Preplanning for the shift to smart manufacturing includes recognizing its benefits, understanding how smart manufacturing fits in a particular company, and preparing employees at all levels for a lengthy transition. What’s the next step? After the preplanning thought process, it is time to develop a comprehensive plan.
Planning is essential when preparing to move to smart manufacturing processes. In the planning stage, manufactures confirm their objectives and break their journeys down into manageable steps. But perhaps one of the greatest reasons behind it is that planning provides manufacturing leaders the time to think, anticipate potential problems, and institute policies to proactively avoid issues. Planning not only provides time for innovation but also time to learn from others’ challenges and successes. Planning helps manufacturing leaders build confidence — and that confidence allows them to inspire their teams. Therefore, a well-thought-out plan can be the foundation of a successful shift to smart manufacturing.
Five components of a great plan
Due to the wide array of smart manufacturing devices, purposes, strategies, and techniques, manufacturers have a measure of freedom in producing successful transition plans. However, all plans should address the following five components.
- Data creation, analysis, and storage — Different goals such as less downtime, increased production, and effective consumer communication require different dataset analyses. Effective plans explicitly state the data necessary to meet future goals and how manufacturers will compile, utilize, and possibly expand upon the data.
- Appropriate technological interactions — Smart manufacturing is based on the ability of using different platforms — both manual and digital — to connect, interact, and deliver intelligent results. A large part of the planning process is identifying which platforms — the Internet of Things, edge processing, and artificial intelligence — will best help connect electronic assets to facility monitoring systems, allowing manufacturers to produce the desired responses and results.
- Redistribution of human power — Smart manufacturing’s autonomous aspect means that much of the analysis and decision-making employees were once responsible for is no longer necessary. Manufacturers making efficient plans will take this shift into account and adjust employee responsibilities accordingly.
- Personnel motivation and training — Transitions can quickly lead to frustrations. Plant leaders should realize this and plan for adequate training time and employee incentives to increase confidence and morale.
- Thorough cybersecurity protocols — The connectivity of smart manufacturing means an increased cyberattack risk and the potential for widespread damage. Cybersecurity must be a priority for anyone making a smart manufacturing plan.
The more in-depth your preplanning and the more detailed your plan, the easier your transitional next steps to smart manufacturing — implementation — will likely be. Ideally, implementation will consist of simply communicating well with team members and following the written plan. In reality, however, there will likely be a fair amount of troubleshooting necessary in this next step as well. Fortunately, challenges are easier to conquer when you have the right plan.