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3 Tips to Start a Digital Manufacturing Plan

Old-school solutions can aid adoption of advanced automation.

Many companies are pushing for more connected technologies. Manufacturers want data to better understand where more advanced products or services would make the most impact with the easiest integration. But where is the best place to start? Business managers want to see a return on investment. IT is concerned with security. In addition, IT may already be juggling a complex system with years of upgrades and getting legacy networks communicating with new networks. Workers seeing new technology may be concerned with job security. Finally, operations technology is concerned about production and quality. Here are three steps to get a better picture of how to move into digital manufacturing.

1. Know who’s on your team. Know their concerns and available resources. Remember, it is all about data, and data is knowledge, so start with your people’s knowledge. When trying to integrate new technology, everyone’s support and concern is important. Communication on all levels in imperative. 

2. Know your analog and digital workflow. Just like a workflow chart to pin point bottlenecks and root causes of problems, have a digital flowchart. This will show you what type of data from what machines would give you the most beneficial data. If done properly, comparing the real and digital flo charts should show the best place to start getting data, what type of data, and where it needs to go. This chart will act as a map as you expand your digital plan.

3. Know what technology is available. You might not need all the new top-of-the-line equipment. There might be technology that addresses or circumnavigates concerns. For example, a product with cell connections means you don’t need to use the company’s infrastructure that might put the IT person’s concerns at ease.

Leasing or subscription options might reduce the barrier of entry, increase the return on investment, or ease the concerns of whoever is responsible for the equipment or data. Transparency with the company’s digital plan will help workers be more comfortable and on board, which will help integration and provide feedback on how to expand more effectively. 

Digital manufacturing offers many benefits, but it can be difficult to get everyone on the same page. To start on the right foot, do what engineers have been doing for years. A company’s greatest asset is its people. Use your people’s knowledge and expertise to determine the best solutions for them and the company as a whole.

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