Digital Ecosystems and the Value of Data Connections
In a traditional business mindset, manufacturers stringently limit the extent to which they expose their plans and processes beyond their internal audience. They consult with developers and technicians to select new resources that augment their capabilities, but they make most of their developmental moves as secret as possible to avoid losing a competitive advantage. But as digital technologies transform the global economy – and a dip in the supply chain hinders progress on the other side of the world – manufacturers can’t afford a completely siloed view of their operations or their future.
Manufacturers who plan ahead and prioritize agile flexibility can foresee many but not all of the unpredictable but inevitable bumps and forks in the road toward success. To increase their resiliency and broaden their ability to anticipate future needs, they can participate in digital ecosystems made up of numerous levels and sectors of their industry, including customers, partners and even competitors.
MINING GREATER VALUE OUT OF PRODUCTION DATA
Digital ecosystems bring many benefits with them in the form of optimized data and workflows, skilled solutions to training and a unified system that offers varied forms of value, including products, services and insightful knowledge. Manufacturers can continue to protect their proprietary processes and operations while they benefit from access to individual systems, linked together modularly to meet pressing needs. The trade secrets remain secret while all manufacturers in an industry achieve access to a pool of solutions.
The key to the functionality and effectiveness of a digital ecosystem is its ability to combine multiple products from a supplier that uses its veteran knowledge of the manufacturer’s industry to unify those products in ways that solve many problems. These problems include the familiar concerns that an industry faces on an ongoing basis: the need to identify, locate and organize valuable tools and materials, to overcome the lack of skilled labor, to emphasize predictive maintenance, to visualize the physical and digital environment, to understand the minute-by-minute performance of production lines to optimize their output. Manufacturers also face hidden gaps in efficiency that they cannot solve until they see and comprehend them.
FINDING AND RESOLVING BOTTLENECKS
Ironically, some of these hidden disconnections emerge from well-intentioned efforts to digitize processes. When manufacturers implement individual solutions to portions of a larger problem, they effectively separate not only the solutions but the information that flows out of them. Linked together, these solutions deliver greater insight than they can individually, but some manufacturers struggle to find the benefit – as well as the methods – to interconnect them.
In manufacturing, consider two sets of inventory management solutions, one that tracks the location of equipment and the other that tracks its in-stock status. Kept separate, they cannot enrich each other. In a connected solution, they can track assets and inventory levels at the same time to provide a holistic picture of workflow and materials/tools on hand.
In the retail universe, Amazon has built on its digital ecosystem for more than 20 years. The server infrastructure it created to serve its global e-commerce platform provided the basis for a subsidiary, Amazon Web Services, which rented capacity to other businesses. This development enabled the parent company to continue its growth, both as a retail platform and with other digital businesses, including video and music services. These expansions further led Amazon to begin creation of original video content, which it then served up on its own infrastructure. The company simultaneously built new digital assets for its own use, engaged outside companies as ecosystem partners and created more than 40 B2B and B2C subsidiaries.
ACHIEVING THE GROWING BENEFITS OF A DIGIAL ECOSYSTEM THROUGH STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP
As the challenges of industry continue to grow and evolve, digital ecosystems gain increasing value that more and more manufacturers recognize, including the latest production and management technologies as well as the benefits of interconnected solutions. Seco Tools draws on eight decades of manufacturing experience to offer its customers all the advantages of working with a strategic partner who can deliver much more than the products that power individual production processes. Our solutions enable customers to see the full value of the data they already possess and learn how best to access it through true digital connectivity.