Manufacturing efficiency is crucial for organizations. It allows them to maximize output and quality while minimizing input and waste. Advanced network technologies lay the foundation for achieving this efficiency through seamless communication, real-time data analysis and automation in the manufacturing process.

In the automotive industry, for example, manufacturers can use IoT technologies to connect various devices and machines on the factory floor, giving them real-time data on machine performance, quality control and the status of production processes. They can identify bottlenecks, optimize their production schedules and do proactive maintenance.

For instance, sensors installed on assembly-line robots can monitor their performance and detect anomalies or signs of wear. This allows car makers to schedule maintenance or replacement before a breakdown occurs, minimizing downtime and maximizing productivity.

Automotive manufacturers can also use cloud-based platforms to share design specifications, production plans and quality standards with suppliers in real time. This will keep stakeholders aligned and minimize delays.

Other technologies like production-line cameras, private 5G connectivity and edge computing also improve communication, data collection and analysis, leading to better decision-making.

Don’t forget the employees

So, manufacturing efficiency depends on making operational equipment work as efficiently as possible. A manufacturing facility should ideally be operating at its full production capacity nearly 100% of the time.

This level of efficiency is critical in reducing costs and resource usage while raising output and creating a competitive advantage.

However, when manufacturers strive to be more efficient but don’t fully understand the processes performed by engineers and factory staff, these workers may take matters into their own hands without taking safety, security or compliance into consideration. 

For example, if quality-control staff are meant to use digital production-line photographs to determine product quality but cannot easily access the photographs, they may implement a workaround. Such solutions may contain security vulnerabilities, involve extra effort, lack scalability and ultimately create the need to implement a more holistic solution from scratch. 

On the other hand, implementing new technologies correctly and strategically – and with employees’ full buy-in through training and change management – can:

  • Increase productivity by automating repetitive tasks and freeing up workers to focus on more complex tasks
  • Improve product quality by creating a consistently efficient production environment
  • Allow quick identification and resolution of issues through real-time monitoring
  • Facilitate quicker decision-making and continuous improvements

Don’t be left behind

No manufacturer should put off efforts to improve their manufacturing efficiency. Their competitive advantage may be snatched away by competitors who have deployed AI and automation in their operations to produce high-quality products faster and cheaper. 

Using outdated or inefficient technologies can lead to a waste of resources, more frequent downtime, longer production times and higher error rates. Manufacturers may also find it challenging to scale their operations or adapt to changes in their market.

Typically, manufacturers make one or more of the following mistakes in drawing up an operational technology (OT) strategy:

  • They have not selected the right technologies to support their manufacturing operations, or failed to vet these technologies with the OT team.
  • They have not defined the ideal response times for users and devices and the required standards for production-line quality.
  • They have not identified the applications they’ll need (and the on-premises processing needs of those applications) or their data analytics and integration requirements.
  • They have not fully documented their operational and response-time requirements for applications, IoT and edge-computing devices and autonomous mobile robots.
  • They have not accounted for all possible network traffic traversing the infrastructure in their manufacturing facilities.
  • They don’t understand how their employees work or have not prepared them for changes to their work environment.
  • They have not considered the cybersecurity requirements of their OT strategy.

The power of a partnership

It can be daunting for a manufacturer to embark on a journey of digital transformation without expert third-party assistance. The right managed service provider will specialize in manufacturing consulting services and industry-specific solutions, going beyond just the production line to include supply-chain optimization and even customer experience.

Having expert help will also aid in finding sustainable solutions that meet regulatory and corporate mandates while protecting the planet.

NTT DATA’s smart-factory solutions combine IoT, enterprise cloud, AI, software engineering and the innovative use of digital twins, among other technologies. With a focus on Industry 4.0, we aim to bring people, processes and technology together to deliver sustainable, human-centric solutions that improve employee engagement and productivity.

It’s how we help manufacturers fast-track the digitalization of their operations across their value chain. Is your organization ready?

This article includes contributions by Denise Allec, Principal Consultant at NTT DATA.

Read more about NTT DATA’s Connected Manufacturing to see how we can optimize your manufacturing by using innovative technologies.