Technology Record - Issue 32: Spring 2024

112 VIEWPOINT In a rapidly changing industrial environment, digital solutions that integrate distributed manufacturing networks are essential to maintaining market leadership and driving business innovation ROB MCGREEVY: AVEVA The smart factory advantage American business icon Jack Welch famously said: “It’s impossible to grow long term if you can’t eat short term. Anybody can manage short. Anybody can manage long. Balancing those two things is what management is.” Nowhere is this classic conundrum truer than in manufacturing, where leaders must navigate many value chain variables to remain operational and successful in the short term, while working towards future opportunities for the long term. Supply chains have yet to fully return to normal after the pandemic, and geopolitical challenges and sustainability requirements continue to demand attention, but new opportunities are on the horizon. Industry 5.0 – the next phase in the evolution of manufacturing where humans work alongside intelligent machines – is unlocking numerous benefits that can help brands establish competitive advantages early on. To strike the balance between short and long term, most manufacturers are turning to digital technology. A remarkable 86 per cent of manufacturing executives surveyed in Deloitte’s 2024 manufacturing outlook industry study feel smart factory solutions will be the primary drivers of competitiveness over the next five years. Smart factories rely on digital technologies to connect machinery, production systems and devices to provide end-to-end visibility of the entire manufacturing process. With a collaborative, real-time view of the value chain – from raw materials to finished products – manufacturers can anticipate demand fluctuations and make informed decisions about resource allocation, scheduling and capacity planning. For example, Schneider Electric has modernised the production of energy equipment at a 62-yearold plant at Lexington in Kentucky, USA, using an integrated solution from AVEVA and Microsoft. Teams can now access and visualise operational data, making quicker and more efficient decisions without any second guessing. Not only has manual paperwork been reduced by 90 per cent, but AVEVA software has helped improve labour productivity and reduce unplanned downtime by nearly six per cent. The World Economic Forum has recognised the plant as an Advanced Global Lighthouse for sustainable digital manufacturing, and Schneider Electric is working to replicate the model at multiple sites worldwide. Achieving that goal will depend on another kind of technology that is already commonplace for most enterprises. The latest connected digital solutions leverage the cloud to run application services and share data across distributed manufacturing sites. This is known as industrial intelligence as a service (IIaaS). Connect, AVEVA’s industrial intelligence platform, is one such solution. With over 60 offerings covering data management, engineering, operations and “Industrial intelligence is essential to balancing immediate impact with business longevity”