Manufacturing Digitization Challenges and How to Overcome Them

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Technology has brought a revolution in nearly all fields of life. The modern age of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cloud computing has compelled businesses and industries to remodel their processes and align themselves with the latest technological trends to survive and grow in the highly-competitive global economy. Manufacturing firms are also reaping the benefits of technology through automated processes, automated production cost estimation, forecasting, supply chain optimization, big data analytics, and many other technology-infused functions. The complexity involved in the digital transformation of any manufacturing firm poses some serious challenges to the success of digitalization. This post sheds light on various challenges a manufacturing firm faces in the digitalization process and how to overcome them.

Challenges of Digital Transformation

Although the benefits of technology surpass the costs of implementation, maintenance, and staff training, there are various challenges that a manufacturing firm faces while going through the technology evolution. Here are some challenges worth mentioning:

1. Cybersecurity Threats

While technology continues to invade our lives, one of the biggest challenges we face today is the risk of losing sensitive information. With the advancement of technology, cybercriminals have invented new ways to invade machines, networks, and information systems. Hackers consistently try to breach security protocols and steal sensitive information. Many of the automated machinery and robotics in a manufacturing firm are integrated with a central production and inventory management system. The industrial internet of things (IIoT) includes all machinery used in manufacturing and maintains the information they receive or transmit during production. Besides a disaster recovery plan, manufacturing firms must devise effective security policies to protect their data and network. A strong cybersecurity plan helps manufacturing firms identify possible security threats and create security plans to mitigate attacks. For this purpose, all stakeholders must work together to identify the flow of data and information, discover areas of compromised security, and propose technology or process changes to decrease the risk of a possible security breach.

A Cybercriminal Attempting to Break into a System

2. Investments in Technology

The cost of implementing and maintaining technology is high. This is why digital transformation is a major challenge for firms that require heavy funds to implement technology in all of their major processes. Small to medium manufacturing firms or those with huge startup costs may not have the budget to invest in new technologies or adapt to existing ones.

Capital becomes a barrier for manufacturing firms who wish to move toward digital transformation. However, manufacturing firms need to realize that the return on investment in technology is very high. Implementation of technology has generated around 8.5% in operational cost savings for manufacturing firms in 2020, which collectively amounts to millions of dollars.

Investing in technology will be expensive initially, but think about what it will cost if you don’t. For manufacturers to know how much to set aside and when, what improvements to make, and how to measure their success, they need a good investment plan.

Investing in Digital Transformation

3. Change Management in Supply Chain Integration

When it comes to digital transformation, there is resistance to change. The conventional manufacturing processes run separately, and each department is unaware of any changes in the other. When a manufacturing company opts for digital transformation, the integration of all manufacturing, storing, transporting, and sourcing processes become vital. The latest technology in manufacturing is more flexible and agile, and it requires cross-communication between internal and external stakeholders. Digital transformation integrates the complete supply chain, including suppliers, logistics, distributors, retailers, and consumers.

One of the biggest challenges manufacturing firms face is incorporating change at such a huge level. While digital transformation may not be as challenging for the firm, external stakeholders may resist the change. Each participant in the supply chain has their own way of incorporating technology. When a manufacturing firm opts for supply chain optimization and integration through technology, it may face compatibility issues.

The latest technological advancement with cloud computing and remote web-based applications facilitates supply chain integration by providing a single cloud-based platform. A unified platform allows all stakeholders to contribute easily toward supply chain integration. All participants in a supply chain can reap the benefits of an efficient collaborative environment to maximize the productivity and agility of the complete supply chain.

4. Human Errors

One of the most challenging aspects of manufacturing digitization is human errors, which lead to common security breaches, miscalculations, increased cost of production, or decreased quality of end product. In addition to configuring machines incorrectly or insecurely, humans can disclose business-sensitive information to outsiders, mishandle important production equipment, or become a security threat themselves by opening insecure links or deliberately leaking confidential data. Furthermore, a new procedure or operation may increase hazards attached to the human factor. Humans can be extremely resistant to change and adaption to anything new at first.

To avoid human error, it is important not to impose change all at once. Instead, manufacturing firms should incorporate change in phases and train employees on various security and equipment handling aspects.  As a result, staff should be encouraged to create opportunities for adaptation and improvement by stressing the benefits of digitalization.

Image of a Human Thinking Process

Manufacturing Digitization Starts with a Strategy

Change never happens overnight, and the same goes for digitization. To successfully transform your manufacturing firm, you need to incorporate small changes, one at a time. Each of the above manufacturing digitalization challenges can be solved with an implementation strategy that fits existing processes while allowing for future expansion chances to remain competitive. Connekt LLC has a team of experienced engineers skilled in creating plans for software and hardware upgradation and implementation. We also offer product design and mechanical engineering services, finite element analysis, rapid prototyping, 3D printing, injection molding, and more.

Contact us now for further details and assistance.

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