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Smarter Manufacturing: rising to the challenge

Nick Offin, Head of Sales, Marketing & Operations, Northern Europe at Dynabook (formerly Toshiba UK), examines the challenges smart manufacturers mu...

Nick Offin, Dynabook
|Mar 11|magazine23 min read

Nick Offin, Head of Sales, Marketing & Operations, Northern Europe at Dynabook (formerly Toshiba UK), examines the challenges smart manufacturers must overcome in their quest for increased productivity driven by digital transformation.

The manufacturing industry is on the cusp of a new digital-first era. Technology is changing everything from design to production. It’s no surprise then, that digital transformation has become top of the agenda for those working in the sector; and for good reason. According to recent research by MIT, factory digitisation could provide digitally-savvy companies 38% higher revenue growth than those that have not yet digitised their business. The promise of increased employee productivity, faster time to market and more efficient operations is becoming too great for many to ignore. 

However, the road to a digital-first workforce isn’t an easy one, especially for manufacturing organisations who have traditionally relied on legacy systems and processes. Though digital transformation efforts are underway for some manufacturers, many obstacles remain a concern. The top barriers range from insufficient budgets and cybersecurity concerns to legacy systems and the adoption of new technologies. 

Despite these concerns, manufacturers need to evolve with today’s increasingly competitive landscape in which consumers are demanding goods at a faster rate and of higher quality. Tackling the hurdles to digital transformation has never been more important. So, how can manufacturers overcome these challenges and successfully transform their business into a smarter organisation?

No quick payback 

Digital transformation obviously doesn’t come without extra investment. It’s therefore unsurprising that a common roadblock on a manufacturer’s digital transformation journey is a lack of funds. For manufacturing businesses who are lucky enough to receive greater IT budgets, much of the attention is placed on the adoption of AI, machine learning and automation. However, while collaboration between workers and machines is a key area of development for manufacturing, it’s also about change taking place at all levels – right down to the technologies that employees are using on a day-to-day basis. 

Hardware remains a key part of any manufacturing business’ IT strategy. As manufacturing operations management becomes increasingly digital, production staff and non-factory floor teams alike need devices that can keep up with the demands of the modern manufacturing IT ecosystem. However, it’s a no-brainer that completely overhauling an employee device strategy with new devices is an expensive and time-intensive process. Not to mention managing the day-to-day device lifecycle management, which adds significant complexity. 

To overcome this, many manufacturing businesses are turning to other purchasing options, such as PC-as-a-Service (PCaaS). PCaaS, which can encompass everything from mobile devices to desktop PCs, is an Opex (operational expenditure) subscription-based model that often includes a full spectrum of services from purchasing and configurating to managing, refreshing and retiring devices. This means a business pays a monthly rate for the use of a vendor’s devices and additional services, rather than buying hardware outright (referred to as Capex). Organisations can benefit from updated technology, whilst being able to amortise device costs over time, as well as scaling up and down depending on the need. 

Overcoming key security challenges

The PCaaS model also provides a potential solution to another common barrier to digital transformation in manufacturing – security. PCaaS can encompass data backup, recovery and remote wiping, giving a manufacturer the peace of mind that if the device is stolen, damaged or suffers a cyber-attack that valuable corporate data can be both wiped or recovered. 

According to a recent survey, 50% of manufacturers have experienced data breaches in the past year. For manufacturing organisations, intellectual property (IP) is one of the most valuable assets. With many having vast amounts of data regarding products, patents, designs, suppliers, customers, data loss prevention is a primary worry for this sector. 

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Manufacturers must keep up with the growing sophistication of cybercriminals and not let the fear of this challenge hold the industry back. But this is no easy task. As with any IT project, it’s fundamental that manufacturing businesses consider security from day zero and equip themselves with the right protective technologies. Devices which include advanced biometric features and hardware-based credential storage capabilities provide an active first line of defence. Other security measures such as zero client solutions go even further and help nullify data-related threats by withdrawing sensitive data from the device itself. With information stored away on a central, cloud-based system, these solutions protect against unsolicited access to information if a device is lost or stolen.

Keeping up with innovation 

Manufacturing is adopting new technologies such as AR, 5G and IoT at a growing rate, which have been the catalyst for business-wide digital transformation efforts. For example, AR has emerged as a powerful new tool to bridge the gap between the digital and real worlds for assemblers, operators, and technicians. However, reliance on legacy systems is posing a significant bottleneck for many manufacturers looking to build a digital-first business. The problem is that these new technologies create vast amounts of data. Many manufacturers are struggling to scale their IT capabilities to process this data, as well as use it efficiently to improve and automate decisions in order to optimise output. 

So, what’s the answer for those who don’t have the resources to simply ‘rip and replace’ infrastructure and how can the value of data be untapped? Edge computing solutions enable manufacturers to gather, analyse and redistribute vast data sets and assist in turning them into actionable insights. 

The pressure to keep up with innovation and evolving market demands is not new for manufacturers. Digital transformation will undoubtedly remain a major part of business conversations in the manufacturing industry for years to come. With 90% of industrial company leaders believing digitisation offers more opportunities than risks, the benefits for those embracing digital transformation are clear – they’ll just need to be bold and make the transformative move.

About Dynabook Europe

Formerly known as Toshiba Client Solutions Europe, the Dynabook brand has a long established heritage in Japan. As an industry leader, Toshiba launched the world’s first laptop computer, the T1100 in 1985, and followed it up with the world’s first notebook computer, the Dynabook J-3100 SS001 in 1989. These two portable computing innovations allowed people to safely and securely work anywhere they wanted and defined today’s mobile computing market. Ever since, Toshiba has always delivered award winning innovative products and services that integrate the latest technology and design, whilst delivering outstanding quality and reliability.

Sharp Corporation obtained 80.1% of Toshiba Client Solutions in October 2018 and saw Yoshihisa Ishida, the Executive Vice President of Sharp, join the company as its new Representative Director, Chairman. Damian Jaume, President of Dynabook Europe GmbH leads the business in EMEA. Dynabook Europe offers a broad and collaborative product roadmap, including a broad range of mobile computing and mobile edge computing solutions.