Digital transformation for manufacturing offers huge potential for the sector. ‘Industry 4.0’ will allow for concepts like the ‘smart factory’, where connected devices and systems are able to communicate with one another autonomously; exchanging information, triggering actions, and even managing one another with artificial intelligence.
‘Industry 4.0’ may be somewhere on the horizon, but digital transformation, where companies use the latest digital tech to enable new ways of working and profit centers, is well and truly here. From mobile working to wearable devices and the cloud, digital transformation is being used to shake up the industry – from agriculture to services to the professions. So, what about the opportunity of digital transformation for manufacturing companies?
KMPG’s CIO Survey 2016 surfaced some interesting findings regarding the manufacturing sector. Compared to the average across all industries, manufacturing companies place a higher priority on improving business processes (72% vs. 56%) and increasing operational efficiencies (65% vs. 57%). Clearly, the hunger is there, yet there is a lack of action when it comes to finding and implementing the technology to do so: when asked if they are currently experiencing digital disruption, the majority of manufacturing CIOs said they ‘didn’t know’.
From procurement and purchasing to managing inventory checks, in this post, we’re going to look at some examples of how automating business processes can facilitate digital transformation for manufacturing companies.
Manufacturing Processes Ripe for Automation
The core focus in supply chain management, procurement involves finding and acquiring goods from external sources. Buyers must:
- Identify required goods
- Explore and choose vendors
- Create purchase orders
- Receive invoices and orders
- Pay for goods/services
- Record an audit
This process ensures the business’s purchasing is competitive, getting the best possible prices available on the market.
The procurement process can therefore involve intensive information gathering around potential suppliers, running background checks, negations, fulfillment, etc. This creates an influx of information which, if stored on paper or in emails, makes the procurement and purchasing process very lengthy and inefficient.
For factories, compliance is a must – from monitoring machines to quality control to carrying out health and safety training. When these processes are carried out manually, there’s a strong chance that mistakes are made, or employees forget to complete specific steps.
Automating these kinds of processes can free up workers to focus on more pressing, value-oriented tasks, eliminate the chances of failing compliance audits, and save time. Let’s look at some real-life examples of how automation can help:
Buckman, a global leader in speciality chemicals, were using email-based, manual processes that were delaying purchasing and caused backlogs in employee inboxes. This was resulting in procurement delays of up to five weeks.
Automated workflows enabled the company to speed procurement cycles dramatically, automatically creating customer folders, managing access permissions, and notifying relevant team members and managers when new information is available. This removed the need for much of the email ‘back-and-forth’ that typically goes on between seller and buyer.
As a result, employees at Buckman can now create a proof-of-concept in less than an hour. They have increased the amount of content they produce tenfold, but don’t have to worry about dealing with so much more content as it is all stored in a central repository.
IMS Electronics Recycling reduce manufacturing companies’ carbon footprint through recycling of ‘e-waste’. IMS must comply with several federal, state, and local regulations, and must also be aware of the regulations their customers comply with. The company didn’t want to sacrifice the man hours employees would have to dedicate to administration to keep compliant, but did not want to risk falling out of line with legislation.
Workers previously completed paper forms to capture equipment statuses, before routing them to the managers to have equipment serviced, repaired, or replaced as needed. Mobile workflows reduced this process dramatically—workers can now capture equipment statuses instantly by filling out forms on mobile devices. These forms are fed into a central system for easy access by anyone in the business. And notifications are triggered to alert managers to equipment that is in need of servicing and can update staff on the status of equipment.
IMS improved their return on investment, saved roughly 5,000 sheets of paper and over 1,200 personnel hours per year, and redeployed half of all factory liaison staff to focus on more strategic tasks.
Digital Transformation For Manufacturing Lies in Automated Workflows
Ultimately, automated workflows like those above are making workers more efficient and more compliant, helping cut down on waste and human error, and improve business margins.
This is where you can make a real start to digital transformation for manufacturing companies. It’s not just about the technology, but also the culture of workers. Providing your employees with digital technology is the first real step to this.
To find out how Nintex Workflows can enable digital transformation in your business, get in touch with us today.