What is Digitization?
Digitization is the first step in the digital transformation process, paving the way for vast operational and efficiency improvements in organizations.
Digitization is the process by which a piece of information or an object is converted from a non-digital format into a digital format. A good example is a digital version of a hand-written signature. Provided the signature is verified and approved, it can then be used to sign-off on projects and contracts far more efficiently than getting a person to physically sign a document. Similarly, paper lists that are used to record information or carry out checks on a shop floor can be converted into digital formats – such as a PDF, Google Doc, or an app – and easily shared with large numbers of personnel and updated as needed.
How Digitization Enhances Manufacturing Operations
By creating a bridge between the physical world and technology, digitization is a foundational step in industry 4.0. When non-digital information is digitized, it can be used by computer systems in a variety of ways offering several advantages:
Data collection & analysis – Rather than manually collecting data from machines, writing a list to be uploaded to a computer system later, data can be automatically collected directly from the machines and uploaded to management software for analysis and to inform decision-making and planning.
Sharing information – Instead of physically delivering reports to different departments, stakeholders can access the relevant information directly (and often in real-time). This can eliminate silos where people in one department don’t know what’s going on in another.
Updates – When inevitable changes occur in a manually-run factory, it means production is halted while new plans are printed, distributed, approved, and re-uploaded. Digitally, this process can happen seamlessly and updates can quickly and easily be made as often as needed.
Pros and Cons of Digitization
Speed – As digital information is easier to share, access, update and analyze, manufacturing processes move faster in a digitized factory. Digitization also increases productivity and decreases time to market. This benefit is particularly evident in manufacturing design, where the manual step of printing and disseminating proofs and plans is eliminated and manufacturers can rapidly move from the design stage to the shop floor and back, as many times as needed.
Towards the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – IIoT refers to a network of connected devices in the industrial sector. The vision of IIoT is that machines loaded with sensors provide continuous feedback throughout the manufacturing supply chain. Data regarding maintenance requirements, malfunctions, machine downtime, and more can then be used to adjust and refine the manufacturing process. Data can also be fed into business intelligence (BI) tools for analysis providing managers with the means to identify and rectify inefficiencies.
Integrated manufacturing processes – Many analog organizations struggle to maintain efficient communication and information-sharing across departments or across sites (especially for global companies). By making data easy to share across a network, digitization can eliminate this issue.
Innovation & enhancement – The ability to push new products through the design, revise, and build stages faster leads to enhanced innovation and better end-products.
Cost – Going digital can be expensive, especially in large sites with many employees that need to be upskilled. While the benefits to be gained by digitization may offset the initial outlay, many traditional businesses are daunted by the initial costs.
Security issues – Storing information on a network, – especially a cloud-based one – does pose a number of security challenges including the risk of hackers and stolen data.
Energy consumption – The sheer number of machines and devices in use in a digitized factory leads to higher energy consumption than in a traditional factory. While efficiency benefits may offset some of the related costs, many businesses will have environmental-related concerns.
Risk of malfunction – When relying on computers to manage and run most of your daily operations, even a small malfunction can cause a crisis. To counteract the risk of downtime due to a technology malfunction, businesses will need a good maintenance protocol and a responsive maintenance team. Backup power generators can mitigate the risks of power outages.
How Matics Can Help
The Matics RtOI (real-time operational intelligence) solution offers full visibility and control over all factory processes giving factory managers the actionable data they need to make better business decisions, streamline workflows and increase profitability. As Matics relies on continuous data-collection from your machines (which it then transmits to the dashboard for analysis and action-taking), only organizations that have undergone digitization can benefit.