Written by Sarah Olson for the MEE Cluster
Smart Manufacturing is digital systems integrated into manufacturing at all levels. It begins with bringing analog data into a digital database. By analyzing data from all the steps in a manufacturing process (including product design, supply chain, production, distribution, and sales); efficiencies can be gleaned and adjustments made to the business model. The goal of smart manufacturers is to stay agile and make quick adjustments increasing your businesses responsiveness.
Smart manufacturing helps manufacturers:
- streamline processes and increase productivity to become more efficient
- improve quality control and raises customer satisfaction
- stay ahead of the competitive curve, and prepare for the future
- explore new business models and practices
How do you Begin the Transition to Smart Manufacturing?
For Smart Manufacturing to be a “smart” move for your business, you will need to address it both strategically and as an investment. While smart technologies can be implemented piecemeal and one step at a time; those steps need to be planned with long-term design in mind. You should plan to allocate resources for not only the immediate operationalization of your current technology, but also consider the connections to other future digital systems. Ongoing investments will also need to be garnered and groomed with strategic alliances.
While there are many myths about smart manufacturing, the following will address the most common hold-ups to getting started. Many businesses are unaware of how smart systems can work within your current resources; leveraging them better to increase productivity. Likewise, some manufacturers are hesitant to get started because they have legacy machines they mistakenly believe won’t integrate with smart systems. Read our Digital Transformation blog on how one Alberta company was able to increase its productivity by 80%, by beginning with outfitting so called “dumb” machines.
Another common misconception is that machines could jeopardize the jobs of your current workforce. While it is true that smart systems can alleviate demands to help you address staff shortages, current staff are often key candidates for upskilling to help manage your smart systems. They can effectively be placed in positions that contribute higher value into the operations. For a thorough myth debunking, visit this informative blog article by Birlasoft.
So where does your smart manufacturing journey begin?
There are so many moving pieces (literally) and considerations before making a wise investment. The MEE (Manufacturing Enhancement & Export) Cluster is Western Canada’s Smart Manufacturing Ecosystem Convenor. We are here to guide you down the “Smart” Path to increase your competitiveness and profits. We can help you identify and source smart technology options, programs, and alliances. We support manufacturers by enabling innovation, collaboration and de-risking digital manufacturing technology adoption. MEE’s Lean Accelerator Program (LEAP) will not only thoroughly evaluate your business for Lean opportunities, but provide you with a technology roadmap and access to industry professionals to guide you on your way.
Why Join an Ecosystem?
Smart-manufacturing ecosystems are mutually beneficial because they share access to collective wisdom and innovation. Ecosystems also offer a “network effect” wherein many companies and entities meaningfully work together using advanced, connected technologies to meet common objectives. “In October 2020, Deloitte and the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation jointly launched a study, Accelerating smart manufacturing: The value of an ecosystem approach, to identify the ways in which smart manufacturing ecosystems can potentially accelerate smart factory initiatives.” Deloitte’s study also found that businesses who have more strategic Alliances outperformed those with fewer. Deloitte explains that “Ecosystems are generally driven by a convener who has the ability to connect business issues with an enabling platform. Manufacturers, instead of reaching out directly to vendors, can approach such conveners of the ecosystems and gain access to specific technologies or enable certain use cases more quickly.”
The MEE (Manufacturing Enhancement & Export) Cluster is Western Canada’s Smart Manufacturing Ecosystem Convenor. We help manufacturing companies adopt new technologies, innovate their business, and connect with the ecosystem. Associate Membership is free. This gets you signed up for the MEE newsletter to stay up to date on programs and opportunities. From there membership levels are conveniently based on company size. Detailed member benefits can be found here.