Benefits of connected manufacturing for metals businesses

Mike Grob, Jackson Hurst
| 8/17/2022
Benefits of connected manufacturing for metals businesses

For consumers, making a purchase online can be as simple as clicking a button and seeing a product arrive on their doorstep just a few days later. What many don't see, however, is what goes on behind the scenes – the people, processes, and systems that must work in harmony to deliver an excellent and seamless customer experience.

This nearly instant – and accurate – fulfillment of online orders that consumers have come to expect is made possible thanks to a process called connected manufacturing.

In the age of Industry 4.0, defined as the digital transformation of all industries, business leaders running large warehouses with intricate logistical needs, such as those in the metals industry, are faced with the choice to embrace this connected environment or get left behind. Metals businesses can implement and use connected manufacturing to accurately, swiftly, and efficiently manage everyday business operations, workforces, and distribution.

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What is connected manufacturing?

Connected manufacturing uses operational and business data in a way that allows leaders to make informed decisions with accurate, real-time information.

For metals businesses, connected manufacturing is a critical piece within the internet of things (IoT) – and one that isn’t as costly as many might believe. This is because the use of “smart” or connected devices often can be facilitated simply by updating existing equipment. This includes outfitting current devices on the shop floor with features such as wireless connectivity, secure data gathering and storage, and communication systems for an immediate look into supply chains, production, employee performance, sales, and more.

As metals businesses step into Metals 4.0 – the metals equivalent of Industry 4.0 – they can benefit from automation that provides accurate, real-time insights and a greater level of operational efficiency.

The benefits of connected manufacturing for metals leaders

With automation, accurate data, and a clear picture of how the business is operating, metals leaders are able to make informed business decisions. Benefits include:

  • A connected plant floor that offers insight into the efficiency of machines and people
  • Real-time, accurate data that offers value by showing the immediate impact of changes in processes
  • Direct insights into machine and order profitability
  • Downtime reduction through improved machine maintenance processes
  • Controlled financials as projects can be implemented as needed

The problems with missing out on connected manufacturing

Metals 4.0 is already here, and businesses that are slow to adopt could find themselves months or even years behind the competition.

Business leaders might believe that current manual processes are adequate, but when competitors are able to see analytics directly from machinery and offer adjustments in real time based on that insight, it can be hard to keep up.

Metals 4.0 is a digital-first framework that uses technology and innovation as an avenue for metals businesses to step into the future of the industry.

3 reasons metals businesses should consider starting their connected manufacturing journey

1. Increase visibility with automated, timely insights

Do you know what is causing the most downtime in your manufacturing process?

If the current process is entirely manual, important data is likely missing, making it difficult to know what is causing production interruptions and even harder to resolve the problems causing the downtime.

With the ability to access real-time reporting on outages, metals businesses can track data directly from machinery and receive insights and analytics specific to the root cause. Rather than seeing bits and pieces, metals plant managers can use automated dashboards to get a clear picture of what is causing planned or unplanned downtime – and have enough visibility to make decisions about how to reduce it.

In addition to monitoring outages, plant managers can remotely see the amount of power machines are consuming, how fast machines are running, and other key concerns, as alerts are sent directly to their email or phone. This means managers can spend less time on the production floor and more time focusing on strategic oversight and important decision-making.

2. Make production decisions based on accurate data

How confident are you that your business decisions are based on the most up-to-date information?

Another downside to legacy or manual data entry is in its accuracy. People are known to make mistakes when performing time-consuming, repetitive tasks. These mistakes can add costs to job setup, production, and more.

Automated production reporting can increase accuracy and efficiency. Managers at all levels can send and receive production data from an enterprise resource planning system and base maintenance plans on actual machine utilization. Additionally, businesses can anticipate potential breakdowns before they happen using machine learning and artificial intelligence with predictive maintenance models.

Metals businesses could save costs by decreasing the repetition and continual quality checks that come from manual reporting. Additionally, human error could be greatly reduced with intelligent maintenance plans based on machine utilization. This real-time data takes the guesswork out of an operator’s or manager’s day-to-day decisions and bridges the gap between business data systems and the processes happening on the shop floor.

3. Gain clarity to add long-term value

Does it ever feel like success is hard to measure?

Leaders in one area of the business might be worrying about production and accuracy, while those in another are wondering how to increase efficiency and stay within budget. When multiple elements of a metals business are working toward separate benchmarks, it’s hard to measure success.

With the integration that connected manufacturing allows, production data and business data are intertwined to produce financial data that is based on real production.

Connected manufacturing is able to bring data from different worlds together, in one place. Full transparency from increased data, state-of-the-art features, and access across the organization allows leaders to make decisions that can affect the bottom line well into the future.

Take advantage of connected manufacturing tailored to the metals industry

Outdated systems can leave metals businesses in danger of becoming obsolete, stealing peace of mind. But small changes can show just how connectivity through IoT can provide the benefits of connected manufacturing quickly, without costing a fortune. Crowe connected manufacturing specialists can take older machines and make them smart – for example, connecting offline computers to simple computers designed for the metals industry and capable of sending information to the cloud for better visibility.

Contact us

Connect with a Crowe specialist to see how metals businesses can benefit from Crowe connected manufacturing.
Mike Grob
Mike Grob
Principal, Consulting
Jackson Hurst
Jackson Hurst