Challenges of Factory Digitalization
Challenge 1: Lack of integrated strategic planning
Due to the lack of overall strategic planning, it led to the specific needs of future factory digitization are unclear and the current digital level of enterprises is insufficient cognition. Therefore, it is impossible to objectively judge the gap between the two and determine the capacity for reinforcement.
Many Chinese enterprises consider the development and construction of digital factories from the perspective of software (technology) and hardware (equipment). They rely on in-house experienced engineers and professionals to work with suppliers. Through the integration of various solutions to realize automation and tracking.
Although this method is effective. But in many cases, it does not solve the fundamental strategic question of “Why to Build a Digital Factory“. Therefore, enterprises should promote the construction of digital factories in a logical way, and consider problems from the overall perspective of strategy, product design, changes in operation mode, and so on. The enterprises need to choose the right technology based on their actual situation and goals, rather than blindly pursue cutting-edge technology.
Challenge 2: The Return on Investment Takes Time
In certain industries, especially in the discrete manufacturing field, digitization and automation are depending on its current infrastructure and the entire production process. So, if the enterprises want to achieve a high degree of factory digitalization or automation, the technical aspects need a long time to accumulate. From a cost-benefit perspective, it may take a long time to recoup the investment. Thus, enterprises should not only think about efficiency in terms of return on investment.
Otherwise, it will make companies hesitant to turn into digital factories. Nowadays, sustainable development has been paid more attention, production safety has been regulated and the labor dividend has gradually disappeared. The energy conservation, emission reduction, man-machine interaction, remote control, and other requirements of the digital factory can bring significant social benefits.
Enterprises can use some quantitative indicators to assess the effectiveness of the digital factory. For example, production efficiency, output per person, energy consumption, quality control (defective rate), production cycle, etc. Qualitative indicators such as reduced manual effort, improved staff morale (the work is no longer boring, but more fun and added value), and increased staff loyalty can also be used to aid the evaluation. The different demands of the industry and the enterprise will also have a certain impact on the selection of indicators.
Not only those common indicators such as production efficiency, yield, and production cycle can be used to measure the effectiveness of the digital factory, but other indicators also can be used to measure the effectiveness of the digital factory. For example, a textile enterprise chose to measure the performance of its digital factory by comparing the number of workers before and after and a construction machinery giant chose to add logistics efficiency and other indicators to measure the effectiveness of its digital factory.
Challenge 3: Technology hasn’t been Fully Considered
Compared with other countries, the technology of automation and factory digitalization in China is not long. Even within the same industry, the degree of automation and technology of enterprises can vary widely. The data distribution is scattered, and it is difficult to obtain systematic data. Thus, it makes it difficult to set standards. Even in some traditional industries, they are also putting effort in develop digital factories. Here has a major problem that Chinese companies have to deal with the poor equipment, it is because most of the companies are still lagging behind. So they cannot capture and transmit data in real-time. However, there are solutions represented by lighting systems that can supplement manual operations. It can help the factory effectively integrate.
Chinese enterprises tend to pay more attention to the automation rate and they ignored that the production system is a whole. Enterprise resource planning (ERP), manufacturing execution system (MES), and Product Life Cycle Management (PLM) need to be interconnected. Therefore, companies need to develop a technology roadmap based on their digital factory strategy and implement various technology transformation initiatives. It will help to minimize the implementation risks and avoid impact on business and operations.
Challenge 4: Talents of Factory Digitalization
Factory Digitalization and automation will undoubtedly reduce manual duplication, improve the working environment, and ensure personal safety. The production and operation process of the digital factory is highly integrated, which puts forward higher requirements for technical talents. Instead of single-field specialists in the past, they will be replaced by interdisciplinary talents who can learn more and understand digital delivery across multiple fields.