A Manufacturer's Checklist: The Path to Connected Manufacturing

  • Modern Manufacturing

Connected manufacturing can transform your business. This business strategy enables you to harness operational and business data for greater visibility, efficiency, control, and customer satisfaction.

It can also help you overcome major operational challenges as well as help you make the digital transformation more manufacturers are making to set themselves up for the future. 

But how do you get there?

You’ll need to focus on that ever-important three-legged stool: people, process, and technology. Once you’ve got your key stakeholders identified, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the underlying technology and processes in place to enable a new, connected way of operating. For many small to mid-sized manufacturers, this means modernizing your systems and digitizing your processes.

To find the right system, it’s important to know what your buyer’s journey will look like, and the key checkpoints along the way. There are several areas of consideration and agreement vital to finding the right solution:

  • Recognize Needs. This may be the hardest and longest part of your buyer’s journey simply because your list of what is needed may be long. A good rule of thumb is to set clear objectives and a well-defined scope for the project.
  • Explore Options. There are seemingly endless options to explore from individual point solutions for any one need to broader ERP solutions that can address them all. This phase of the journey has the tendency to incite conflict, as leaders sort out their priorities. But after considering the alignment opportunities, you’ll quickly see that it results in enterprise-wide benefits that go beyond your initial expectations.
  •  Define Criteria. As you evaluate various systems, you’ll begin to see that application providers tend to focus on specific issues rather than holistic ones. There are connected manufacturing solution providers but you’ll have to find them. Keep in mind that a solution designed for manufacturers should include manufacturing execution system (MES) capabilities, with clear connectivity to your business system as a minimum.
  • Evaluate Solutions. Armed with a clear understanding of the options available, you can engage with providers to evaluate how they’ll deliver value. Be cautious not to focus on the features and functions alone so that you miss the value of the overall solution. Different solutions do things in different ways but focusing on how the capabilities enable a more connected enterprise will result in a much better solution for the needs of your business.
  • Validate Risks. As you get closer to deciding, you may be feeling some increased attention on risk. If you’ve followed the process and identified the risk threshold for the company, your focus will be on mitigating those risks and delivering value to your business. Now is not the time to raise new and out-of-scope objections that might derail your work so far. Now is the time to validate the solution you’ve arrived at to ensure that it will deliver the expected value.

Download the infographic, Your Path to Connected Manufacturing, as an easy-to-use guide that highlights key questions to asking during your buyer’s journey. 

About the Author

Stu Johnson, Director of Product Marketing, Plex Systems

Stu Johnson has more than 25 years of experience in the manufacturing industry since beginning his career as a mechanical design engineer. He moved into the enterprise software space working in various roles providing solutions for global manufacturers in the consumer, aerospace, automotive, and heavy equipment industries. Currently, Stu serves as Director of Product Marketing for Plex Systems and focuses on the future of manufacturing software working with the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (MESA), Smart Manufacturing Workgroup exploring topics like the Industrial Internet of Things and Industry 4.0.