It's no easy task to align hundreds of processes in a single facility to profitably produce and deliver a high-quality product on time. And it's exponentially harder to align those processes today with rapidly changing customer demands and global supply chains.
It doesn't have to be this way.
Firms that adopt a Connected Enterprise framework can achieve end-to-end supply-chain alignment by linking processes via the Internet of Things (IoT) and embedded intelligence
The result? Improved performances and productivity:
- Quality: Little or no effort wasted on scrapped or reworked goods, or in releasing inferior goods to customers. The IoT monitors out-of-bounds quality parameters of suppliers or internal processes in real-time.
- Speed: Plants turn inventories rapidly as goods move through streamlined production processes. The IoT monitors verification points on each product during production, triggering efficient handoffs and eliminating bottlenecks (in addition to providing regulatory reporting of production activities, streamlining the compliance process).
- Costs: Buffers of inventory, time, and labor help many manufacturers ship goods on time, but they also damage profitability. The IoT tracks work-order management, confirms and coordinates ERP orders, and helps plant leadership to make informed decisions regarding labor and capacity.
- Removal of wastes: The famous eight wastes are as relevant today as they were when detailed in the 1980s, and all impact quality, speed, and cost. The IoT collects and assesses production data, establishing benchmarks that drive an organization and its suppliers toward zero wastes.
- Innovation: World-class manufacturers develop high-value goods that they know customers will want, apply a waste-reduction mind set to their new-product development processes, and break down walls between design, production, and customers. They also take a broader view of innovation that includes production processes, workforce development, materials and technologies, etc. The IoT facilitates secure collaboration across the IT/OT infrastructure to foster innovation.
When we developed our own Connected Enterprise at Rockwell Automation, we encouraged our suppliers, customers, and equipment-makers to follow our lead. That's because The Connected Enterprise® is only truly connected — and productive — when it can see and react to external trends, practices, and events. You can be the most responsive and productive organization internally, but if you can't anticipate and manage external factors — such as supplier problems, customer-order changes, and even market events, such as severe weather or a commodities shortage — then you've limited your ability to improve.
When Rockwell Automation started on its own Connected Enterprise journey and developed a five-year plan to get there, we did so with the intent of restructuring our facilities and supplier network in order to achieve unprecedented collaboration and visibility among business partners.
Rockwell Automation connected supply-chain locations with its plant-floor and corporate operations; implemented new technologies to improve control of the supply chain; and used information from the IoT to evaluate and find new suppliers. Suppliers, in turn, gained real-time access to just-in-time production schedules to ensure timely inbound deliveries. Customers identified ways to minimize product obsolescence and spoilage, take advantage of open capacity and cost opportunities, and collectively explore next-generation products.
The Connected Enterprise® also brings state-of-the-art collaboration tools to the extended IT/OT infrastructure — remote access, instant messaging, video chat, file sharing. These improve decision-making across the supply chain and the sharing of knowledge in real-time.
Get your supply chain aligned with a Connected Enterprise — and enjoy the higher profits that digital efficiency can deliver.
 Toyota's seven wastes (overproduction, transportation, waiting, overprocessing, excessive inventory, unnecessary motion, and defects) and an eighth waste (talent) that is frequently added to the list.
Published December 14, 2015