Digital transformation: a trend MTO manufacturers can't ignore

This blog series has examined several of the key trends shaping the make-to-order (MTO) manufacturing landscape today: mass customization, the Amazon effect, and globalization.

There's another important trend that underpins them all: digital transformation. In an era where many of the things we take for granted in everyday life—catching a ride, grocery shopping, booking a flight—have been transformed by digital technologies, it's no surprise that the manufacturing sector is also keen to take advantage of the benefits digital transformation offers.

Industry 4.0 approaches, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML)—these are now much more than mere futuristic buzzwords. Along with other technologies, they're driving change throughout MTO manufacturing. By enabling increased flexibility, agility and responsiveness—and streamlining manufacturing processes—they're poised to help manufacturers embrace mass customization, deliver the levels of self-service and visibility business buyers want, and compete on a global scale.

How to get started

The vision for manufacturing digital transformation can be almost anything you can imagine. Drones carrying out the previously time-consuming task of inventory counts. Employees tracking parts with the sweep of a smart glove as part of a more efficient process. A digital view of the connected factory floor for better operational awareness of machine performance dips or maintenance requirements, so that workers can fix the issues fast and avoid disruption to production lines.

When it comes down to it, however, investment at that scale isn't always possible. But what is possible is to start small, and take your digital transformation journey in stages.

Your starting point could be to mount a low-cost sensor on a single machine, so that you can start gathering data about, for example, temperature and vibration, and learn to understand the implications of that information. The next step might be to gain insight into the baseline output of the machine, and arrange to receive an alert if production slips by a given percentage.

Evidently, as well as collecting data, you need to be able to analyze and use it as you pursue your digital transformation. That's where a manufacturing-specific enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution can come in. If your ERP solution can monitor and visualize data collected from sensors, and combine it with production data from other sources—including its own database, you'll gain the intelligent insights needed to drive new levels of operational efficiency and smarter decisions—ensuring you quickly start to reap the benefits digital transformation has to offer.

Discover more

Dolphin Group, a specialist in industrial and automotive thermal products, builds almost 90% of its products to order. With the help of Epicor ERP, it has transformed its operations across the Middle East through automation, process digitization, and real-time availability of data across the enterprise.

To learn how Epicor ERP could help you drive the digital transformation of your MTO manufacturing operation, contact us today.