Smart Manufacturing: Unlocking Business Potential by Consolidating Your Systems

Close-up image of an office worker using a touchpad to analyze statistical data

Smart manufacturing and sophisticated production floor machinery has been a huge development. Thriving SMEs have embraced new tech and fully integrated systems to reap benefits.


The manufacturing industry is without a doubt more agile today than it has been in many years.

One of the biggest advancements has been in the sophistication of machines on the production floor, which can deliver real-time data to the back-end and monitoring systems. The rise of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) brings with it a new connectivity to sensors at all stages of the production process.

Many are referring to this as the fourth industrial revolution, and it’s all about intelligent factories and smart manufacturing.

Smart manufacturing is a broad category with the goal of optimising concept generation, production and product transaction through intelligence. This intelligence could take the form of big data, machine learning and business analytics from various sources including connected machinery.

Two of the biggest drivers of smart manufacturing are an expanding global ecosystem of suppliers and the constant evolution of customer demands.

While outsourcing reduces capacity limitations and allows tight turnaround demands to be met, the expansion of the manufacturing ecosystem also brings new challenges.

There is a new and pressing need to manage and monitor third-party activity. As the level of complexity in the logistics domain increases and vendors around the world require synchronisation, companies must be able to optimise what they do, and where.

As customer demands become more complex, products are not only expected to be personalised, but also ready and shipped within a short timeframe. Time-to-market must be shorter, and rapid response times are a must.

When people buy online, they expect fast delivery. We’re seeing far less of the ‘closed’, mass-produced items of days gone by. Instead, products are offered in various configurations, which are often defined per order, as customers expect products on demand.

In this fast-paced environment, SMEs must make sure they have the right technological foundations in place to remain agile, productive and competitive. So why are some companies still holding back from taking advantage of new technologies?

The short answer is, many of the more old-school, smaller companies would rather stick to what they know and are unaware of the simplicity of what is available to them on the market. Tracking activities with an application such as Microsoft Excel can be preferable, as it’s perceived as a flexible, standalone solution that people are less afraid to use.

In addition, enterprise research planning (ERP) technology (the key to an integrated system) has a reputation as being tricky to implement and requiring a lot of resources to get off the ground.

Businesses that are thriving in this environment, however, have not only embraced the new technologies but have also invested in fully integrated systems to truly reap the benefits of smart manufacturing.

Consolidating your systems with an agile ERP gives businesses real-time, 360-degree visibility and the ability to manage the complexity of supply chain while delivering the personal customer journeys that the market now demands.

Another benefit of consolidating your systems to achieve true smart manufacturing is the fact that data can be captured at each stage of the process. Pulling this data allows you to analyse productivity, efficiency and profitability of every product line and service, meaning inefficiencies can be spotted and acted upon at the source.

From a management perspective, this new, modern way of working makes searching for information a thing of the past. Relevant data alerts can be pushed to the right person as soon as the data is generated, and appropriate action can be taken – whether it’s replacing a component that’s stopping production or considering a workaround.

Manufacturing systems are on an innovative trajectory to a fully mobile and connected operation, where all machines will be able to automatically connect to systems and trigger business processes such as ordering materials or opening a service ticket.

The bottom line? There is no better time than now for manufacturers to benefit from a future that promises wearable glasses to guide the work of employees on the shop floor, they must harness the power of an innovative, simple-to-use and integrated system to increase productivity and growth across every area of the business.