Hemmed in by mounting market forces, price competition, and rising labor & raw material costs manufacturers must improve, innovate, and grow or perish. Existing solutions for proper production management platforms haven’t been capable of keeping up on areas of costs, effectiveness, nor usability.
When it comes to ensuring consistent operations, manufacturers look for software and hardware ranging from production and warehousing to IoT sensors and automation lines. All of these are necessary components to ensure fluid operations. However, if one section goes down the impact upstream and downstream easily translates to lost time, lower quality, and higher costs. For this reason, managers require all elements of the enterprise to be connected and operating. Many manufactures have opted to spending significant amounts of capital on massive Enterprise Resource Planning systems which typically take years to deploy with varying degrees of success. These systems are the perfect examples of the “jack of all trades” syndrome.
Though the intentions are fair, large enterprises tend to opt for bloated ERP systems that are able to cover a multitude of departments and functions in the name of consistency. The expectation of this policy is that the maintenance and coverage of these ERP systems will help with costs and usability. Contrary to this, these systems tend to be much more difficult to use and are priced way above what typical small and medium enterprises can possible afford. At the same time, these massive ERP systems attempt to cover everything from finance, CRM, inventory management, and production. The tendency of this method leads to potentially one well-built module in which enterprises will put to actual use whereas the remaining sub-par modules are left unused and unexplored.
When it comes to expert solutions in both software and hardware, the market has done its job in sorting through the best of established companies and new proven companies taking advantage of the most high tech equipment and methods available. Yet there is a high amount of fragmentation in these expert solutions that are never centralized within one vendor. This causes a very tricky predicament for manufacturers that must choose between opting for a bloated high cost system versus a mix-matched system that have questionable integration and compatibility issues.
The market is now heading towards a paradigm shift. Due to increasing pressure managers are looking for a platform capable of leveraging existing specific experts in the market to find new solutions that are fully integrated to produce seamless operations. Bloated systems are extremely unruly and not cost effective nor flexible enough to adapt to the rapidly changing market of solutions. Now facilities changing at a much more rapid pace to keep up with new innovation, new processes, and new products as manufacturers fight to remain cost competitive and ahead of the curve in terms of both products and services.
Solutions designed for manufacturers regardless of whether they are hardware or software must be able to adapt just as quickly as manufacturers are changing. Solutions need to also be capable of immediately integrating with a cost effective platform and the established infrastructure. That’s just the beginning after the first day of deployment come iterations of updates, maintenance and changes from new processes, equipment, and software. Therefore, just as the continuous improvement method is championed in production processes, it must also be applied to hardware and software solutions that track, monitor and control operations.
The ranges of tools from procurement of raw materials, to controlling production processes to supply chain management and delivery, all of these elements must undergo the same continuous improvement process to maintain profitability and competitiveness. In order to do so, the market of manufacturing solutions will need a way to re-arrange itself to ensure that the transition to new technology and processes is as seamless as possible for manufacturers. Costs and maintenance must be kept in check and streamlined processes required for changes in software or hardware. This will become critical as the need to improve becomes imperative to manufacturers in this improve or perish market.
The answer to this trouble is the need for a flexible platform capable of leveraging the time proven experts and the latest of new technologies to allow manufacturers to take advantage of the masters of their fields without settling for mediocre options that cover one too many areas. There is a need for a platform that allows vendors regardless of hardware or software to be swapped in and out just as quickly as you would a USB drive. This enables each unique manufacturer to build a powerful spectrum of services, hardware and software to bring its facility to the forefront of productivity and quality. When processes change or new innovations arise, new hardware and software can be quickly integrated, removed or modified without interruptions, infrastructure changes nor system overhauls. This is what is truly needed to bring about Industry 4.0 to the fullest extent and we are all waiting to see how the market arranges itself to better service manufacturers.