Digitalisation in Manufacturing


  1. Digitalisation and automation are essential for competitiveness in manufacturing.
  2. Effective digitalisation improves operations, safety, quality, and sustainability while reducing costs.
  3. Applications of digitalisation include IoT sensors, data analytics, AI and automation, software systems, smart manufacturing, predictive maintenance, and augmented/digital reality.
  4. The benefits of digitalisation include safety, connectivity, communication, smart technology utilisation, improved operations, and sustainability.

Since 2020, the global pandemic has caused significant changes in the manufacturing world, including shifts in strategy, technology, and methodology. Manufacturers now focus on working smarter rather than working harder, emphasising sustainability, cost reductions, safety, and efficiency. To remain relevant in the industry, it is crucial for manufacturers to keep up with innovations and adopt digitalisation and automation within their manufacturing plants. Failing to do so can result in poor productivity, obsolete equipment, and unproductive staff, putting businesses behind the competition.

Effective digitalisation involves integrating appropriate digital technologies into all aspects of the industry to improve and streamline overall operational processes. While implementing digitalisation across the entire business at once can be expensive and cause downtime, it can be carried out incrementally, starting with the most inefficient aspect of the process and gradually expanding from there. With proper planning, this approach can lead to improvements in safety, quality, staff productivity, sustainability, and cost savings through process efficiencies.

Applications of Digitalisation

Digitalisation encompasses more than just storing documents in the cloud and automating some manufacturing processes. It significantly impacts the entire business, enhancing productivity and saving money. Various aspects of the manufacturing process can benefit from digitalisation, including:

  1. Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) Sensors: These sensors monitor manufacturing processes, equipment performance, temperature, and gas levels. They are valuable for managing inventory, monitoring environmental conditions, and reducing energy consumption.
  2. Data Analytics: Collecting data is helpful, but analyzing that data and using the findings to gauge the market and drive improvements is crucial.
  3. AI and Automation: Many manufacturing plants utilise AI and automation to streamline processes, and improve safety, productivity, efficiency, and sustainability. Automating repetitive tasks allows skilled workers to focus on areas where their expertise has the most significant impact.
  4. Software: Cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems enable data storage in the cloud, facilitating staff collaboration on projects regardless of location. ERP systems also assist in managing inventory, production, customer relations, and real-time insights into customer buying habits.
  5. Smart Manufacturing: Digital technology and automation connect different manufacturing devices and equipment, enabling them to communicate and gather operations data. This approach is particularly useful for quality control and supply chain management, resulting in better inventory management, faster problem resolution, and reduced costs.
  6. Predictive Maintenance: By monitoring equipment for signs of wear and making adjustments to running processes, digitalisation enables predictive maintenance planning. This proactive approach reduces downtime and saves money by preventing equipment breakdowns.
  7. Augmented and Digital Reality: Both augmented and digital reality systems have been adopted in the manufacturing industry for training purposes. They create augmented reality demonstrations of how to carry out specific tasks or allow staff to train in a virtual space.

Read more The Link Between the Above and E-Commerce

Benefits of Digitalisation

Digitalization offers vast benefits that cover the entire manufacturing operation. Improved data collection and analytics enable informed decision-making and process enhancements. The key benefits include:

  1. Safety: Streamlined operations, updated machinery, and efficiency improvements lead to a reduction in staff injuries and accidents.
  2. Connectivity: Increased adoption of the Internet of Things has demonstrated that digital connectivity improves operations, inventory management, employee relationships, equipment maintenance, and customer satisfaction.
  3. Communication: Digitisation and streamlined workflows improve communication between staff, employees, and departments, regardless of location. Valuable data gathered through digital transformation informs decision-making and drives predictive improvements.
  4. Smart Technology: Automation and digitalisation have enabled the adoption of smart technologies such as AI, robotics, and digital printing. These technologies reduce human error and injury, create smoother processes, improve quality, and increase production.
  5. Operations Management: Automation and digitalisation make operations management more effective by reducing waste, optimizing efficiency through streamlined processes, improving quality, and adapting to real-time data.
  6. Sustainability: Smart digitalisation reduces reworking and repairs, minimizing energy, time, and monetary waste. Streamlined processes also help minimize waste, repurpose materials, and run machinery more efficiently, contributing to a more sustainable business.

Read more about the Role of Electric Motors in Digitalisation

While digitalisation brings numerous benefits, it also poses challenges. Beginning the digitalization process can be daunting, and it is crucial to invest in the right technology to stay competitive and maximize returns. Managing the change effectively, including training staff and minimizing disruption during the transition, is essential.

Digitisation supports human workers by removing tedious, repetitive tasks and redirecting their skills to more impactful areas. While the transition may require adjustments, it ultimately results in safer, more enjoyable, and more efficient work environments.

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