Imagine a bird’s-eye view of a city on a clear day. Traffic lights flash green, yellow, and red. Cars flow up and down the highways. Crowds of people cross the streets in timed waves. There’s a distinct hum and rhythm, a repetition of signals, cues, and sounds.
Now imagine the same bird’s-eye view on a foggy day. All you can see is haze. There are no points of reference, no depth, no perspective, no clarity. It’s muffled and murky.
It’s the same difference between plant floors that use real-time data technology and those who do not. When plants have real-time visibility, managers and plant floor workers have a to-the-second view of what’s happening on the plant floor. They can see patterns, trends, and immediately respond when machines are down, avoiding costly delays to resolving breakdowns.
Visibility gives humans the ability to act, and act fast. When data is collected in real time, plant workers are able to understand whether they’re succeeding or not in achieving their production goals. When the right real-time and historical data is available to the right people at the right time, this provides immediate knowledge and understanding to guide better decision-making in the moment. This offers opportunities to improve processes, reduce downtime, increase productivity, and share learnings within and across plants.
This is a game-changer for manufacturers. In bringing greater awareness of what’s happening on the plant floor, it creates a ripple effect that starts with the individual employee. With real-time data, plant floor workers are armed with the insight they need to identify root issues and have data to support their solutions.
It’s empowering. And it’s a way for employees to become problem solvers, not automatons. Employees can step up and say, “I’ve noticed this has been happening, and I have an idea to improve the process.” This motivates employees, and encourages ownership, accountability, collaboration, and pride. More importantly, it spurs innovation and the development of best practices.
Time and time again, I have had conversations with industry leaders about how plant culture has positively changed when people are armed with the information they need to solve problems and drive improvement. It’s a culture shift that leads to greater innovation and creativity.
This is possible because technology has evolved. In particular, cloud technology.
What are other reasons that top manufacturers are using real-time cloud technology? Beyond the positive impacts on work culture and increased productivity, manufacturers are able to create systems that are entirely digital. This eliminates the costly time needed to enter data from whiteboards and binders. It’s more efficient, it’s less of a burden on employees, and it seamlessly integrates information across plants with actionable data. This is a very different model than having physical documents that flow through factories, and is a more reliable way to track tasks like preventative maintenance. It’s the way of the future, and it’s an important way leading manufacturers are remaining competitive in today’s rapidly changing world.
Lastly, real-time cloud technology allows manufacturers to be part of the global revolution of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Manufacturing 4.0, the integration of human creativity with automation and artificial intelligence. This is shaping our industry today, and will only continue. For manufacturers, making the shift to real-time data now will set plants on a trajectory to adapt to the demands of the new era of manufacturing. It is the only way for manufacturers to stay up to date and up to speed.
As members of the manufacturing industry, we must clear away the fog that blankets your plant floor and get clear. You have the power to know exactly how your plant is performing, and to make better decisions based on evidence and analysis. At the end of the day, real-time data technology makes possible a menu of opportunities for manufacturers to increase their performance and bottom-line results.
Real-time cloud technology is here to stay. Now is the time to take advantage of the benefits it has to offer.
Bob Argyle is Chief Customer Officer at Leading2Lean, a Nevada-based provider of cloud solutions for manufacturers and other industrial organizations seeking to implement lean culture.