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Why investing in smart plants is a business imperative?

11 Oct 2021

Manufacturers looking to ensure their long-term resilience and competitiveness are increasingly digitizing their manufacturing operations to improve process efficiency, inventories, productivity, and the time it takes to produce the goods needed to fulfil customer demand (takt).

Investment in smart plants and related technologies is growing, with the adoption of digitized systems for manufacturing execution (MES), enterprise resource planning (ERP), product lifecycle management (PLM), and other digital tools.

What’s driving smart plant adoption?

Besides the continuing strive towards operational excellence and efficiency in production, sustainability is a key driver in the move to smart plant adoption. Several Capgemini Invent clients have responded to the climate crisis by investing in data and smart analytics solutions that provide them with actionable insights on which they can better predict maintenance, anticipate demand fluctuations, and improve process flows. The result? More efficient and less carbon hungry operations. This drive for greater sustainability is also being prompted by more demanding customer preferences and legal requirements, emissions trading, and scarce resources.

The need to manage changing employee expectations is another factor. Human activities and interactions on the shopfloor build up an enormous treasure of experience and know-how, but also create room for error and ambiguity. Digitally supporting the operations workforce in a smart plant becomes key to securing and boosting knowledge, quality and output, and to creating a safe, modern and happy work environment.

Of course, we cannot avoid the aftermath of one of the largest value chain disruptions in living memory — the global pandemic. This has given rise to a sharper focus on business resilience. Here we see manufacturers seeking to use digital tools and data to drive cost efficiency. We are also seeing shifts in consumer preferences towards made-to-order or mass-customized products, and huge industry disruptions, such as electrification and autonomous vehicles in the automotive sector.

All of these have combined to push manufacturing COOs and CIOs towards ever greater digitalization. There is growing consensus that the only way to achieve the efficiency and flexibility needed to respond to these drivers is through leveraging the power of digital technologies and transforming manufacturing sites into smart plants.

How data insights, IOT and 5G make change possible

Convergence of the digital and physical worlds, including information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT), has helped to accelerate production plant transformation. Digital tools and data are increasingly part of this picture, with the industrial Internet of Things generating huge amounts of data from sensors, software, and large assets often spread across several locations. We’re also witnessing a growing adoption of 5G connectivity across shop floors, enabling high-volume image processing with minimal latency to ensure no delays to the production line. Furthermore, the integration of 5G ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLLC) in the manufacturing process can help make smart plants more efficient and productive. Moreover, a Digital Twin can add value by providing a real-time look at how a physical asset is performing without disrupting the asset itself. Large scale application transformations within the context of PLM or MES enable data continuity and a holistic view from engineering to the manufactured product.

It is clear from all of this that the drivers and technology in combination make this the right time to accelerate smart plant adoption. Get the technology integration right and a company’s business resilience ambition can be furthered with cost optimization and increased efficiency. For example, with integration of robotic process automation, industrial IoT, artificial intelligence, 5G, and edge computing, manufacturers can save 40-60% of the production wages. Thus, this integration directly reduces production costs; along with enabling faster and more targeted realization of business processes and increased quality. Moreover, we have proven use cases in the automotive industry where automated assembly lines enable companies to reduce production time by 20 minutes per vehicle and can increase the overall productivity by 30%.

The impact of data in smart plant decisioning

Data volumes are growing exponentially in this integrated manufacturing landscape. This helps to strengthen the business case for investing in smart plants. How? Because smart plants are built on data. And data is emerging as a keystone of business decision making. At Capgemini Invent, we believe that the analytical use of data collected across smart and data-driven plants enables machines and people to make intelligent, fact-based decisions and contributes to the streamlining of plants. Using data to address key operational efficiencies, measure performance metrics in areas of operational excellence, and inform product innovation and workforce planning leads to the generation of calculated insights that solve complex business scenarios.

Connected systems help factories improve throughput. In a connected enterprise, manufacturers have seamless visibility into bottlenecks, machine performance, and other operational inefficiencies. With this data, they can increase yields up to 5%, decrease market turnaround time, reduce waste by 20-25% and optimize OEE, thereby increasing the overall productivity.

Smart manufacturing plants are a game changer for industrial sectors across the world. Those manufacturers that haven’t yet embarked on their journey towards a smart plant should start now or risk falling behind in the race for better quality, productivity, yield and, of course, sustainability. The lucrative business opportunities offered by smart plant adoption include threefold productivity improvements over the next decade. Our research shows that organizations have already made one-third of their factories smart, and plan to transform 40% more over the next five years. What are you waiting for?

Find out more

  • Read the blog ‘How to start implementing the smart plant concept?’ here.
  • Want to continue this conversation? Contact me here.

Find out how Smart Plant from Capgemini Invent can support you in your transformation here.