Faced with the challenges of changing customer expectations, an evolving workforce, and increasingly urgent sustainability imperatives, it is vital for the manufacturing industry to address important issues faced by their employees and increase the digitalisation of their manufacturing and supply chain operations.
Explaining that the impact of COVID-19 has compelled manufacturers “to adopt virtual collaboration solutions like Google Workspace that enable productivity while employees work remotely,” Dominik Wee, Managing Director Global Automotive, Manufacturing and Energy at Google Cloud adds that, “worker safety is also more important than ever, with smart technologies on the shop floor that can visualise social distancing protocols through the use of vision AI, and factory reconfigurations can then enforce safe distancing. At the same time, advancements in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) are reducing the cost of adopting new manufacturing technologies.”
However, there continues to be a large percentage of manufacturers who struggle to move beyond pilots and fail to scale new technologies into the production line. Wee attributes this to a lack of “special skills required to implement and use these technologies in day-to-day operations. That is one of the reasons we are focused on bringing solutions to market that do not require any additional skills to use and are easy to get started with.”
Why is it Important to Embrace Digital in Manufacturing?
“The manufacturing industry hasn’t yet benefited from cloud and AI technology to the same extent as other verticals,” explains Wee, but this is something that Google Cloud hopes to change.
“The key for manufacturers' ability to transform—despite the ongoing pandemic—is their embrace of digital enablers and disruptive technologies. According to our research, three-fourths of surveyed manufacturers (76%) revealed that the pandemic has caused their companies to increase the use of digital enablers and disruptive technologies such as cloud, AI, data analytics, robotics, 3D printing/additive manufacturing, Internet of Things, and augmented or virtual reality.”
Google Cloud and its Role in the Manufacturing Industry
"At Google Cloud, we are focused on industry solutions that help our customers improve efficiency, reduce cost, and capture new market opportunities. Manufacturing is one of Google Cloud’s priority industries, and we have invested heavily to create dedicated solutions that accelerate digital transformation, digitalise the customer journey, and also optimise operations and product development.
"As part of their digital transformation initiatives, manufacturers have begun making significant investments in cloud and AI technology. At Google Cloud, our portfolio of products and solutions—along with our ecosystem of partners—is helping manufacturers drive innovation and operational excellence across the value chain. Many manufacturing companies, including Siemens, Kaeser Kompressoren, Ingersoll Rand, and others, use Google Cloud to analyse vast quantities of operational data, reduce infrastructure costs, and reduce time-to-market for their new products" - Dominik Wee, Managing Director Global Automotive, Manufacturing and Energy at Google Cloud.
Creating a Digital Factory
In its simplest form, a digital factory is created “when manufacturers use advanced technology to enable new business processes and unlock value,” explains SAP and Google Cloud.
By embracing digital factory practices, the average manufacturer can benefit from:
- 5 to 10% improvement in production volume/ direct production
- 20 to 30% savings in logistics-related costs
- 10 to 20% savings in energy costs
- 10 to 30% reduction in support function costs
Impacting everyone within a manufacturing organisation, capturing the full potential value in the digitalisation of manufacturing “is largely dependent on utilising
advances in technology to enable new ways of working. Roles and responsibilities
for all employees, from the C-suite to machine operators and quality technicians, will
shift in the digital manufacturing journey,” explains SAP and Google Cloud.
“By optimising manufacturing operations, a digital factory unlocks new capabilities from existing assets, allowing companies to pursue new growth opportunities. In a digital factory, regional managers, business unit leaders, and other manufacturing executives are empowered with real-time, accurate data on manufacturing operations to help make more informed decisions. Knowing where to make which products, deciding where to expand or reduce capacity, and identifying lower or higher-performing facilities will all be possible with the right information made available through the digital factory. By augmenting the human workforce, manufacturers can improve overall quality, throughput and cycle time, for example,” says Wee.
Adoption Challenges Faced By Manufacturers
Asked to reflect on the current challenges for manufacturers when it comes to driving the adoption of digitalisation, Wee breaks it down to four key areas:
- Data access: Data silos and legacy IT infrastructure are an area that has challenged manufacturers due to the systems that do not share information with one another or provide a holistic view of the operations.
- Workforce training: It’s incredibly important to train existing shop floor talent on how to effectively leverage digital technologies. This became evident during the pandemic. It’s crucial for technology to be made with ease of use in mind so that the existing workforce can adapt to the digital world.
- Vendor landscape: Manufacturers are challenged with selecting vendors to partner with when shaping their transformation journeys. Companies are often overwhelmed by the variety of solutions in the marketplace and must be thorough in the selection of vendor partners. At the same time, they are looking to build a comprehensive digital ecosystem with solutions that work well together without complex integrations.
- Initiative prioritisation: Due to innovations and the pace at which technology is evolving, executives struggle to prioritise projects and investments. Lack of prioritisation and innovation governance, paired with low investment budgets, can often lead to competing projects and a divided perspective amongst the leadership.
Overcoming Challenges: The Use Case for Cloud Platforms
Those in the industry that are deploying digital factory practices are applying cloud technologies to address core business challenges, such as reliable operations, inventory tracking and management, supply chain optimisation, intelligent production control, digital quality, energy management, and workforce productivity and safety.
Collaborating with Siemens, Google Cloud aims to address such challenges with the help of cloud technology, to optimise factory processes and improve productivity on the shop floor. “By combining Google Cloud’s data analytics and AI/ML capabilities with Siemens’ Digital Industries Factory Automation (SDIFA) software, manufacturers will now be able to harmonise their factory data, run cloud-based AI/ML models on top of that data, and deploy algorithms at the network edge to manage everything, including predicting the wear-and-tear of machines on the assembly line,” says Wee.
By bringing operational data into the cloud, organisations can break down data silos, “enabling greater visibility, connectivity and insights across the operations,” explains Wee, who adds that “purpose-built solutions which leverage the cloud also reduce the complexity for end-users.”
Ultimately, “the cloud offers the potential for a more comprehensive digital ecosystem with significantly reduced data and infrastructure costs, plus increased performance, simplicity, and scalability across IT environments. Moving to the cloud is an important way businesses can optimise their technology spend and find new efficiencies,” concludes Wee.
Google Cloud’s Services for the Manufacturing Industry
"Google Cloud solutions like AutoML Edge enable manufacturers to detect defects and monitor quality control and factory safety. LG CNS is leveraging this technology to create manufacturing intelligence solutions that detect defects in products on the assembly line. Manufacturers can use BigQuery dashboards to improve forecasting and monitor supply and demand. Swiss Steel was able to improve procurement and efficiency while improving supply chain workflow through leveraging Google Cloud. By working with partners like SAP, manufacturers can combine their operational and business data at scale to build intelligent, connected digital factories. Southwire, a leading manufacturer of wire and cable, tools and components, chose SAP on Google Cloud as it was able to improve performance, reliability, security and scalability of its SAP environment" - Dominik Wee, Managing Director Global Automotive, Manufacturing and Energy at Google Cloud.