Smart digital manufacturing – it’s a phrase that conjures up images of high-tech machinery and high-performance computers analysing streams of data.
“Smart digital manufacturing is about leveraging digital technologies across the entire value chain of a business to drive efficiencies, reduce costs and boost competitive advantage,” says Tom Nall, global manufacturing and automotive lead at Avanade. “Looking across the industry though, many organisations haven’t yet fully embraced digital in their entire set of operations. We can help businesses find the right place for them to start using digital technologies to improve business performance and reach their goals.”
Avanade has become a leader in this area, helping its customers to understand and implement solutions that deliver true end-to-end transformation. It does this in three key areas: transforming operations; enhancing experiences for employees, customers and partners; and enabling innovation at scale.
“We’re in a new era of technologies that have tremendous opportunity to deliver significant and rapid business performance enhancements,” says Nall.
According to Marko Weisse, senior director of Industry X at Avanade, manufacturers need this level of transformation to remain competitive in the market. “You have to create products that meet consumer expectations and implement change at a faster pace,” he says. “Efficiency and sustainability are also key drivers of transformation. Businesses want to improve from all angles, and digital technology is necessary to do this.”
Avanade is helping manufacturing clients to transform operations and “overhaul the way they produce and how they structure their supply chain”, says Weisse. “We go to clients and help them identify where they can improve.”
This might be by correcting quality issues, or to double the impact of technology investments by finding new ways to increase production. “We have to understand what is hindering them from achieving this,” says Weisse. “We can then analyse this with the client to understand what needs to change, whether that be processes or people, and then create a programme to address it. It’s not just a solution, it’s an end-to-end view. We’re not a tool provider; we’re a partner who’s really changing the way and helping clients on all levels.”
As part of its smart digital manufacturing offering, Avanade is also helping its clients to enhance experiences for employees, partners and customers. “These are all very unique experiences which must be met in different ways,” says Nall. “Data is core to all three. Improving these experiences requires an in-depth understanding of the current situation faced by an individual or team, and of the aspirational experience.”
Nall highlights the value of data granularity, particularly for understanding individuals and how they interact with a business. “This only comes from data, and we can collect this data in a number of different ways,” he says. “The difficult part for manufacturers is making use of that data once it’s collected.
“We have to identify how manufacturers are organising their data, contextualising it, distributing it to those who need it. Is the output from data easy to consume? Is it timely? These questions are core to all our projects.”
Avanade also helps manufacturers recognise emerging technologies and how they might use them. “There are a lot of different options out there, but we are the facilitator between what the technology can do and the industry expertise, to really help customers understand what the problems are and how we can solve them.”
Another way Avanade is helping businesses to realise their smart digital manufacturing goals is by enabling innovation at scale, and data is also central to this. New innovative solutions should deliver fast results that mirror the business vision of the c-suite.
“Innovation to me is about making decisions based on real-time, real-world data,” says Michael Schleuss, global Industry X go-to-market lead at Avanade.
Take a steel manufacturer. While its process for melting iron features four steps, it is one of the most power-hungry in the world, requiring a very precise temperature range throughout the procedure. Any deviation can significantly impact the quality of the product, incurring huge costs and energy losses.
“A manufacturer like this may not be effectively utilising their data to prevent these sorts of outcomes,” says Schleuss. “Connecting manufacturing processes with real-time data is the solution to enabling innovation at scale. Then you can add other technologies like digital twins and simulation. This is what innovation means to me.”
Through its range of industry-specific solutions and consulting services, Avanade helps its clients to identify high-value cases and scale out from there. “The technology is necessary, but we also focus on delivering value, whether it be reduced energy consumption or improved quality,” says Schleuss.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2023 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.