The customer must be at the centre of the digital strategy
It’s easy to get obsessed with technology – it is the key enabler of today’s revolution – but the harder part of the transformation is cultural.
It’s about putting the customer experience and their business outcomes at the centre of everything. That means realigning engineering, manufacturing and the supply chain around delivering a world-class sales and service experience. It means new thinking about optimising customer satisfaction and loyalty metrics such as Customer Satisfaction Scores or Net Promoter Scores rather than production efficiency.
The list of technologies that can help this realignment is endless. Manufacturers should be investing in, or at least exploring, the internet of things (IoT) and industrial automation, cloud, big data, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, 3D printing and more.Microsoft partner Columbus recently published a major industry report exploring how these emerging technologies fit into the wider digital transformation push of manufacturers, as part of a ‘Manufacturing 2020’ strategy.
But at the heart the revolution is data. We are putting telemetry on everything, creating a data-driven culture with a single version of the truth. Fundamentally the fourth industrial revolution is being powered by the ubiquity of IoT data coming from sensors in the factory combining with data pouring in from the outside world, such as the wealth of information being generated by smart cities, smart buildings, smart offices and even connected cars. Choosing an IoT platform is a big decision; start by identifying one that can match the scale of your ambitions.
There is another convergence that is driving business transformation. Inside the firm, the digital technologies used by IT, operations and engineering are converging. By embracing the digital transformation, manufacturers are empowering employees to be more productive in modern workplaces with apps and intelligent working methods such as the use of cobots, where employees and robots co-operate shoulder to “shoulder”.
It’s also about optimising operations through smart factories and supply chain solutions powered by intelligent edge and cloud. It means the transformation of products and business models, using insights from smart connected products, advances in modelling such as “digital twins”, and more agile end-to-end business solutions.
We see manufacturers, and individual businesses within manufacturing organisations, at various stages in their journey to servitisation, transforming products into services. Some are driving more customer engagement through traditional call centres or differentiating their product through (sometimes IoT-connected) field service. Increasingly, though, we are also seeing the transition to full “product-as-a-service”, where they sell flying hours instead of jet engines; car coatings rather than paint; water savings rather than treatment plants; and cleaning services rather than cleaning chemicals.
This journey requires that they break down the silos between internal systems such as ERP, CRM, PLM, and SCM. Instead, they need to connect “things” – people, data and processes – with more agile systems of intelligence that can keep pace with the new speed of business inherent in delivering highly tailored products and services.
Manufacturers need smart factories that can make their smart products and be at the core of much more agile supply chains. They also need intelligent shop floor solutions and business apps that augment people, and address the growing skills gap in manufacturing.
IoT platforms are a key enabler, yes. But we also need big data and AI on top to provide the insights that line workers and business decision-makers need. We need both intelligent cloud and intelligent edge technologies to power robots and cobots in the factory of the future.
Big data also needs big compute to accelerate the product innovation unleashed by enhanced insights into customers, enabled by the ability to iterate through digital twins of devices, product designs, supply chains, and customer usage in digital cities. Can your legacy ERP, CRM, PLM and SCM systems keep up with the new speed of business?
At the heart of this digital world, however, lies the simplicity of customer insight. Whether you’ve got a smart product that can beam back data on customer use, or you use traditional client engagement channels, it’s those insights that will differentiate your future products and services –and decide the success or failure of your digital transformation.
Colin Masson is Global Industry Director of Manufacturing Solutions at Microsoft. He has been a strategic advisor to major automation vendors such as Invensys and Rockwell Automation.
Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router
Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age.
Siemens Enables 5G IIoT
The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.
Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance
- Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
- The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
- A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
- Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites
“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.
Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said.
Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future
Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’
And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.
The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.