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An Argument for Lifecycle Support: Entering the New Age of Innovation

Understanding how manufacturers can embrace the new age of innovation.

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Digital transformation is often a daunting task for many businesses. The pace of technological innovation and rising consumer expectations combine to make this transformation a necessity rather than simply a nice-to-have strategy. Equally, the need to defend against more sophisticated and higher volumes of security threats increases the pressure on businesses to protect their assets.

Advances such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Smart Manufacturing are changing how businesses work and driving the need to evolve. However, many are being held back in their digital efforts by a fundamental lack of understanding about what transformation means and what it entails. For example, many organisations look to implement new technology before they have considered how it will benefit their growth and optimisation.

Rather than jumping blindly into digital transformation, manufacturers need to take a step back and consider how lifecycle support and services can fuel their success. Assessing its impact on end-to-end solutions, flexible manufacturing processes and security risk will ensure their products out-perform those of their competitors and last as long as consumer demand and technology permit.

The Need for End-to-End Solutions

Manufacturers need to ensure they have a clear process in place when they assess the viability of projects. However, this can often be a major challenge as their equipment is commonly sourced from multiple providers and OEMs. This can result in manufacturing lines becoming fragmented, especially when multiple products are involved.

Furthermore, as automation increasingly comes into the picture, software products require upgrading and regular patch maintenance. A failure to be on top of this poses major risks for businesses that do not know the weak links in their operations.

Making the most of an automation platform is reliant on end-to-end solutions that enable businesses to monitor, maintain and analyse their entire lifecycle. This will help them to continue seamless operations without having to maintain obsolete products or work with outdated software.

The Need for Flexibility

The modern manufacturing process is built around meeting consumer demands, which increases the need for increased flexibility and sophistication. For example, Deloitte research found that four-fifths of consumers are willing to spend 10 percent more on clothing items if they are personalised. Meeting this requirement will require changes in assembly lines and increasing flexibility to improve productivity.

To achieve this, many consumer-facing companies are building smaller machines and factories that allow them to adapt to lower volumes and wider customisation options. However, many manufacturers will struggle with this as they are retaining too strong a focus on products over processes and require consultation on how to become a connected enterprise.

It is vital that businesses avoid simply using technology for technology’s sake. Instead, keep in mind that technical solutions need to provide a clear outcome and value for the business. This is where the importance of partnerships and strong consultative practice comes to the fore. Working with a trusted specialist can help manufacturers to assess the total cost of ownership and the potential profitability of a product before jumping into development. Taking a more considered approach will help to avoid the risk of innovation becoming a burden rather than an enabler.

The Need for Security

In the past, products were simply composed of mechanical and electrical parts, but now they have evolved into fusions of hardware, software, sensors, microprocessors, connectivity and data storage. By the end of 2020, the estimated number of passwords used by humans and machines worldwide will be 300 billion, according to a report by Cybersecurity Ventures.

Smart, connected products offer greater reliability and capabilities, but they are also forcing manufacturers to rethink their processes and forcing advances in intelligent systems that offer deeper insight into product lifecycles. However, with this extra connectivity comes the added threat of cybersecurity risks. According to Symantec, IoT devices experience an average of 5,200 attacks per month. The security company found that ransomware detections have been more dominant in countries with higher numbers of internet-connected populations – so, it is only natural to assume the threats will increase with more connected enterprises too. It is therefore vital to keep production steps to a minimum and ensure that increased innovation does not result in gaps in security defences for hackers to exploit.

Businesses must ensure they work with trusted specialists that can guide them through their risks, ensure they have a secure infrastructure in place, and protect their assets. On top of this, the added benefit is minimal downtime and ensuring the business continues to operate as normal.

Lifecycle Support in the New Age of Innovation

We are at an exciting time in the evolution of the manufacturing industry. Connected products are booming in popularity and are now commonplace in the home and workplace. This puts further onus on manufacturers to establish lifecycle solutions and utilise new technologies that enable them to shape the future of their organisation.

This is reliant on working with the right trusted partner that can strip away the fear and advise on the decisions they need to make to shape their technological future.

A good starting place is to identify operational issues in your existing infrastructure. To help with this, you can use the Assessment Hub app, which has been designed to quickly and simply assess your relative risk level based against industry best practice. It then offers suggestions for any necessary interventions.

Marc Baret
Marc Baret
Director, EMEA industrial services, Rockwell Automation

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