Written by Mike Sellberg

Put People First: A Primer to Success in Smart Factory

Last week, Vertex had the pleasure of presenting at Deloitte’s special VIP presentation, “Tech Trends & The Smart Manufacturing Ecosystem,” during CES. Attendees heard from Deloitte’s Global CTO, CIO, and Smart Factory Leader, along with the VP of Digital Supply Chain & Manufacturing Transformation at Reynolds Consumer Products. Over the course of the two-hour event, the panelists gave clear direction on the value of a smart factory, the best methods to get started, and opportunities available to harness technology in the Startup Showcase.

A Tech Trends Fly By

The VIP event kicked off with Deloitte’s CTO Bill Briggs giving a quick overview of 2021’s technology trends. For the last 12 years running, Deloitte has released an annual report to address what technologies and trends companies should invest in. These trends demonstrate how companies can compete, grow, and protect themselves against disruption. True tech vanguards and high performers point to technology as a critical differentiator and the heart of their strategy.

This year’s trends center on strategy, data, and the user experience. One of these trends, “Supply Unchained,” identifies advanced digital technologies, virtualized data, and cobots to transform the supply chain into a customer-focused, value-driving network. One of the most powerful ways to do this is by revolutionizing the plant floor into a smart factory, leading us into the rest of the panel discussion.

The Transparent Smart Factory

Over the next hour, Deloitte’s CIO Nishita Henry moderated a panel with Smart Factory Leader Stephen Laaper and the VP of Digital Supply Chain Manufacturing Transformation at Reynolds Consumer Products, Jeff Lischitt. With the pressure of tighter margins in this volatile time, organizations have to think differently about developing and delivering products. The smart factory is proving to help manufacturers improve their operations dramatically.

Stephen described the smart factory to be when the four walls of the plant are “transparent.” The supply chain then takes advantage of the data that’s usually deeply embedded in machines or different areas of the supply chain. As each participant stated several times throughout the panel discussion, different plants throughout your ecosystem shouldn’t be standardized during transformation. Each plant will have its own unique culture, purpose, and maturity to consider. However, a common intent across your ecosystem is crucial. Jeff experiences the day-to-day of the smart factories at Reynolds Consumer Products, and says, “Different plants with different data assets work in different ways. You have to know your starting point.”

But how do you decide that starting point? Jeff recommends piloting small ideas and looking for the successful ones to scale. He described Reynolds’ approach, in which they implemented a “lighthouse” factory where they innovated and developed new ideas before scaling across a few additional factories. “We put in the time to analyze and work through scenarios and use cases,” describes Jeff.

Putting People at the Center of Your Smart Factory

Companies that choose to build a smart factory aren’t doing so just for technology’s sake. Organizations like Reynolds are driving ROI in the factory by getting information into the hands of the people. As Stephen says, “The hyperconnected digital age leverages dramatic advancements to create dynamic experiences that put people at the center.” With access to data, people make faster decisions, optimize results, and improve end-to-end performance of their operations.

Open and honest communication with people at the various plants in your ecosystem keeps your smart factory initiatives on track. Not only is every plant’s culture and maturity level different, but some will be more inclined than others to adopt big, transformative changes. By knowing which plants have a more entrepreneurial spirit, companies can embed their own lighthouse factories that lead the way.

With people at the center of the smart factory strategy, the event transitioned into the Startup Showcase, where four organizations discussed how they connect workers and support smart factory initiatives. Our CEO & Founder Dan Murray showed why Vertex should be at the center of your user experiences to unlock the true value of your company’s data. At Vertex, we believe sharing information and ideas should be easy, and we help companies get 3D digital twins into the hands of the entire workforce. 3D data is the most unrecognized value in the enterprise, and everything we do is about unlocking the potential of 3D to benefit your business.

3 Smart Factory Takeaways from Deloitte

All three presenters, plus the four Startup Showcase presentations, gave actionable advice to take away. Although each presenter gave a slightly different approach, it all boiled down to three primary takeaways:

  1. Smart factory success hinges on letting the entire ecosystem take advantage of your data.
  2. Every plant has its own unique culture and maturity, which means the approach you take with each plant should be unique to its strengths.
  3. Empowering your people has to come first and foremost. Putting data into the people’s hands is what drives true innovation, not just having the newest technology.

Vertex aims to invigorate the manufacturing industry by enabling 3D to be a powerful force for accelerating smart manufacturing and digital transformation. We want to be the center of user experience in your smart factory to help you go faster. Click here to learn more.

About Mike Sellberg

Mike Sellberg has over 25 years of experience in software development, product strategy, product marketing, and operations management. As Vertex VP and Chief of Staff, Mike manages product strategy, marketing, customer success, and solutions architect initiatives, ensuring an aligned vision and execution of the Vertex platform. Mike spent most of his career in the PLM industry starting with Engineering Animation, Inc. (EAI) where he was Divisional General Manager. After EAI was acquired by Unigraphics Solutions (now part of Siemens PLM), Mike led the Teamcenter product management team.