The State of Digital Transformation in Manufacturing

The State of Digital Transformation in Manufacturing

Written by Timothy Ware

Digital transformation is the act of using new technologies to improve efficiency in your organization. This is happening in every sector because the market is only getting more competitive and the advantages are evident. Digital transformation in manufacturing is changing how supply chains are operating globally.

From lower production costs to faster design-to-shelf turnaround times, this article goes through all the advantages of digital transformation in manufacturing, and how it looks on the ground today.

Digital transformation (DX) provides a number of benefits to your organization, regardless of whether you are just starting the process or looking for the next big DX win.

To see how SignTime fits into your digital transformation roadmap, sign up for a free trial today.

What is digital transformation in manufacturing?

The recent shipping crisis, higher fuel costs due to the war in Ukraine, and ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns in China have hastened long-term trends in the manufacturing industry. With higher costs and slower turnaround times due to a faltering global supply chain, companies are looking for ways to cut costs and increase revenue.

Digital transformation can do this by helping companies improve efficiency using modern technology. In the manufacturing industry, digital transformation can mean a few different things. 

First, companies are looking to cut costs during manufacturing to better cope with higher fuel and shipping costs. Second, they are trying to produce products more quickly to deal with the intermittency of production caused by COVID-19 lockdowns in China. Finally, companies are using digital transformation in manufacturing to provide more personalized products. 

The desire for personalized items has been a much longer trend, with drop shipping, print on demand, and other small marketplaces such as Etsy and Spring cropping up to fill this niche.

Benefits of digital transformation in manufacturing

The benefits of implementing digital transformation in manufacturing are far-reaching: 

  1. Higher quality of output
  2. Faster production
  3. Green manufacturing
  4. Lower costs
  5. Personalized production
  6. Agility and resilience 

Let’s take a look at each of these.

Higher quality of output

Higher quality of output can be attained through digital transformation in manufacturing in two main ways.

First, there are new tools available to monitor production and alert staff to any deviations from design parameters. This means both that every product on the line is quality tested and that quality assurance processes can be more rigorous and quantitative.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you are producing 3 cm screws. Insead of an employee measuring every thousandth item with calipers to the nearest millimeter, a laser is measuring every screw to the nearest micrometer.

Second, the reports and metrics can be monitored in real time. When I worked in quality assurance (QA) for a major car brand 20 years ago, we’d be delayed up to 12 hours in testing the compliance of products to specifications. Sometimes this would mean tens of thousands of dollars in unusable products being minted between when a machine first showed a fault and the line stopped production for repair. Now, that time lag can be minutes or even seconds.  

Faster production

When manufacturing plants use modern tools to monitor and control their production lines, things go more smoothly. Lines can also transition from one product to the next faster, which means less downtime. 

Green manufacturing

In most cases, the latest technology can do things, at least slightly, better. This might mean slightly more precise cuts on a piece of sheet metal or slightly more efficient packaging—or even just designing pallet arrangements that allow for slightly more product to be stacked in one shipping container. 

Every one of these efficiencies is a win for the environment. Less wastage means less raw materials used, as well as less winding up in landfills. Lighter, more compact packaging means less carbon emitted during their transport to consumers worldwide.  

These particular green manufacturing measures typically improve the bottom line, but the benefits go beyond that. Consumers are increasingly seeking out more eco-aware companies as part of their buying decision. 

Lower costs

Each of the above benefits directly leads to lower costs. Outsourcing QA support to more efficient tools means lower labor costs and fewer defective items being produced. Less downtime and more items produced per hour both improve the labor costs of your products. Lower wastage and reduced shipping costs also have a positive effect on your bottom line. 

Personalized production

Consumer trends are increasingly pointing towards personalization. This isn’t easy for traditional manufacturing operations. Historically, the cost to retool a line was so high that each product had to be produced thousands or millions of times to recoup the initial cost of setting up production. 

Digital transformation in manufacturing can change this. Smart machines and online design tools can allow consumers to design their own products, pre-purchase them, and wait for the items to arrive in the mail. 

SignTime can help here by allowing these designer-consumers to quickly e-sign a purchase order as part of the process. To see how, sign up for a free trial today.

Agility and resilience

Agility in manufacturing means the ability to quickly and cost-effectively pivot when the market changes. Just like personalization, digital transformation in manufacturing can make it possible to shift production with each new consumer trend. 

Resilience is bolstered similarly. Reduced costs, faster turnaround, and better quality assurance all mean a business is more likely to successfully weather downturns. 

SignTime should be part of digital transformation in manufacturing

Manufacturing has seen major changes over the last decade. Drop shipping, made to order, personalization, and more are breaking down the old paradigm of large manufacturers producing thousands of copies of the same item. Conversely, the shipping crisis and high fuel prices are making the costs of complacency higher.

These changes necessitate new tools to accomplish a digital transformation in manufacturing.

E-signatures are an easy first step to digital transformation. As a non-disruptive technology, e-signatures don’t require a large consulting project to start. 

In addition, SignTime supports Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel, and Word in addition to PDF, has an easy to implement SaaS model, and you can send e-signature requests via email or SMS.

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