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The Global Plant Floor

4 December 2015
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Increasing consumer demand, ever changing legislative pressure and supply challenges have caused global manufacturers to revisit fundamental questions about how they run their business, from strategy through to implementation. As a result, a major focus for today’s manufacturers is to reduce the total cost of manufacturing and to answer the question: How can we further drive down costs across internal production operations without compromising quality and efficiency?
Making informed decisions is key, but the globalisation of the manufacturing environment has made it more difficult than ever to bridge the physical distance between enterprise-level decision making and the plant floor. Operatives are working in different time zones, performing a diverse range of activities, and the amount of data emerging from plants is increasing exponentially. Poor communication across organisations and departments results in the formation of data silos, meaning that many global manufacturers struggle to identify opportunities to create efficiency. As a result, today’s manufacturers often lack the start-to-finish, holistic view of operations that is critical for making intelligent decisions at the right time on the plant floor.

Building a best-practice framework

The first step towards efficient and intelligent decision making hinges on agreeing best practice and KPIs that are measurable and comparable by site. In the absence of a best practice framework, many employees will otherwise develop different ways of working. The second step is to provide operational and systems visibility, as achieving manufacturing excellence requires real-time data analysis.
Access to data is central to achieving operational excellence. It is the key to identifying new ways to make existing assets do more, reduce product variations and faults, and decrease downtime and machinery failure. This information can then be combined so that operatives can make timely decisions that improve productivity and efficiency.

Centralised Analytics Capability

The emergence of Operational Intelligence as an established concept signifies the importance manufacturers are beginning to ascribe to achieving a consolidated, centralised analytics capability. Key analysts such as the International Data Corporation (IDC) and Aberdeen Group agree, increasingly reporting on the link between best-in-class manufacturing performance and ‘the synchronisations of operational performance.” The key to achieving this starts simply – with a standardised automation platform. This provides all the tools necessary to achieve the ‘global plant floor’ – real-time visibility and the consolidation of the resources, processes and products of geographically different manufacturing sites.

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