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3 Steps to Implementing the Smart Plant Concept

11 Oct 2021

Investing in digital plant is essential to improving manufacturing competitiveness, operations flexibility, and time to market agility.

In response to several disruptions and drivers, including the impact of the global pandemic, the wider availability of smart technology and the demand for more sustainable operations, manufacturers are becoming increasingly digitalized.

While smart plants are at the heart of future-proof operations, organizations will face different starting points or see themselves in varying stages of the transformation. There are frontrunners already pulling away and those manufacturers yet to start investing in smart plants must get off the starting blocks or struggle to catch up.

Connectivity boosts economic value

Governments have seen the economic value of digitalization, and initiatives such as Germany’s Industrie 4.0, France’s Industrie du Futur, and China’s Made in China 2025 will further drive smart technology adoption for manufacturers. In a smart plant model, there is seamless connectivity of data and communications from the supplier (supply chain) through the manufacturing process itself and on to the customer. Data and analytics inform intelligent, fact-based decisions that can be transferred into either autonomous activities or higher performing human action, as well as improved customer centricity.

Smart Plant transformations with which Capgemini Invent has been involved have yielded a 40% reduction in time to market and a 20+% increase in on-time delivery.

But where do you start — or take the next step on — your smart plant journey? We believe it must begin with a clear view of quantified business value for digital investments. This is crucial for project selection and continuous value-driven validation of each phase of the transformation, at whatever stage you have reached.

Getting your Smart Plant underway

The following steps offer a guide to successfully implementing the smart plant concept:

  • Step 1: Vision, strategy and roadmap
    Loosely coordinated, limited digital initiatives will not lead to the desired effect of a full-scale smart plant, neither to the associated benefits. Therefore, it is essential to have a shared digital vision, strategy and roadmap in place that is tailored to the company´s unique situation. Establish a business case for investing in smart plant technologies that cover all areas of the value chain, including manufacturing operations and supply chain. For example, we worked with a leading aircraft manufacturer on developing a business case for an end-to-end Digital Twin, from structure manufacturing to final assembly, with timelines estimated for both break even and multi-million-euro benefits realization.
  • Step 2: Evaluate use cases for business value
    Fast learning through digital use cases is essential to leverage technologies and realize their potential. Use cases should consider the required technologies, objectives and added value they will bring to the business. Align the use cases with KPIs, such as those relating to cost, innovation potential, employees, quality, flexibility and, of course, sustainability. For example, how will the new technologies and data transparency reduce energy consumption and factory CO2 emissions? To what extent will it improve working conditions, ergonomics and, therefore, employee productivity?
  • Step 3: Scale up for operational excellence
    A holistic transformation and scaling across the entire organization is the only way to fully realize anticipated financial benefits with optimized production processes, assembly lines and supply chain, along with smart maintenance, connected workers and a lean operating model. Scaling rests on deploying digital factory solutions, enabling IT/OT architecture, and clearly defining your people and operating model. Digital factory solutions need a team of experts, from front- and backend to AI and data engineers, to develop digital solutions and applications for various manufacturing challenges​. With a dedicated solution factory, manufacturers can realise 30% faster application development time. Furthermore, integration of IT/OT architecture is the foundation of all digital and data driven improvements that could drive several use cases for smart plants.

Delivering long-term benefits

With digital technologies evolving faster than ever, the journey towards smart plants is crucial to all manufacturers’ long-term success, at whatever stage you are in your smart plant transformation. To deliver anticipated benefits, the transformation needs to be directed into the right channels, whether that’s addressing maintenance costs, improving asset availability and reliability, or achieving transparency across the plant. For example, in this latter instance, efficiency is hindered by a lack of plant transparency that’s the result of increasing complexity of assets, cost savings initiatives, and outsourcing activities to external service providers, as well as rising volumes of data and documentation. Implementing smart plant technologies, such as intelligent asset management solutions, brings transparency back into play, leading to reduced planned and unplanned downtime.

Furthermore, the end-to-end visibility throughout all aspects of the production process enables manufacturers to shorten cycle time (increase throughput, shorter lines, fewer people), reduce WIP inventory, minimize non-value-added work, and gain detailed insight by correlating operational data with real-time process interactions to cut down the operational cost. Seamless communication on how people, processes, technologies, and applications interact with and complement ​each other helps to deliver operational excellence and put customer focus at the core.

Finally, integration of sensors, data analytics and predictive maintenance helps production plants achieve closed loop and autonomous operations, which is the ultimate cornerstone of digital manufacturing.

Find out more

  • Read the blog ‘Why investing in smart plants is a business imperative’ here.
  • Want to continue this conversation? Contact me here.
  • Find out how Smart Plant from Capgemini Invent can support you in your transformation here.