Conversations in recent months with manufacturing professionals across a range of industries highlight a common challenge and opportunity. The most competitive professionals are looking for seamless and secure working information capital—not simply more data—to drive better decision making, expose process inefficiencies, facilitate best-practice collaboration, and uncover new business opportunities.
At Rockwell Automation, we can relate. We understand what working information capital means to global manufacturers because we are one. Roughly a third of our 22,000 employees work within the company’s 17 global manufacturing plants, which manage nearly 400,000 SKUs and produce thousands of build-to-stock, configure-to-order, and engineer-to-order products.
Like our customers, we face pressures to manage complexity and drive out inefficiencies. We responded with our connected enterprise journey. It is inherently continuous and involves converging information technology and control to access real-time and historical operational data as well as business and transactional data to shorten response times to customers, ensure raw material availability, improve supply chain coordination, and enable better collaboration among our engineers.
We are well on our way in our efforts and have learned quite a bit. The following insights from our experience might be helpful for other manufacturers seeking to put their own information to work.
Standardized processes enable accurate measurements
Creating a standardized, enterprise-wide benchmarking system helps us manage the complexity among our various manufacturing processes, while reducing competitive risk. The new system has a common manufacturing platform that can be expanded to different regions and product groups, all while retaining an efficient and accurate way of benchmarking and measuring key performance indicators. Our connected enterprise provides the right data at the right time, regardless of what manufacturing process is occurring.
When information is contextualized, people get it
Like our customers, our output efficiencies are the key to our profitability in building products. Improving those efficiencies requires visibility into—and an understanding of—the processes. We have been rolling out a global enterprise resource planning system, and while beneficial, we found it did not give us qualitative and filtered information on our processes. Our plants used to have different manufacturing execution system solutions with little integration from plant to plant. However, now our system is coordinated across the enterprise to pull data from hundreds of applications, streamline it, and feed understandable, actionable information in a context that makes sense to each role, so they can quickly and accurately use it to make improvements.
Operators and engineers are now better able to understand the differences in products, realistic output, cycle times, manufacturing processes, and expectations. Information that is understood is put to work. If a particular style of circuit board, for example, consistently fails quality checks, plant managers can now use that data to improve product design and development.