Destination Digital: A Step by Step Guide to Smart Manufacturing

The drive for digitalization is accelerating the need for digital manufacturing plants that offer the highest flexibility, combined with reduced production costs. By enabling a secure flow of data throughout the enterprise and supply chain, companies can dramatically improve productivity, quality, compliance — and profitability.

Real-time information from enterprise and manufacturing systems can facilitate demand-based production planning that efficiently adjusts to variations in customer demand. Through digitalization, manufacturers can significantly reduce lead times and improve customer satisfaction.

The Case for Connection

To be competitive, you must be connected. That is why industrial companies around the world are undergoing a digital transformation and moving toward smart manufacturing. By creating a unified network architecture – one based on the use of standard Ethernet and Internet Protocol (IP) technology – that leverages both the information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) that make up the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), companies can:

  • Gain real-time visibility into operations
  • Optimize production assets
  • Predict downtime issues
  • Improve collaboration and innovation

Start with Your Infrastructure

The true value of smart manufacturing can only be realized if a secure and reliable information infrastructure is in place. Unfortunately, the production systems that many companies are using today were not designed for connectivity. This has created islands of data and automation, which makes it more difficult for companies to understand their operational and cyber security risks.

Furthermore, the security-related concerns that are associated with greater connectivity have made some companies hesitant to begin the process of connecting their systems.

The good news: With the right focus and support, you can simultaneously manage risks, and address performance and security needs as you build and manage your information infrastructure.

A modern, secure and reliable information infrastructure connects your assets, people and information. It is central to everything you do. It is the source of endless opportunities for improving your operational performance.

A Journey Toward Connection

Smart manufacturing delivers value through tighter integration between industrial assets on the production floor and the rest of the enterprise value chain. This tighter integration requires a secure network infrastructure and accessible data that can be managed under a common system. It also contextualizes data from the production environment to turn it into information that can be shared.

There are four stages to deploying this type of connection:

  1. Assess and Plan: A comprehensive assessment will establish to what extent your infrastructure can be upgraded, or if it needs replacing
  2. Secure and Upgrade: Securely upgrade your network and controls to facilitate communications between plant-floor and enterprise systems in line with your company’s business drivers and risk tolerance
  3. Manage and Analyze: Define and organize data, and turn it into actionable information that can be more easily viewed and securely shared for continuous operational improvements
  4. Optimize and Collaborate: Optimize your operations and drive collaboration across your teams, suppliers and customers

The process of creating a secure information infrastructure that can deliver on your needs is woven into these four stages. Each company’s transformation will have its own unique considerations.

Mapping Your Journey

Every path to smart manufacturing will be unique based on production goals, connectivity and security needs, and the production infrastructure currently in place in your facilities. However, there are four key questions to ask as part of any plan:

  1. What performance goals do I need to achieve?
  2. How do I assess, design and implement the secure infrastructure that I need to achieve my goals?
  3. How will I protect and maintain my infrastructure?
  4. How can my infrastructure help improve the performance of my devices and system in a way that will continue to deliver on my performance goals?

What Are My Performance Goals?

Your production goals will drive your information infrastructure strategy. These goals may require specific operational improvements such as gaining real-time visibility into operations, including KPIs and asset performance; optimizing asset utilization and worker productivity; improving collaboration, whether it is between plants or with outside partners; reducing risks that are related to safety or the industrial skills gap.

It’s important to know your goals as they will drive your requirements. Some performance benefits producers can expect from an improved information infrastructure include:

  • Multi-discipline application convergence
  • Improved asset utilization
  • More common toolsets, required skills, and training for your workforce
  • Standardized IT security technology, policies and procedures
  • Seamless information sharing

Whatever your goals, they will rely on a robust and secure Converged Plantwide Ethernet (CPwE) network architecture and should be formalized into a plan with a defined scope, timeline, budget and related security considerations.

How Do I Assess, Design and Implement the Right Infrastructure?

Once you have defined your goals, you must next determine your infrastructure needs in order to reach those goals and maximize ROI. This process has three key phases:

  1. Assess: Infrastructure assessments help determine if your networks meet your needs and align with industry best practices. Risk and vulnerability assessments also help uncover security gaps and prioritize necessary updates so you can improve your security posture and reduce risk.

  2. Design: Your information infrastructure should be designed to: Drive optimal network performance; Mitigate security risks; Increase data availability and use; and provide a foundation for future technologies.

    Pre-engineered solutions can help drastically reduce design time and risk for some aspects of your infrastructure. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) can be supplied as a complete and installed system, reducing your capital expenditures. Industrial Data Centres (IDCs) are pre-engineered solutions that provide all the hardware you need for a virtualized infrastructure. They can be less costly, less complex and less time-consuming than building a solution from the ground up.

  3. Implement: Your implementation must meet the needs of both your IT technologies and OT environment. It should also aim to simplify and accelerate your infrastructure’s deployment.

Connected Services from automation vendors can help you:

  • Shorten infrastructure projects timelines by up to 50 percent
  • Reduce future industrial IT CAPEX by up to 67 percent
  • Reduce OPEX by up to 33 percent

How will I Protect and Maintain My Infrastructure?

Enlisting a traditional IT company to support your information infrastructure can be risky, as IT vendors typically do not have enough expertise in industrial environments or plant-floor priorities to meet requirements for the quick response times that minimize downtime.

But enlisting the support and counsel of industrial vendors who understand the needs and demands of OT environments is a valuable means of supporting blended IT/OT applications.

How Can My Infrastructure Help Improve Asset and System Performance?

Your goals may also require the implementation of new capabilities that are related to system or asset-performance management.

With a secure and robust information infrastructure, you now have the connectivity that is required to tap into strategies that can boost your bottom line. Large amounts of data lives within your production assets, but it needs to be transformed into useful information to drive performance improvements.

Asset Reliability services combine a mix of industry expertise and electrical automaton controls knowledge with continuous improvement processes, reliability techniques, and asset intelligence systems to help drive plant productivity, improve asset reliability over your equipment lifecycle, and streamline maintenance activities.

Preventive Maintenance service agreements can keep your critical assets running at peak efficiency. From identifying pending system failures to recommending which components should be repaired or replaced, these services can help mitigate the unnecessary repairs and associated costs that occur with most time-based preventative maintenance programs.

Remote Monitoring services can reduce Mean Time To Repair (MTTR) by 76 percent and reduce the cost of managing your infrastructure.

Analytics services can help you predict machine failures, reduce Mean to Between Failure (MTBF), and automate maintenance activities to reduce downtime by up to 30 percent.

Such services also have value beyond day-to-day process improvements and issue resolutions. You can use access to insights to optimize your larger operations and transform how you do business, reduce downtime recovery, help integrate your supply chain, design material orders to automatically replenish after a certain number is met, or even build customized dashboards to view production data and asset or system health that is most important to your specific needs.

The digital transformation of manufacturing is rapidly connecting the plant floor with the entire enterprise and beyond. Digital operations allow machines to communicate and collaborate, while providing real-time data to improve both plant processes and the products they create.

It’s is a good time to give some thought to what may be holding back your company’s digital success and how can you take the right steps to address these.


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