Growing interest rates and the Ukraine crisis are pushing manufacturers to optimize their workforce and machines. If transforming operations has been on your agenda, the time has never been better to put that plan on the fast track. It’s the perfect time to digitize your factory operations and not only enhance productivity but also realize tangible savings!

2021 was the year of the Great Realization. 2022, on the other hand, could be the year when we translate that realization into definitive action! The last two to three years have only proved that it is futile to predict what might happen. For example, at the beginning of 2022, while the impact of the pandemic seemed to be abating and the world was moving towards normalization, the crisis in Ukraine reared its head. Several Western countries, which had ties with the nation for over three decades, have now imposed sanctions on Ukraine and ceased manufacturing operations. The resulting negative impact on supply chains and energy prices are likely to be felt for months.

The better alternative for businesses, in general, is to work with the information we have, stay agile and adapt to changing situations with sights set firmly in the long term. 

Amidst all of these, the writing on the wall is clear when it comes to manufacturing. In March 2022, the manufacturing sector only added 38,000 jobs (1). This is up from 12.6 million in the previous month and 12.3 million in March 2021 but still lower than the 12.8 million in February 2020. The sector, as we all know, has grappled for years with a shortage of human resources, but even while other sectors are adding jobs faster, the manufacturing sector only seems to be ambling along at a slow pace. 

Clearly, a career in manufacturing is not a preferred choice. Further, an erratic supply chain, shortage of raw materials and rising costs of loans make it imperative for manufacturers to optimize existing machines, human resources, and the processes that tie them together, rather than adding more capacity. 

It is time to wisen up about making machines and processes smarter and thus more accountable. 

Connecting your people and machines 

Wars, interest rates, supply chain issues, and other external factors are beyond our control but what happens on the factory floor is definitely within our control. It is also the fastest way to enhance productivity and can rake in substantial savings. Operational cost ‘leaks’ are among the biggest contributors to increasing overhead costs. Production downtime costs the manufacturing industry as much as $650 billion every year, according to a study by the International Society of Automation (2). That roughly works out to be almost $2 billion a day! 

Within operational processes, connecting the workforce through digital solutions is among the lowest hanging fruits. It is also the one that can drive significant savings. Andonix’s Smart Work Station, an Industry 4.0 solution, is a new-age software technology that optimizes the performance of machines and frontline workers by connecting them through a digital hotline with a user experience resembling Whatsapp, a.k.a. the Digital Andon app. Quick to configure and easy to use, the Digital Andon triggers an automated alert when any kind of process or machine anomaly occurs. A smart chatbot moderates and directs these alerts within the organization, enabling the right teams to quickly identify, react and contain problems before they snowball into impacting the bottom line. Machine downtime for instance can be immediately identified, mapped to its root causes, and minimized without even connecting the machines.  

By driving better communications, coordination, and follow-up within the workforce, you will be able to directly impact multiple operational aspects and how much more you can squeeze your machines to produce more.

Industry 4.0 is accessible to anyone

What next? After empowering your people, it is time to focus on your processes or rather the technologies that can make your machines smarter. Gone are the days when connecting your machines was only possible for companies with deep pockets and those that could afford long implementation schedules. Instead of a multi-month and often prohibitively expensive implementation process, there are cloud-ready sensors that make it possible to upgrade even old machines into the digital era in a matter of days. The key is to think of use cases first and then find technology solutions that address those use cases best. Learn best practices for beginning your digital transformation journey and extracting substantial savings in our latest ebook, Smart Systems, Smarter Savings: The Andonix Advantage.

Start small, stay consistent

In our experience with businesses big and small, it has not mattered if Smart Work Station was deployed for a company-wide process or one that pertains to a specific department. The resulting impact has always been experienced across the entire organization! And it all begins with a single step – a pilot to digitize one part of your process. You do not need a multi-year master plan, nor a budget that commits your company to sacrifice other priorities. The most important aspect is to get a start, learn from the pilot project in just a month, and establish a first success story that will inspire others in the organization to support your transformation initiatives. The name of the game is to build momentum, gain new knowledge, test new ideas, bring new team members into the fold, and repeat a virtuous cycle. 

To borrow from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, ‘You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.’ Do it today!