Decision paralysis and what to do about it
Struggling with aging infrastructures and limited budgets, manufacturers today must prioritize several items when modernizing a plant. This is not always easy. The speed of change can be overwhelming to any organization, especially when the stakes are high and customers depend on the plant’s output.
Managers know they must invest in tools which will best support a wide spectrum of issues, such as value, security, and reliability for customers. Fortunately, modern IT solutions offer measurable benefits—simplifying the decision process and quickly setting the manufacturer on a fast-track to achieving asset reliability.
Eight influencing factors
- Rapid change: Digitalization is sweeping across industries worldwide, changing the way we shop, communicate, do banking, and travel. It is a new era, driven by technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI). Manufacturers face their share of digital upheaval as alternative delivery systems and evolving customer demands have changed the dynamics of the operations team.
- Complex processes: In addition to innovations in delivery, manufacturers must also manage back-end business processes with new heightened levels of efficiency. Old-school processes are simply not adequate for managing today’s complex issues, such as connectivity among multiple resources, real-time visibility to the network grid, and forecasting future demands.
- Demanding customers: Today’s consumers also have high expectations for attentive service, high value, and timely communication. It’s no longer enough to be content with simply trusting that the process will deliver value for the customer.
- Physical threats: Aging infrastructure systems, including electrical grids, pose a serious threat to reliable continuation of services.
- Cyber threats: Thoroughly protecting manufacturers requires attention to both the physical assets and the digital systems. As systems become more and more dependent on connected devices, cybersecurity is an escalating priority.
- Too many choices: Numerous IT solutions and deployment options are available to help manage operational processes, communication with customers, and protect from cyber threats as well as physical risks to the facilities, plants, and power lines which crisscross the country. While choices are nice, too many options—with conflicting claims—can be overwhelming. As managers become mired in endless lists of features and functionality, decision paralysis can set in.
- Data overload: In recent efforts to conserve resources and predict demand, tech-savvy manufacturers launched programs to collect information from their machines. IT managers and operations teams were soon buried under mountains of information—but with no clear method to analyze the data. With lean staff and limited budgets, IT directors often find themselves wondering, “What do we do with all this data?”
- Lean staff and tight budgets: Manufacturers today tend to operate with lean staff, with managers needing to fulfill multiple roles. A shortage of highly skilled applicants looking for jobs in the public sector can add to the challenge of recruiting and retaining the workforce needed to make difficult decisions. Limited budgets, too, forces plant managers to set priorities and invest in the solutions they believe will bring measurable, meaningful results.
The eight issues listed encompass the challenging obstacles for the typical manufacturer. But, driven by necessity, manufacturing leaders can make investments in IT solutions which will offer clear benefits—and solve several issues at once. Now is the time for action. Stalling, or delaying upgrades will only force a plant to play catch-up when they eventually will need to invest in technology.
Some careful due-diligence research about modern software solutions will dispel confusion and make sound investment options clear. A cost-conscious CIO or IT director who wants to protect reliability and uninterrupted delivery of resources is likely to put a modern Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) solution at the top of the priority list. This is a smart move for several reasons. Not only will a solution manage the asset lifecycle and extend longevity of the equipment; it will also help prevent unscheduled downtime and allow the plant to better predict the need for machine maintenance, as well as future repair and replacement costs.
Solve multiple issues
Manufacturing plants with inadequate staff, limited budgets, and a long list of needs will want to select IT solutions which can resolve several needs at once. It should also be easy to deploy and provide proven results. There is no room for guesses or gambling when stakes are so high.
EAM solutions answer those needs, providing manufacturers with many benefits, including the ability to:
- Detect early warning signs that an asset needs preventive maintenance
- Schedule preventive maintenance during non-peak periods
- Monitor machinery performance, optimizing running conditions to achieve best results
- Track asset history to understand lifecycle costs—and prepare for repairs
- Maintain an adequate inventory of parts to prevent unnecessary delays.
Deploying a suite of fully integrated solutions will help provide a smooth implementation with seamless visibility across multiple solutions, all sharing data and contributing to one comprehensive view.
Putting off a decision about upgrades or investment in new solutions is high-risk. Letting data overload or decision paralysis get in the way of modernization is a stumbling point to avoid. Utilities today have no choice but to become engaged actively in modernizing their enterprises.
Modern IT solutions make this easier, turning challenges into opportunities. Not only will the plant be better-positioned to serve customers reliably, but it also will improve efficiency and reduce its operating costs.
Steve Beard is director of innovation for Infor Public Sector.