Digitalization is transforming the efficiency and speed of manufacturing, as well as customer service. A digital, controlled process gives staff full visibility into operations. Quality software gives a business leverage to do more with less, also enabling better decision-making.
The pace of digitalization is accelerating as companies want to enhance their business processes and service to customers. This has become even more important recently, as the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing shipping problems have shone a light on the supply chain, particularly this past year.
But what is digitalization and what can it do for your business? In simple terms, digitalization is a move away from uncontrolled, manual, paper-based processes towards a digital, electronically-controlled process that has some degree of automation.
It removes the need for chasing paper documents around the office and production floor and trying to work out where you are in a given process at any time. With COVID-19 still a risk at the moment, it also removes the need for face-to-face interactions.
Paper vs. Digital Processes
By the very nature of using paper, the process is uncontrollable. There may be a defined process to follow, but it is reliant on people’s best efforts and good intentions to adhere to the protocol. And that is where the problems begin. Because people get busy and forget, and it is easy to lose track of where you are in the process and what tasks remain open.
This is where digitalization can be of real benefit. Done right, digitalization ensures that the first step in your process is always completed – and on time – before moving onto step two and beyond.
In a paper-based process, you could have several versions of a document, especially one that must be updated on a regular basis. There is a real danger that the latest version has not been sent to everybody that needs it with out-of-date copies still circulating around the business, which can cause inherent risks.
For instance, take a manufacturer of a formula. If a formula is changed, it is imperative that the new recipe is forwarded to all the relevant teams in the company. If the production department does not get the updated instructions and makes the “wrong” product, the impact down the supply chain can expand and become more expensive to fix the further down you get. For example, the “bad” product gets passed down to your customer, then to your customer’s customer, and so on.
A digitalized system can spot an error earlier in the process, which makes it easier – and cheaper – to resolve.
Safety is another big benefit of a digitalized system. By electronically controlling and delivering batch manufacturing formulas and work instructions, a company can ensure that its production employees understand the manufacturing procedures they must follow, what hazards are associated with the chemicals they are working with, as well as what personal protective equipment (PPE) is required to produce the batch.
Digitalization also makes the process much more visible to employees, who can use the software to understand where they are in the process, what is happening on the shop floor and in the shipping/dispatch department. In other words, a company has full visibility, control and a real-time insight into its operations.
Fast, Agile, and Flexible Technology
The use of tablets and mobile devices also means that the process can be accessed at any time, wherever you are, also enabling workers to share information easily and quickly and providing excellent flexibility. This can be crucial, especially when there is a problem with a customer’s order and speed is of the essence.
But, a word of warning. Do not adopt software just for the sake of adding technology. There must be a benefit. Bad software gets in the manufacturer’s way, while decent software allows a company to record activities and gain insights into its business. Quality software gives a business leverage to do more with less, make better decisions and be confident that their processes are controlled and risks minimized.
Lean Manufacturing with Datacor
Datacor software includes several options to assist manufacturers’ digitalization efforts. Its Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform combines back-end operations, boosting visibility and productivity, while its Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software covers every interaction with customers, connecting with them and understanding their prospects.
There is a lot of buzz in the market about Industry 4.0, which takes Industry 3.0 to a higher level. For many in the market, existing opportunities lie in improving and better understanding how Industry 3.0 helps their businesses in the move away from paper-based processes and analogue systems.
Once companies have applied and understood the tools of Industry 3.0 – the first push in adopting digital technology and adapting manufacturing processes – then they can move toward Industry 4.0 where they are fully digitized, and their processes are integrated and controlled.
Among others, Industry 4.0 incorporates systems such as machine learning and artificial intelligence – both areas that Datacor is developing. For example, Datacor is looking at ways to integrate automated processes from the back office to the shop floor and collect the data to generate reports, which will help improve decision making. If you want to be the first to know about new and updated products, subscribe to our blog.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the definition of digitalization in business?
Digitalization is the move away from uncontrolled, manual and paper-based processes to an electronically controlled process with a degree of automation.
What are the main value drivers of digitalization for a manufacturer?
They are employee safety, product quality and throughput/efficiency.
Who is driving digitalization in a traditional manufacturing company?
This depends on the size of the company. In a small company it will be the President, while in a larger firm it will either be a Chief Operations Officer, Head of Plant Operations or General Manager looking to digitalize its manufacturing processes.
How is digital transformation affecting the manufacturing industry?
It connects processes at different locations, enhances efficiency and speed of operations and brings visibility between departments.