Reimagining manufacturing with Industry NXT: Creating a digital ecosystem | HCLTech

Reimagining manufacturing with Industry NXT: Creating a digital ecosystem

March 21, 2023
8.8 min
Andy Packham


Andy Packham
Chief Architect & SVP , Microsoft Business Unit, HCLTech
Ralf Schulze


Ralf Schulze
Associate Vice President, Industry NeXT
Ward Lawrence


Ward Lawrence
Sr. Director, Manufacturing and Supply Chain Partner Strategy Lead
March 21, 2023
8.8 min

The manufacturing industry faces unprecedented challenges post the pandemic with the shortage of materials, varying market demands, workforce disruptions and changing consumer behavior. As businesses strive to adjust to normal, the evolution to the next era includes resilience, business agility, technology adoption and future-proof transformative solutions. The manufacturing industries can leverage innovative solutions, data intelligence, automation and A.I. capabilities by creating a value-based digital connected ecosystem that unifies stakeholders, operations and factories. It can help deliver differentiated business value, improve operational efficiency and meet multi-directional challenges to drive growth. As disruptive forces continue transforming the manufacturing industry through industry 4.0, strives to accelerate industry transformation with enhanced scalability while retaining the potential to heal and foster innovation.

Agility and visibility: Need of the hour

Manufacturing industries must be agile and secure to ensure they can operate under changing circumstances, business direction and adaptive strategies to tackle the VUCA environment. The crucial factor that drives adaptability is changing the nature of manufacturing to suit the fluctuating market needs.

Traditionally, the marketplace was driven by consumers largely dependent on the experience of physical products. The value creation of the product used to drive the experiences. However, this has recently changed as the consumer wants to perceive the value of experience before purchasing, which is possible through augmented reality. While these experiences might vary with product experiences, manufacturing companies need digital services to bring products to a new world where the value perception is completely changed.

The changed narrative brings an operational perspective into the discussion where factories need more agility within and beyond. This signifies rapid transformation in the supply change and the after-sales scenario. The need also translates to more visibility, where the assets used to create value and customer experiences entail more productivity. The way to achieve this is to consider them part of the cognitive or data-driven ecosystem. The ability to exchange these assets and information and rate their performance based on evaluating novel systems leads to a sustainable and value-based novel system.

Lastly, the pressure on the supply chain or supply network needs to be addressed through visibility where manufacturers can identify upcoming issues and ensure that risk management avoids any problem within the supply chain.

Four key transformational drivers

  1. Workforce transformation
    The widening skill gap and the need for talent pools are rising challenges in the manufacturing industry. However, industries are striving to improve productivity in employees through automation. Through modernization, factories can integrate automated alerts into manufacturing systems to mitigate the rising issues and improve communications across the enterprise. Organizations can leverage technologies like HoloLens for service machines on the shop floor to eliminate long person hours investment for training. Furthermore, industries can enhance employee retention by leveraging new Metaverse technology for collaborative design and simulation to help attract younger talent and connect the company's entire workforce worldwide.

  2. Automation
    Manufacturing needs to be more agile than ever. Industries turning towards automation entail robust cloud reliability or an effective hybrid approach with edge-based capabilities. Many factories use cloud reliability to facilitate automation. In cases like semiconductor manufacturing, companies can adopt new facilities that make designing a greenfield environment that includes automation easier. Therefore, the first order of business should ensure that the machines have efficient connections to gather the data to sustain and improve operations. It could be through augmented worker productivity or full automation.
  1. Digital engineering
    The COVID-19 pandemic and the hybrid ways of working necessitated that engineers access their workstations and software in the cloud. This situation led to PLM, CAD and CAE systems being cloud-enabled. This further increased the desire to introduce more collaboration into the design process. It can also create a digital thread, which is increasingly essential for industries such as sizable discrete manufacturing companies, automotive and aerospace, process manufacturing, or web-based customized ordering manufacturing facilities.
  1. Resilient supply chain
    The resilient supply chain is about unlocking the data across multiple silos. While most supply chain data is in the ERP systems, which are well-structured and managed by IT, resilient supply chains combine the company's data with their overall ecosystem of suppliers. They also bring in third-party information, such as logistic information, to gain end-to-end visibility. Once that data exists, manufacturing companies can begin to layer air services on top of it to create a more autonomous supply chain.

Addressing manufacturing through digital transformation

The biggest challenge for manufacturing industries is to achieve consistency and security. As most factories are on-prem and on edge, they require a fair amount of effort to standardize and update the ecosystem resulting in management problems on an ongoing basis. Cloud enablement can truly help drive standardization and simplify infrastructure management. Through sustainable transformation, manufacturers can introduce secure operations. Presently, most IoT devices could be considered attack vectors. Therefore, having a secure infrastructure is paramount. Transformative solutions that utilize Microsoft tools that can help ensure secure factory infrastructure.

Additionally, HCLTech's collaboration with Microsoft through engineering capabilities can assist manufacturing companies in bridging OT and IT and achieving end visibility from engineering to production to delivery. Furthermore, the solution can ensure continuous connectivity through the cloud to mitigate unplanned downtime, the most common source of bottlenecks in the manufacturing processes.

While many manufacturing companies have yet to adopt industry 4.0 or even industry 3.0, the transition to industry 5.0 looks closer through connected technologies. However, the transition must promote the evolution of the operational process rather than pushing the modernization narrative under pressure from the tech industry. built on the industry 4.0 foundations can allow manufacturing companies to close the information collected from the supply chain to create actionable insights- A supply chain digital twin. Closing the gap through data analytics can automate the resolution process within the supply chain and bring visibility resembling the supply chain digital twin. This process can allow manufacturers to move towards a self-healing supply chain concept that identifies issues, brings real-time alerts and modifies processes to meet business needs without downtime. Digital transformation can accelerate digital innovation where the product is no longer about a physical supply chain but an augmented customer experience built of physical products and digital services. It redefines manufacturing factories by transcending functional data silos and leveraging the collective intelligence generated by the ecosystem.


As manufacturing companies strive for resilience, they entail digital ecosystems that can drive growth and business value through integrated delivery models that unify stakeholders, operations and processes. Innovative digital solutions, data management and AI can enable modern manufacturing companies to discover transformational business potential through cognitive ecosystems. The modernized framework can facilitate connected experiences, improve operational efficiency and help organizations implement best practices. This will further power the industry 4.0 era in the manufacturing industry, enabling them to create differentiated business value through workforce transformation, smart assets, integrated systems and sustainable business operations through comprehensive digital solutions.

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