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Responding to Change and Staying Agile with Digital Technology

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Now that you have your installed base in order and a digital foundation to keep track of everything part-related, how do you build on that and become more agile and productive?

In this blog about building a digital foundation, we showed you how to create a comprehensive digital program that considers organization and culture, identity and access management, data quality and governance, and ease of use. Much has happened in recent months, and though our world today is different, many of the same factors apply – even more so now.

At its core, digital enables the sharing and exchange of data and information. This is more important now than ever before as we adapt to the rapidly changing demands on production, our supply chains, and on our workforce. When implemented appropriately, digital lets you easily share information between teams, across staggered shifts, or between levels of the organization.

Prioritize your risk, and adapt

When considering how to respond, the circumstances will vary immensely on a case-by-case basis. Perhaps you have seen a surge in demand and must shift your production schedules to account for this increased demand. Or, due to lessened demand, you find yourself and your teams with excess capacity and you can begin reviewing maintenance activities, future projects and improvements. 

In both cases, the change may be swift and your ability to respond quickly can make a huge impact.

In either case, it can be challenging to keep a firm grasp on your installed base. With production systems in place across multiple locations, industrial assets may have been supplied by various vendors and maintained by different workers.

Perhaps you don’t know that you lack a critical spare part until production goes down, or maybe that particular part is no longer manufactured.  When you lose track of the systems and parts in your facilities, you face risks like obsolescence, parts shortages, and training gaps with personnel.

However, by using digital you can obtain an accurate picture of your installed base. Imagine not only knowing what you have installed, but also how it is changing over time. This information can give a clear picture of the installed base and prioritize the risks that pose the greatest danger to production. It can also uncover additional risks in other areas of the business. For example, with this visibility you could evaluate the devices on your most critical assets and consider training programs to make sure that workers have proper skills for the assets they are expected to maintain and operate.

Where do you start?

It can be challenging to know where to start, when there are many opportunities and sometimes many conflicting priorities. Focusing on the critical assets in a facility can help confirm that your resources are appropriately allocated to maintain uptime and production. 

With visibility into your installed base, you’ll know whether there are sufficient spares in your inventory to make sure you can replace a device if there is a failure, reducing the risk of extended downtime.

Another opportunity during uncertain times could be to assess obsolescence risk across your installed base. Knowing the lifecycle status of your installed devices, both Rockwell Automation and third party, can do more than help plan modernizations. Where modernizations may not be feasible in the short term, this information can help you determine an appropriate support strategy to ensure that you have access to replacement parts and the knowledge required to maintain your assets.

A third use for this information is training.  Imagine not just having access to installed base insights and analytics, but being able to connect your installed base directly to your training programs to verify that your team has the skills it needs to maintain production. With e-learning, My Equipment, and the broader application of digital toolsets, this connection across disciplines becomes possible.

More flexible and productive through technology

The right toolsets can also make previously manual or burdensome tasks, as we just described, more automated to help you and your team be more productive.

Accessing the right data and information, whether it be installed base insights, training programs, or otherwise, is becoming increasingly important as companies try to adapt quickly to changing conditions.

With digital access available anytime, you save critical time planning a response, taking action, and communicating to your stakeholders. With rapidly changing production schedules, demand planning and supply chain impact, it is more important than ever before to have trusted information available to help you make decisions and take time-sensitive actions.

According to ARC Strategies July 2019 report, "Rethinking Asset Performance Management," successful asset management requires close cooperation between the maintenance, reliability, process engineering, and operations functions in an industrial facility. New digitized tools can help make that cooperation easier.

If you are struggling to adapt to rapid change or not sure where to start or how to use new technologies, consider My Equipment and e-learning as two options that provide immediate, 24/7 access to information and knowledge to help you improve your organizational agility.

Dave Mayer
Dave Mayer
Product Manager, Rockwell Automation
Dave Mayer

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