The New Manufacturing Workplace

OnWindows: Prime Magazine, Summer 2014

Prime is the authoritative source on Microsoft software and services for discrete and process manufacturing. The magazine explores the key issues facing firms in the industry today and covers all the latest technology trends.

For decades, manufacturing was a productivity-driven business, setting an example to other sectors on how to run an efficient operation. But today’s connected world is a very different place to work and, as a result, manufacturers have fallen behind other industries that have been quicker at adopting new technologies. “Manufacturers are under a lot of pressure," says Russ Agrusa, ICONICS president and CEO. “If they can’t make money then they have to close up shop or move somewhere with cheaper labour. To stay in business, they need to reduce costs, improve efficiency and do more with less.”

But the industry has come up against a number of challenges that have inhibited its productivity, as Indranil Sircar, director of manufacturing industry technical strategy at Microsoft, explains: “Manufacturers can no longer create products entirely within their four walls. With their increasingly global footprint, they need to identify problems – and also solutions – faster while also catering for customers in new markets, developing new products to meet the needs of connected consumers and adhering to increasingly complex regulations. Meanwhile, as the baby boomer generation retires and people move jobs, knowledge will be lost if it is not captured, which is difficult with the paper-based processes in use on many factory floors.”

To overcome these challenges, manufacturers need to create an environment that will enable the next generation workforce to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible. But many IT systems and information tools are so restrictive that people work around them instead of with them. “Traditional enterprise content management systems are fairly complex, as well as being expensive and difficult to implement, and hard for users to get information from,” says Dave Martin, VP of Product Marketing and Microsoft Global Alliance at Gimmal.

“Often, it’s too time consuming for employees to go into their IT systems and find the information they’re looking for so they use personal e-mail or a USB key instead,” says Ron Close, director of ENOVIA Brand Marketing at Dassault Systèmes. “One high-tech company we work with prides itself on its high level of security, but it also uses Dropbox to share information, which poses a risk of data loss or intellectual property theft.”

To eliminate this problem, manufacturers need to provide systems that are user-friendly and similar to the ones employees use in their day-to-day lives. “The younger generation see the value in these solutions and can be up and running very quickly with minimal training,” says Jan Larsson, senior marketing director EMEA at Siemens PLM Software. “What employees can’t see the value in is working with paper-based archives or having to manually search when they can use Bing. We integrated our Teamcenter solution with the Microsoft Office suite to provide a familiar way of working that the millennial generation will embrace.”

“In the past, people’s IT experience was learnt at work, but now employees often use more innovative technology at home than they do in the office,” adds Close. “Manufacturers should try to create an environment that caters to trends such as bring your own device or bring your own application in a secure manner, as well as creating a dynamic environment that enables anytime, anywhere working.”

As well as creating an experience that mimics the way employees use technology in their own lives, manufacturers must also cater for changing workstyles. “The profile of the employee has changed in the last three to four years with the rise of mobile working,” says Eduard Marfà, EMEA marketing director of Lifecycle Collaboration at Siemens PLM Software. “According to the Forrester study The Rise of Wannabe and Maverick Mobile Workers published in 2011, 57% of workers were mobile in 2010, but this is expected to rise to 93% in 2015. Employees also no longer have a single job, but instead they have multiple roles within an organisation and everybody is more involved in the manufacture of a product.”

With this multi-role workstyle, employees are dealing with an increasing amount of information, much of which is unstructured. “A few weeks ago I was speaking to some designers at an event who said they spend about half their day just sifting through information,” says Close. “The challenge is to build an environment where people can absorb the right information at the right time and are able to make use of information rather than being burdened by it. Our 3DEXPERIENCE Platform combines role-based internal data with outside information – such as the prices of materials and supplier readiness –which employees can access through a dashboard and see in a highly visual way through graphs and charts. We’ve also incorporated social capabilities such as secure workspaces, chat functionality and message boards to ensure all information and conversations are captured, stored and shared in a secure manner.”

