Manufacturing management is challenged to enable greater competitive advantages delivered consistently at higher speed, higher quality, and greater flexibility all at lower costs. To meet these challenges, operations will be required to greatly increase their cycles of improvement, innovation and collaboration.
The World Economic Forum is advancing the concept of the 4th industrial revolution citing that “Previous industrial revolutions liberated humankind from animal power, made mass production possible and brought digital capabilities to billions of people. This Fourth Industrial Revolution is, however, fundamentally different. It is characterized by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries.”
Since this futuristic concept is likely still years ahead to fully realize, there may be a transitional step that is realistic and realizable today. The best way to describe this step is Industry 3.5, the Digital Factory. This Digital Factory will convert live accumulated data from manufacturing and supply chains into insightful analytics and make it available to operations for intelligent decision making.
The role of LEAN in the Digital Factory is to provide the body of knowledge to aid people in interpreting and acting on collected data. Bob Burke of the VIPGroup says “the shift for all is to work with real time information instead of historical trend lines. This shift will radically enable improvement of production values and transform the workforce into true knowledge workers capable of accelerating innovation to meet changing market needs”.
Manufacturers today have networked production equipment collecting data and storing it on servers, in varying cloud platforms or in data lakes with little to no intended use of the data.
To understand what data operations should capture, we must know what to measure and why. Just because data can be captured does not mean it has value.
Today, the cost of data storage and the ability to create networks of linked production equipment are well within reach of most, if not all firms. Digital enabled manufacturers whose collection and analysis of critical operations data has the promise to achieve better results in productivity (+25%), material waste reduction (-26%), space allocation (-33%), and defect recognition (+50%).
By overlaying powerful new apps such as LEA!N Power Tools to seamlessly integrate data to actionable intelligence, these cross-functional platforms can put businesses in a new hyper-drive state. Google Cloud Services coupled with Google Bigquery has been innovating data storage enabling the internet of things (IoT) for manufacturing operations to include machine learning.
Julia Ferraioli of Google, at the GCP NEXT 2016 forum in San Francisco, described the machine learning concept as “taking data, running it through an algorithm to yield insight”. Today, machine learning is deployed in Google G Suite apps including Docs, Sheets and Gmail enabling rapid deployment to an enterprise.
Networked equipment, supply chains, and demand data expressed through the LEAN body of knowledge on a common web based platform with easy, secure access on any device will produce faster ideation cycles, and a more engaged workforce.
The idea of a true Digital Factory that is responsive to demand, supply chains and rapidly shifting customer needs is no longer a unique vision 25 years in the future. The first steps to Industry 3.5 and the Digital Factory are available today through Google, LEA!N Power Tools and the VIPGroup.