The Digital Factory – Gateway to the Future | HCLTech

The digital factory – gateway to the future

Digital transformation in the manufacturing industry has picked up pace as we are witnessing a paradigm shift in the adaptation of digital technologies within manufacturing operations.  
8 min read
Ralf Schulze


Ralf Schulze
Associate Vice President, Industry NeXT
8 min read

At the advent of Industry 4.0 (I4.0) around 2009, customer value created by the manufacturing industry was mainly based on physical products, and the art of possible was to create a portfolio of products that were capable to appeal to a wide range of customers. Hence individualization was a major requirement of that time and the challenge on hand was to be able to manage the portfolio which rapidly grew in size and complexity throughout the lifecycle and along the (global) supply chain.

Ever since the world has evolved in multiple ways:

Manufacturing business models have greatly shifted and customer value is now based on the augmentation (or even replacement) of physical products and digital services. In addition, customer experience becomes much more important than ownership New technologies have marked their way. The Internet of Things (IoT) has connected, Cloud has brought scale, Blockchain secures a connected ecosystem, Metaverse is on the verge of creating virtual reality and AI feeding into unprecedented ways just to gather insights Sustainability has captured the most recent center stage in all the upcoming transformation and modernization of the manufacturing landscape. It is not just limited to corporate social responsibility (CSR) rather have extended mandatorily to participate into circular economy and hence employ circular manufacturing processes to maximize re-use and minimize the waste output.

The list would definitely go way beyond this article, but in general manufacturing organizations have to change from product to customer experience centricity. They need to shift from controlling a supply chain to being a facilitator of a data-defined and cognitive ecosystem where the new art of the possible is to manage and combine data from various sources and create valuable insights for new growth models and revenue streams.

Digital transformation in the manufacturing industry has picked up pace as we are witnessing a paradigm shift in the adaptation of digital technologies within manufacturing operations.  That shift pillars around an Information Technology (IT)/ Operational Technology (OT) convergence to ensure that IT-managed services that has revolutionized IT industry become a replicable proposition in the manufacturing landscape.  In the factory,  assets  (OT) need to get connected and managed for any incidents in many similar ways as we handled ITIL processes today in end-user computing. However the OT space comes with multiple individual requirements and challenges such as high criticality, advanced security demands and a variety of technologies and standards used. So a 1:1 adaptation is not feasible.  A dedicated end2end OTSM (Operational Technology Service Management) framework process and solution is required. 

The result?  A resilient infrastructure that is high performing, secure, robust, and scalable for developing a connected platform for further manufacturing analytics and real-time data flow from shop-floor to top-floor.It is becoming clear that cost optimization drivers such as predictive maintenance, digital twins, and energy management are now mature use cases for manufacturing flagship digital initiatives and can be further industrialized to accelerate the adoption curve. These use cases after the safety use case which was widely implemented in the last 5 years with substantial tangible and non-tangible business gains could be seen as ready new use cases for bringing out operational change and agility in manufacturing operations.

The question on the table is, how does this affect the shop floor which is right in the middle of the Industry 4.0 transformation? The answer in short is A lot!

Manufacturing data is at the core of the data-defined cognitive ecosystem. It ensures manufacturing runs effectively, sustainably and smoothly and also enables many data-driven services. As a matter of fact the quest for flexibility and agility on the shop floor which powered the integration of data across the ISA 95 pyramid is now greatly accelerated.

Our customer is a global manufacturer of machine parts and tools which more than 150 factories worldwide. This connected manufacturing system needs to seamlessly work together and be integrated into a global physical supply chain and a digital ecosystem. In this data is critical and most of the data needs to start and end directly at the heart of operations aka the machine on the shop floor.

As a first step towards this highly ambitious transformation journey and also to keep up with the tag of being a leader in manufacturing innovation for decades started with a larger view of IT OT convergence and embarked on developing foundations through asset discovery and OT network security to ensure further Operational Technology Service Management (OTSM) is secure and all the latest security requirements are well defined and covered much early in the journey.  Some of the identified requirements in detail include:

Limited multi-lingual capability to support the large number of factories spread across the globe Overcome siloed operations and standardize technology adoption maturity Get a singular unified view of all shopfloor IT Obtain cost efficiency and an improved end-user experience derived through the reduction of multiple support touch points for different issues Reduce IT-OT convergence process gaps and lack of documentation Unified management & reporting for all Shopfloor IT Ensure maximum uptime of the digital backbone for the plants

One component of this is a flexible and powerful manufacturing data platform and smart manufacturing tools are at least equally important, however, the edge itself with connected OT devices and the OT network is another.

Azure IoT hub, Azure Sentinel, as well as Azure Defender for IoT, play a pivotal role in providing a seamless and secure OTSM across the enterprise. Cloud and edge are seamlessly integrated.

The growing value of data from and for the shop floor turns the  OT layer into a business-critical resource.  The challenge on hand with the manufacturing customer was to create a global OTSM (Operational Technology Service Management) with the same level of service at all 130+ plants because each plant provides critical data to its data-defined ecosystem. Leveraging the cloud and the Industry NeXT Smart Integrated Operations (SIO) propositions provided exactly that. In addition, a Digital Network Operations Center has overcome the traditional siloed approach to handle enterprise  IT and Shopfloor IT/OT. The benefits include:

~30% reduction in operation costs - Leveraging the converged dashboard with a consolidated view into asset performance, utilization, SLA & Availability

~40% Reduction in major incidents – Enabled by fixing IT-OT convergence process gaps and lack of documentation

~ 99% adherence to major KPI’s and SPI’s 40% reduction in TCO- Leveraging lean cross-skilled operations team and AI/ML base automation

~20% reduction in resolution time for L1 issues

The results are stunning and a true head start towards value creation in the era of Industry NeXT where value is created by customer experiences in data-defined cognitive ecosystems and waves of innovation make place for fluid innovation by ever-new digital technologies.

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