Manufacturing companies are standing in front of an increased level of complexity related to the ways they manage business both strategically and day to day operations. It includes increased product complexity, supply chain challenges, and global competition. To manage a sustainable growing business is an essential part of companies strategic planning.
Engineering.com article 12 Trends to unlock digital transformation gives you a view from CIMdata – the top analytical company in PLM business. Check this out here. It has a lot of information about what is happening in the world of CAD, PDM, PLM, CRM, ERP, and other digital systems known under the names such as digital twin, digital thread, and systems of systems.
CIMdata speaks about the digital upheaval that happens in manufacturing. To me, the most important passage is the following one.
Part of this upheaval is the rapid acceleration of the extraction of information that is trapped in paper documents or tangled in data formats that often mimic paper. Data access and quality issues burden almost all product development, production, and support teams. Liberating this information requires transforming an unfathomable amount, and variety, of data into the model-based enterprise (MBE) and its many model-based structures.
Each company is facing a unique set of challenges on its digital journey. It is related to specifics of the business, manufacturing process, customers, and status of IT systems. What are the steps each company should take to get ahead in the digital world? What should be the IT strategy? What should be done to manage the change of a company to become digitally native?
As I wrote a few days ago in my article How to prevent a computerized data mess, companies are often looking into a magical button to make a change. I ask them about what is the plan to make a change? Unfortunately, for many companies, this is quickly becoming the hardest moment. They don’t know. Companies live in such a mess, but they use TLAs way of thinking about finding a solution. Many of the companies are thinking about how to import all Excel data in some magical system that will solve all problems and also looking for a button that is supposed to be called – “Make all work”. Unfortunately, both methods are not very helpful.
In my article today, I can give you my plan, which includes 5 points to follow. They might not be a magic solution, but can put you on the right track and help to find your way in digital transformation.
1- Get rid of Excel, legacy databases, and data systems
Search for all places where you rely on Excel and legacy databases (and sometimes systems). You need to understand them and make an assessment of how to kill them. Similar to how you fight cancer, you should focus on how to kill these metastatic places with dead data and bring them into a live environment where the data can be connected with other pieces of information and process.
2- Establish Product Data Identity Schema
One of the biggest problems to fight in the first place is the problem of identification. The siloed organization is using multiple part numbers, names, and files to identify the same information, which prevents connectivity and information transparency. Define Part Number and related digital identification strategy, should be the first thing every company must do to build a reliable digital data backbone.
3- Establish Digital BOI (Bill of Information)
The Bill of Information (BoI) is a comprehensive and structured data management approach to collect and control, change and access product data. This data construct is very similar to the Bill of Materials (BOM) that includes every component, instance, source, and cost of a product’s parts. It is not limited to part – A BOII will also include related data (requirements, documents, process options, configuration, and many other data elements). Fundamentally, you should think about how BOI tracks everything included in the product.
4- Connect Physical and Virtual
Tracking data in a physical space is quickly becoming a mandatory thing for many companies. The data from products and their usage is a fundamental element to build new types of experience, business models, optimizations, and data services. Connect data from physical products to BOI you built before to create a full digital universe.
5- Data across the digital thread
Once you have identified the data in your products, built a comprehensive BOI, expanded data into a physical data representation, you need to ensure that an entire data set is accessible and traversable from the historical perspective – what revisions of the BOM, document, change, etc. used in each product in the past, why the change was made, what product is used now by a specific customer. Altogether is a digital thread.
What is my conclusion?
The end goal of each manufacturing company is to build a digital universe including virtual and physical product information. its customers, partners, contractors, suppliers. New data management technologies and SaaS products will play a fundamental role in this data transformation. Without these technologies, companies will keep relying on old Excel files Drawing PDF files, and Access databases to manage information. To bring new infrastructure is the first step to move into a new digital manufacturing universe. Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.