South Africa’s manufacturing industry has shown steep declines over the last few years, driven by global economic pressure and depressed commodity prices which have negatively affected the mining sector. Mining requirements drove a significant percentage of historical manufacturing. The Deloitte Global Manufacturing Competitiveness survey now ranks South Africa 27th in the world, down three places from 2013. Unless we can improve productivity and streamline manufacturing operations through the adoption of innovative new technologies, we can expect South African manufacturers to slip even further down the global league tables.
Companies already know that in order to remain competitive they must streamline operations, increase productivity and continually innovate. However, this is easier said than done as competitors will not be sitting on their hands. Good decisions are made with good information – but as manufacturing complexity increases, so manufacturers need to find new ways of accessing useful information that will allow them to be smarter at what they do.
This is where data analytics, made possible by the internet of things (IoT), can help South African companies to compete with their global peers and improve their performance. Companies that have embraced IoT have already started to become more globally competitive as they streamline operations, increase productivity, and reduce costly wastage.
IoT allows manufacturers to aggregate information from across business operations and processes. By monitoring the productivity and efficiency of employees, machinery and business processes, the company management is now able to access important information in real time. They are able to monitor their entire manufacturing value chain, from concept to completion and beyond. This will assist them to make better business decisions and identify new avenues to reduce costs and improve revenues. Ultimately, the business becomes inherently smarter and improves its ability to compete with its international peers.
Most companies have a range of systems currently operating in silos. Ideally, however, companies should have a consolidated view of their entire IoT ecosystem, allowing them to input all documented business processes into one workflow application and detect all devices on a network seamlessly.
For example, car manufacturing now takes place almost entirely by machine, using parts manufactured and imported from different corners of the world. This is a difficult process to manage. With IoT the digital supply chain is supported by advanced predictive analytics that coordinate all principal partners, countries, individual parts, thousands of suppliers and even employees in the factories.
As more companies reap the benefits of a robust IoT infrastructure, the outlook for the future of manufacturing becomes much more positive. Improved monitoring and analysis allows manufacturers to anticipate and address costly downtime, gain better insights into customer needs and adapt manufacturing processes to improve products and meet evolving needs of customers. Best of all, potential problems in the manufacturing process can be identified and fixed before they happen. Imagine a world of no unplanned downtime and how this would improve operational efficiencies. This is the promise of IoT and Industry 4.0.
Manufacturers wanting to compete successfully on a global scale should be increasing their investment in IoT infrastructure or run the risk of becoming redundant in an increasingly global village.
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