Manufacturing Tomorrow


5 Key Technology Trends for Discrete Manufacturers

Apr 12, 2017
Manufacturing and Distribution


Today’s discrete manufacturers are focused on continuous improvement to work smarter and more profitably in an increasingly competitive marketplace. The advent and evolution of technology has given forward-thinking manufacturers a distinct advantage, providing systems and solutions that ultimately drive progress.

Using technology to its best advantage means staying on top of trends that directly impact operations, like the following five:

  1. Analytics
    “Running numbers” is an ubiquitous business practice, but applying metrics to a product or process simply because it has some type of measureable outcome is counterproductive, and the results are often misleading. Instead, using analytics in relation to actionable steps that improve production and throughput—especially those carved out in Lean and Sigma Six practices—provide actual operational indicators. You know what’s working, and what’s not, in the production process by monitoring and making adjustments based on meaningful numbers.

  2. Internet of Things (IoT)
    The Internet of Things (IoT) is making great strides in manufacturing, principally because it connects and integrates devices, systems, and software across the enterprise in a logical, affordable way that protects assets and emphasizes real time data collection and use. Scalable software solutions like an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system helps you leverage IoT technology to drive performance, manage risk and speed time to market.

  3. The Cloud
    Much like when digitization was introduced, manufacturing environments are cautiously, but enthusiastically, adapting to Cloud technologies and manufacturing execution systems (MES) to bring legacy systems forward without starting from scratch. Among the greatest advantages of Cloud-enabled software is its ability to be customized to suit unique operational needs—a true value-add for discrete manufacturers seeking greater business agility, faster implementations, and predictable, budget-friendly investments.

  4. Supply Chain Optimization
    Meeting customer demand is at the heart of discrete manufacturing, and an efficient supply chain largely dictates how well that goal is met. Technology that melds supply chain management systems with manufacturing systems—a trend that grew nearly 8 percent to $8.3 billion in 2016—enables discrete manufacturers to reduce cycle times and inventory, increase fulfillment, and lower distribution costs. Paired with ERP applications, an optimized supply chain supports strategic initiatives including customer segmentation, larger supply chain approaches like agile, lean, responsive, and more accurate forecasting that accounts for current market conditions.

  5. Smart Data/Business Intelligence
    “Big data” is all the rage in technology circles, but the practicalities of managing it elude many discrete manufacturers because the granular data needed for smooth business operations is often difficult, if not impossible, to access. Business intelligence tools now make “big data” a bit smaller, so the right data is readily visible and easily manipulated to create reports that key decision makers need for informed, effective and timely management of production and profitability.

While business intelligence has been available in conjunction with constrained IT resources, technological advancements are breaking away from that alignment, empowering authorized employees to independently conduct data aggregation and analyses. It also creates relevant dashboards and shares across the enterprise in highly visible and impactful ways, from facilities and maintenance personnel, throughout the shop floor, and into corporate functions.

Integrating technology into your operation helps you work smarter, more profitably and at a competitive advantage—especially when you work with experts in aligning technological needs, implementation, and management in the manufacturing space. Reach out to a Wipfli expert today to discuss where technology can take you.

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