Ensuring your growth plans don't outgrow your business
The concept of growth can have varied implications for all businesses, including manufacturers. From net profit to geographic expansion, to building up infrastructure to exploit changes in technology - as manufacturing becomes faster, more responsive to changing global markets, and closer to customers, growth comes in many forms. Unsurprisingly, research has shown that managing growth expectations is the top challenge facing businesses today.
These challenges are multi-faceted. It can refer to the simple definition of the term ‘growth’ across the business, which if left unclear can make the journey challenging as no one really knows where they are heading. Alternatively, it can refer to the unpredictable factors that arise throughout the growth process. With the amount of uncertainty that faces a business on the cusp of progression, it’s imperative that the basics are addressed first.
From the outset, business leaders need to agree a common definition of growth and communicate that throughout the company, as each and every employee will be affected. Without a clear understanding of what the term means, difficulty and confusion can arise, not only in terms of priorities across the many departments within a manufacturer, but also when looking to identify challenges and putting the necessary resources or technology in place. Whether it’s the cleaner that has to take care of an expanding office; the finance team that has to manage an increased inflow and outflow of invoices; the IT team that has to ensure the right technology is in place and up to date; the production manager that needs to plan and organise increased production schedules; or the C-level executives that need to ensure that the return on investment is on par with the originally defined targets, everyone needs to be on the same page.
Once this definition has been agreed upon, the focus needs to move to potential drivers of growth. Typically, external factors are close to impossible to forecast without a crystal ball, particularly economic changes, revised customer needs, and new competitors or the latest technologies. Growth amongst uncertainty will never be simple, but it is possible. The priority should be to put systems in place to help the business not only be more alert to external factors, but to be able to react to these factors when necessary.
Analytic technologies in particular can help manufacturers establish patterns in trends, economic changes or customer and competitor behaviour, and the onus is on the organisation to react and react quickly. With the right technology in place, for example modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, a manufacturer has the agility and flexibility to amend action mid-plan and either implement new designs to meet customer demand or switch focus to new emerging markets.
This agile attitude is a necessity to tackle growth, especially in the constantly changing current climate we are living in. Manufacturers need to learn to walk before they can run and start their development with early discussions to ensure a common definition of growth is agreed, and ensure the relevant planning and technology is in place. Future-proofing and maturing a manufacturing business isn’t straightforward but by implementing the necessary processes, a business can react to unforeseen circumstances and pave the way for the growth.
Stuart Hall is the Sales Director for Epicor Software
Follow @ManufacturingGL and @NellWalkerMG
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.