important insights on what users want.

The low-hanging fruit

So how do manufacturing teams move forward with integrated D2O processes? One piece of practical advice is to avoid boiling the ocean. Quick wins that demonstrate the value of D2O integration can generate the kind of buy-in needed to take on projects at a larger scale.

Internet of Things (IoT) technology serves as a good example. By outfitting production equipment with IoT sensors, manufacturing teams can generate high volumes of high-value data. This data can be used to help planning teams pinpoint production issues early, coordinate with logistics to ensure on-time delivery, and optimize the maintenance of production equipment.

When it comes to manufacturing, sophisticated digital supply chain capabilities and greater connectedness can help organizations increase shop-floor visibility, identify process bottlenecks, and manage operations with greater agility. This, in turn, facilitates smart factory capabilities where rigid production lines are transformed into flexible manufacturing cells – making it possible to shift from mass production to mass customization.

These are just two quick examples of how to move forward with integrated D2O processes. The ultimate objective, of course, is the smart connected factory that uses data visibility, advanced automation, and the integration of shop-floor processes to optimize performance and deliver what empowered customers expect.

Learn more

If you need more information on the D2O product lifecycle, have a look at the new whitepaper from IDC. Also, be sure to catch the next blog in this series, which will focus on delivery and logistics in the context of the D2O lifecycle.


Mike Lackey

About Mike Lackey

Mike Lackey is VP of Solution Management at SAP.