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Making manufacturing transformation work

  • Posted on June 27, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 5 minutes

At Hannover Messe, the global manufacturing event of the year, held earlier this month, innovations in digital manufacturing and sustainability were everywhere – and nowhere more so than in Microsoft’s booth. That’s where Avanade and Accenture showed off our latest thinking on Industry X and solutions based on it, which can significantly advance a manufacturer’s journey toward sustainable, responsible manufacturing.

Industry X builds on your past digitization work to not only reimagine manufacturing processes, but also to digitally reinvent your business’ core operations, products, worker and customer experiences and even your business model. Industry X is your source for competitive advantage, new revenue streams and market growth. It’s an approach conceived by Accenture and adopted and implemented by Avanade.

Manufacturing transformation: at the heart of Industry X
One of the three core foundations of Industry X is manufacturing transformation (the others are digital twins and smart connected products). Manufacturing transformation has been around for a while, so what’s new? For one, the idea that it has to mean more than speed, quality and efficiency on the shop floor. It should not be forgotten that optimizing cycle times, asset utilization, line efficiency and quality or reducing waste, energy consumption using historic and real time data, is still a key task. This has to be done at scale to generate value in all factories and provide a sustainable business case. However, manufacturers need to think of manufacturing transformation in the context of their broader strategies, for example, to build a sustainable company and contribute to a sustainable future for their customers, employees and communities.

More than an adoption of new technologies, manufacturing transformation also has to take into account the need for resiliency and agility in the supply chain; if that wasn’t clear before, the supply chain crisis of the past year has made it clear now. Manufacturing transformation also has to take into account that greater speed and time to market isn’t simply a “nice to have” goal. It’s an essential and more ambitious goal for any manufacturer that wants to meet rising competitive challenges and customer expectations.

Finally, manufacturers will have optimal success with their manufacturing transformations only if they engage and partner with their workers to ensure that those nice, new technologies and apps are actually used to maximum benefit. Technology should be a way to enhance worker value to production, not to eliminate workers. For example, employees in one location are now better able to partner with colleagues in a second location while working on a machine in a third location.

Collaboration is crucial
One theme that particularly resonated with the manufacturers we spoke with at Hannover Messe was the need to find broader and deeper meaning to the phrase “collaborative manufacturing” to make a manufacturing transformation successful. If collaboration, like charity, begins at home, then a good place to start is with your operational technology and information technology personnel.

Change management is a crucial component of manufacturing transformation and navigating the sometimes-rocky waters between Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) employees is a key challenge to successful change management. The OT staff generally understands the blockers to manufacturing optimization, both within given facilities and across the organization. But they don’t necessarily have insight into potential technical solutions; your IT staff will have the expertise and ideas for that.

Collaboration in manufacturing transformation should be an internal, as well as external, phenomenon. At the extreme are collaborative manufacturing networks in China, whose members continually combine and recombine in different partnerships for various manufacturing projects. Few western collaborations are that developed – but many are just as impressive, nonetheless. Take the VentilatorChallengeUK, where a large number of global manufacturers – many of them competitors – came together at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to produce more than 13,000 ventilators in 12 weeks, an amount it traditionally would have taken 20 years to produce. Avanade was honored to be a key participant in this truly life-saving endeavor.

Make digital twins and smart connected products part of the picture
Because manufacturers can get the full benefit of Industry X only by combining manufacturing transformation with digital twins and smart connected products, they need to understand when and how these three technology sets work together.

Digital twins, for example, can be a benefit to manufacturers as they seek the best way forward for their manufacturing transformations. With a digital twin of the production line or value chain, for example, manufacturers can simulate changes and assess the results. Does increasing speed drive down quality? When and by how much? What are the broader tradeoffs among quality, cost and performance – and which contributes to the optimal business model? Why are there production differences between various shifts on the same production line? How do supply chain changes affect production?

Similarly, smart connected products also affect, and are affected by, manufacturing transformation. For example, as products become smarter, software rather than hardware may become the key product differentiator. This shift may justify economies of scale in production, consolidation of hardware models, and more, all of which have to be reflected in the direction of the manufacturing transformation.

New Microsoft technologies, such as Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing, can ease the way in adopting manufacturing transformation and the broader Industry X. Avanade, the expert in Microsoft technology adoption, has the in-depth manufacturing expertise to help make your transformation a success.

To learn more, see our Guide to Industry X and contact our Industry X team to learn what we can do for you.

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