While the IT world has been growing since the mid-1900s, the traditional operational technology (OT) world has been a late bloomer. A lag of 10 years between the IT and OT worlds from a technology perspective was not uncommon. For example, the Windows operating system and Ethernet capabilities made it to the shop floor a decade after their introductions.
However, with the emergence of the IIoT, industrial organizations can now leverage cutting-edge digital technologies in manufacturing operations, and take advantage of better speed, flexibility, and precision in decision-making.
Big Data Analytics:
Big Data analytics uses statistical and optimization tools to cleanse, monitor, and analyze structured and unstructured data to enable accelerated insights. CI processes like DMAIC and Five Whys are filled with the right opportunities to utilize Big Data analytics.
Edge and Cloud Computing:
A Digital Twin is an executable set of software models of a physical product or system. Digital Twin finds applications in simulating products or processes where measurements and tests might not be possible. Continuous Flow and Gemba are two CI processes where a Digital Twin can be leveraged.
Digital Twins can be used in Continuous Flow by simulating the production line to identify bottlenecks well ahead of time. Previously, Lean practitioners used manual diagrams on whiteboards; then MS Visio digitized the process flows, but it was limited to theory due to siloed data and systems. Digital Twins can solve that problem using real-time analytics on better, faster, and more data, providing new perspectives on visualizing the production line.
Technologies such as Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) can be used to complement and extend the possibilities of next-gen factory floor user experiences. AR-enabled devices can enhance the Gemba walk with an overlay of performance data or instructions on top of a real-time view of production.
Manufacturers can enhance and change the way they approach Operational Excellence and Lean by digitalizing their CI with IIoT technologies. Most of these technologies can be used in combination with one another. The IIoT combined with supporting data from Edge and Cloud, and Big Data analytics is a perfect platform to implement Lean processes. A Digital Twin can be much more valuable when implemented with AR/VR technology on mobile devices.
Companies also must recognize that digitalizing CI is not just about adding new technology to existing processes. They should start by building business cases and data models for a digital Operational Excellence initiative, then design a suitable Operational Architecture framework and empower their workforce to get the most out of these technologies.
About the Author:
Vivek Murugesan, Research Associate LNS Research
Vivek Murugesan is a Research Associate with LNS Research; where he conducts market data analysis and creates data models that span the breadth of LNS coverage areas including Digital Transformation and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), along with Manufacturing Operations Management, Asset Performance Management, Quality Management, and Environment Health and Safety. Vivek holds a Masters of Science degree in industrial engineering from Northeastern University, and earned a Bachelor of Engineering (BE) in mechanical engineering from Anna University in Chennai, India. Prior to LNS, Vivek worked with ARRIS where he focused on supply chain analysis, and co-founded Namma Café, a social and collaborative learning environment for young professionals to develop their skills in the areas of creating and building data models, interactive dashboards, and business intelligence reports.