Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Digitization’s Impact on Collaboration across Manufacturing

By Gordon Benzie,  International Board Member of MESA and Keystone Sponsor Member

Ever since a young age, we have been told the importance of sharing. I’m sure most of you have heard of the phrase “All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” In this poem, the first line is to share. As a grown up, this philosophy is still true – in fact, the world might just be a better place if more people held to this standard. In manufacturing, Elon Musk recently made the news with his open letter dated June 12, 2014, where he proclaimed “All our Patents Belong to You.” Sharing best practices and working together to solve common problems are two other examples.


Today’s digital transformation has had an interesting impact on how we share and work together – distance is no longer a criterion of how well we collaborate. When working in a paper-based world, you really need to be working in at least the same building. Given today’s global supply chains and distributed engineering teams, this type of scenario simply isn’t viable anymore. Of course, while digital communication opens the door wide open to global collaboration, we still have to learn each other’s language, if English is not well understood by all parties. Fortunately, language translation capabilities of collaboration programs are easing this challenge. 


Digital Manufacturing is a field focused on simulating how workers can best assemble and perform production processes – before a single conveyor belt, fixture or bolt is tightened. When we use digital designs that can be readily shared as digital files with managers, executives and those who will actually be performing the processes, it is possible to greatly improve our collaboration effectiveness. With this collaboration, we can often build the infrastructure for a new product introduction right the first time, saving precious time, resources and cost. 3D images can be readily shared to visualize what will be built, to save having to guess on decisions such as how close to establish work stations, or how much repetitive motion can be tolerated without causing fatigue. These capabilities are considerably more difficult and more prone to error in a paper-based world.
Manufacturing operations management is now “catching up” to what the design, engineering and digital manufacturing world has known for decades – digital collaboration is more effective as it can expand the scope of how you can communicate and can help you come to resolution and solve problems faster.


The Manufacturing Leadership Council just released new research on this digitization revolution, taking a closer look at the current state of digital collaboration across the shop floor. The report examines the role of Enterprise Social Networking applications, what factors are most important for success and where the greatest gaps exist between perceived importance and actual mastery. 


For example, this chart is quite telling:



Clearly manufacturers see the importance of collaboration, but they also recognize that work needs to be done to achieve the vision that most see as the future of improving communication across the shop floor. (Download a free copy of the complete report here.)


Has your organization embraced enterprise social networking as a tool to improve how you work together? Has this collaboration “pool” extended to beyond your organization and out to the supply chain? Do you have any best practices worth sharing? I would be interested in hearing your feedback.

Gordon can be found on Google+.

Related Resource: http://www.apriso.com/library/Whitepaper_Frost-and-Sullivan_Social-Collaboration-Across-Manufacturing.php
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