“Employees on the factory floor communicate in a variety of different ways from text messages to e-mail to verbal communication and pieces of paper,” adds Sircar. “Manufacturers need to capture all that information and provide it to the right employee at the right time so they can gain insight.”

To empower users to be more productive and gain this insight, manufacturers must enable better communication, both internally and externally. “Today’s employees use multiple IT systems and interact with an extended network of suppliers and partners,” says Larsson. “Manufacturers need to connect all their systems to enable communication and information sharing in a secure way and provide insight to the right employees so they can make a decision anywhere in the process with all the relevant, contextual information to hand. Involving employees and making them feel part of the process from day one leads to a better outcome and allows them to understand how their decisions affect the organisation as a whole.”

According to Martin, manufacturers often see technology as being the answer to all these problems when really it’s only part of the solution. “Empowerment comes from looking at the different roles of employees and then finding a solution that caters to their needs and experience, as well as addressing any process improvements and enabling better access to information,” he says. “Manufacturers can use SharePoint as an information management platform to ensure content control and better collaboration and tie together people and processes through role-based workflows. Gimmal extends the SharePoint platform by providing information governance, content-aware processes and an enhanced user experience, and can deliver this to any Windows 8 device through our GimmalPoint app. It also focuses on search to enable quick access to data, which is important for the next generation who expect the immediate provision of information. As we see a future where users will not only want to access and work with content but also business applications, we have connected SharePoint and SAP to enable users to execute business processes in SAP from SharePoint.”

ICONICS specialises in enabling productivity centres to visualise, analyse and mobilise their data for faster decision making and increased efficiency. “Our Productivity Analytics solution collects real-time and accurate information from multiple data sources and presents it in an intuitive and intelligent visual way,” says Alexander Pinkham, GENESIS64 product marketing manager at ICONICS. “This data can be stored securely in the cloud through our Cloud Connector for Azure and then delivered to one of our four responsively-designed MobileHMI apps for Windows 8, which are optimised for every device and operating system. The future of manufacturing is the ability to receive real-time data on your own mobile device from anywhere in the world while still connected to your enterprise and your responsibility.”

Siemens PLM Software’s aim – in partnership with Microsoft – is to create a total information availability environment by enabling access to all information on any device or platform. Marfà explains: “Our solutions will not only be able to provide the information, but also filter and process it and then deliver this in an optimised way through any device or any operating system. That is the goal of our Active Workspace touch-enabled interface, which supports mobile and desktop devices and integrates with Office and the complete Siemens PLM Software portfolio to cut training time and improve user adoption.” “Technology moves at a fast pace so we need to be moving at the same speed and evolve the IT backbone we provide manufacturers at that same rate,” adds Larsson. “This means we can cater for not only the technology that manufacturers are looking at today, but whatever is around the corner or will come out in five or ten years’ time.”

Microsoft’s vision for productivity in the modern workplace focuses on four building blocks: natural expression, social workplaces, self-service insight and responsible empowerment. Sircar explains: “Through Windows 8.1, employees have access to a modern user interface that provides a more natural, clean and uncluttered way of working. Microsoft technologies such as Yammer and SharePoint create a more social workspace that engages internal and external teams to solve problems quickly, enables innovation through crowdsourcing ideas, and allows real-time collaboration through Lync.

“Using Microsoft's Power BI for Office 365 cloud-based business intelligence solution, manufacturers can gain insight from their data, working within Excel to analyse and visualise data in a self-service way. The solution includes Power Query, which allows manufacturers to search and access public and internal data from within Excel, as well as the Power Map 3D data visualisation tool for mapping, exploring and interacting with geographic and temporal data, and Power Pivot, which allows manufacturers to create and customize flexible data models within Excel. Finally, manufacturers can create interactive charts, graphs and other visual representations of data within Power View.”

Sircar concludes: “We provide all the tools to enable manufacturers to create the most effective and productive workplace that provides the level of control and confidence they need to transform their operations.”