Industrial Automation

How Digitalization and Data Optimization Increase Manufacturing Competitiveness

Aurélien Fabre
Smart factories powered by automation improve asset efficiency, enhance product quality, reduce costs and boost safety and sustainability. How far along are you on your manufacturing digitalization journey?

It’s no longer a secret that manufacturers must optimize, automate and digitize processes and workflows to be successful and stay competitive. According to Deloitte, smart factories improve asset efficiency by 20%, improve product quality by 30%, reduce costs by 30% and boost safety and sustainability by 10%.


Nearly two-thirds of manufacturers in a recent Ericcson IndustryLab study expect to be at least 80% automated in the next 10 years. And nearly 90% expect artificial intelligence (AI) to be used in their production processes in the next 10 years.


But there remain many questions about how to approach the digitalization process, the stages involved and the benefits it brings.


Digitalization benefits from industry to industry

Difficult, dull, dirty and/or dangerous tasks, such as drilling holes, thermal spraying or inspecting paint jobs, can lead to high rates of absenteeism and manpower shortage—which isn’t ideal in a time when workers are already hard to find. By 2030, it’s estimated that up to 2.1 million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled.


In manufacturing, digitizing and automating workstations can help you attract new talent and retain existing workers. Automation makes the job—and the entire industry—more attractive. Rather than testing and inspecting for issues, for example, operators get to perform tasks they find interesting and that contribute more value to the company.


Rather than replacing people, which is often a fear associated with automation, machines act as assistants, facilitating the work of humans and freeing up their time. In fact, Oxford Economics reports that increased adoption of automation leads to greater employment across the economy.


In transportation, data digitization can help improve the passenger experience and help agencies and transportation authorities address the ongoing challenges of building long-term loyalty.


Within the energy market and process industry, data optimization is an essential tool to efficiently plan energy production, reduce energy consumption, prevent waste and lead the transformation toward renewable energy.


A successful approach to digital maturity

Every digitalization program is different. Yours must be developed not only with an overarching global view of the market, but also according to the digital maturity of your company, including resources, staffing capabilities, tech stacks and current technology.


This inevitable shift toward Industry 4.0 and IT/OT convergence also calls for purpose-built data management and optimization solutions that improve performance, efficiency and security in your specific environment.


Data management and optimization consists of a set of processes aimed at collecting, storing, processing, analyzing, sorting, visualizing and securing data in an efficient and relevant way. This helps businesses and factories manage substantial amounts of data so they can remain efficient and make informed, quick, and structured decisions.


The ideal solution enhances the value of existing assets by allowing you to maximize performance of legacy equipment while not being constrained by a single brand, protocol or solution. A customized digitalization solution also relieves you from the burden of overseeing your factory’s data management processes so you and your team can remain focused on production and operations.


A successful approach to digital maturity involves three prongs:

  • First, an OT network must be installed to automate the acquisition and transmission of data in real time.
  • Next, through data orchestration and management, a recommendation is made on how best to leverage the acquired information in a way that allows the plant manager to optimize production by making the right decisions.
  • This provides the foundation for a smart factory, which informs decisions and performs tedious or repetitive tasks autonomously through AI and machine learning. Ultimately, these technologies allow predictive maintenance actions to be conducted before the manufacturing process is impacted by downtime.


Defining the roadmap for your digitization journey

More and more data is being exchanged within manufacturing companies and factories. Being able to fully utilize data analytics and insights separates market leaders from followers. Companies that are efficiently digitalized will have a clear competitive advantage in terms of predictive maintenance, reduced downtime, manpower attraction and optimized energy use.


Belden helps you face this challenge by building a digital foundation to unleash the power of your real-time OT data. Our Customer Innovation Center experts design, develop and validate sustainable and secure network solutions tailored to the complexity of your unique business needs.


If you’re not sure where to begin, the experts at Belden are ready to guide you step by step in your digitization journey.


To learn more about this topic, watch our interview on BFM Business JMLECO, featuring Belden’s Aurelien Fabre, vice president of solution sales, EMEA.



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