• EDGE Digital

Small steps lead to giant leaps for digital manufacturing

Updated: Nov 19, 2019

Among the questions we hear most often from businesses are,

“Where do we start with digital manufacturing?” and,

“How can I justify the investment without first-hand experience?”.

We explored this question with a few manufacturers who have already taken the leap. We might say that some small but strategic digital steps for humans add up to giant leaps for manufacturing. Here’s what we’re hearing.

Listen for the starting signal

Customer requirements and internal commercial pressures create the demand-pull for improvements in the business. So, listening to the voices of the customer and of the workers who make things happen is a good place to start.

Richard Larder, head of digital innovation at Dyer Engineering explained their approach: “We are moving towards open book management and gamification of shop floor data collection, as we see the huge untapped potential of all our employees, and are invested in sharing company performance data, normally reserved for the senior management team, with all levels of the organisation.”

Take one step at a time

A digital journey is a long-term prospect, a continuous improvement process of business transformation to specify, select and implement the right technologies at the right time. The stages of the journey should be set out in steps, each with objectives and provision built in for learning and re-planning next steps.

Precision manufacturer Contracts Engineering started their digital journey in 2014. Managing director Troy Barratt highlighted their approach: “We have focused on making incremental productivity improvements on a weekly and monthly basis. This has gotten everyone on board with the changes and been much easier to manage than trying to do large, wholesale changes all at once."

Step forward together

Collaboration is such a common feature of successful digital manufacturing that we might overlook how important it is. Recognise that you need to engage your best (and busiest) people in making their ideas work across the business – and not just in their specialist corners.

David Millar, the managing director of Heap and Partners, is an advocate of collaborative working: “It’s very easy for barriers to build up between departments, so bringing in people from different departments to enable them to work together not only gives a fresh perspective but also helps people understand each other’s issues."

Pace yourself for a long walk

How will you justify your investment in digital? Where will you start?

How will you keep on keeping on your journey to digitally enabled productivity and competitiveness?

Beware the distraction of short-term cost savings, relatively easily achieved without a fundamental change in ways of working on the shop floor or in business-to-customer interaction. Listen to your customers and your people, and assemble a committed, collaborative team to drive digital transformation for the long term. And keep sharing the good news of your giant leaps along your digital journey.

You can read the full article here.