4 Ways Smart Factory Digital Transformation Drives Manufacturing Success

Industry 4.0 has been in high gear in the electronics manufacturing space for years, with operations and assets increasingly going digital and implementing automation.

23 November 2021

Introduction: Welcome to Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 has been in high gear in the electronics manufacturing space for years, with operations and assets increasingly going digital and implementing automation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the trend even further, as companies have needed new ways to stay connected and productive amid lockdowns, supply chain complications and many other unpredictable challenges.

Electronics manufacturing services (EMS) providers that fully embraced digitally-driven, interconnected systems have seen the greatest success throughout the pandemic, with the ability to remain agile and innovative.

PCI has already implemented many of the central ideas in Industry 4.0 and has continued to expand beyond connecting management systems, realizing applications across multiple groups within the company.

Ultimately, PCI has seen significant advances in internal productivity and highly positive feedback about improvements in the customer experience.

By remaining ahead of Industry 4.0 developments and implementing smart factory platforms, EMS providers can gain a digitally-enabled competitive advantage over others in the space. Let’s look at four of the major benefits that come from smart factory digital transformation.

1. Faster, More Efficient Front-End Order Management

An automated sales and order processing system can quickly move in response to customer demand without sacrificing quality. Even last-minute drop-in orders, which are typical in high-mix, low-volume EMS businesses, can be more easily accommodated.

This type of system also saves manhours in the front-end process which can then be better on tasks that create more value for customers in terms of cost, quality, and accuracy. It also nearly eliminates the risk of manual data entry errors. To date, PCI’s average order entry and processing time has decreased by over 90% per sales order.

Plus, the system can catch red flags or inconsistencies in sales orders early in the process so they can be corrected before production begins. The sales and order processing system can be integrated with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software for real-time management of sales orders. With an integrated order planning system, your company gains real-time visibility to respond to customer orders and identify additional sales opportunities as they arise.

This visibility also extends into the supply chain, alerting PCI to unforeseen supply changes. We can then react more readily and deliver faster responses to customers and improved forecasting accuracy. In addition, real-time material kit visibility helps PCI’s customers track and manage lead times for new orders, including last-minute or ad hoc orders. Reduced communication delays and less time spent on manual administrative tasks enable faster time-to-marker and more satisfied customers.

2. Flexibility in the Supply Chain

PCI’s supply chain management system is designed to help the company stay agile and control costs. This allows us to accommodate last-minute supply chain problems and customer order changes without derailing production schedules.

For PCI, ensuring an agile supply chain boiled down to two key implementations: supplier network integration and warehouse digitization.

  • Supplier Network Integration: By digitizing and streamlining interactions with suppliers through a cloud-based platform, PCI reduced manual workload and facilitated easier scaling. This system expedites procurement, enables error-free process automation in supplier interactions and provides visibility on desktop and mobile devices.
  • Warehouse Digitization: Digitized inventory and warehouse management ensure accurate orders and on-time delivery while eliminating manual data entry tasks. PCI’s real-time warehousing system keeps track of inventories, improving efficiency and productivity. It can anticipate and prevent assembly and shipping delays, resulting in faster time-to-market.

3. Optimized Factory Operation

There are two major areas where digitization can help in the actual factory operations: plant maintenance and factory automation.

PCI uses a digitally automated maintenance tracking system to provide full visibility into maintenance history and lifecycle of production assets. This eliminates a massive amount of paperwork and allows centralized control over the plant maintenance cycle so that specific maintenance activities can be expedited as needed.

By tracking maintenance data and analyzing maintenance history, preventative maintenance programs and optimized cycles can be implemented, greatly reducing downtime and total maintenance costs.

The second area, automation, is often the biggest focus of digital transformation initiatives in the electronics industry. Shifting away from manual production and assembly processes and investing in progressively greater smart factory automation drives higher productivity, reduces defects, streamlines production for customers and ensures resilient supply chains.

4. Automated and Streamlined Business Processes

While automation is often discussed in terms of production, it should extend into any area of the organization that drives customer experience.

PCI’s business process automation initiative enables management to implement an agile production model and ensure high throughput, yield, and quality in all areas of production.

A mobile dashboard provides management easily visible KPIs that reflect value creation and a streamlined customer experience. Key data can be accessed in real time for incoming sales orders, current order fulfillment status, production metrics and supply chain information. In this way, management can make timely, data-driven decisions and implement necessary adjustments to ensure optimized financial performance.

Conclusion: 2022 and Beyond

Thanks to these digitization initiatives, PCI is able to respond quickly and effectively to the shifting demands of customers and supply chain, resulting in faster time-to-market.

Comprehensive data visibility and a faster management feedback loop allow for better visibility and optimization of processes. Customers in turn see faster turnarounds, reduced defect and error rates and better management of supply chain risk.

Companies who are looking for a manufacturing and engineering partner should consider working with a competitive EMS like PCI. Contact PCI to learn more.