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Posted on 13 August 2018 by Colin Bull

Keeping up with consumer expectations

We all know modern consumers’ expectations are being driven by the power of technology – almost every aspect of daily life now has to be faster, smarter, and more convenient.

But leading enterprises in manufacturing have uncovered an effective new approach to ensuring they can meet, and even exceed, that growing demand for highly complex, personalised products and associated services.

This is done by creating a digital twin of every product developed, which is stored digitally within the IT systems of the business. Let’s take a closer look at what that means, and how it’s done…

What exactly is a digital twin?

A digital twin is made up of all the data and information which exists regarding a certain product. This will include everything from the history of its early planning stages, to its design phase, right through to how it was manufactured, where it was sold, and beyond.

Providing seamless access to a digital twin allows everyone involved to fully understand what the product is, how it was made, who’s buying it, how it’s being used, and how it’s performing.

Having that immersive understanding of a product and its lifecycle invariably leads to opportunities for innovation, which in turn lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction.

So how can your business do this?

A digital twin is all about business agility. Decision makers must use this concept to analyse their entire supply chain. Leveraging such a vast depth of information then allows both reactive and predictive steps to be taken based on operational performance, key market trends, and patterns in consumer behaviour. These points of differentiation often result in competitive advantages, and can even uncover new revenue streams.

The digital thread

To achieve this, you’ll need to weave, and maintain, a digital thread of information throughout the organisation for every product. A digital thread requires a smooth and continuous flow of data across the enterprise, facilitated by software which allows effortless communication between the business and its supply and distribution chain.

A digital thread which can be instantly accessed, analysed, and understood will result in improved efficiency and better quality products.

A change of approach

But for a digital thread to be effective, many organisations will have to nurture a change of thinking, and move away from dated, restrictive ways of working, on an enterprise-wide scale.

Traditional manufacturing will often see different departments using different software applications, IT solutions, and their own databases. A digital thread requires the entire organisation to embrace one unified IT infrastructure.

Breaking down silos

Information which is kept in silos across various parts of the supply chain will limit the opportunities to innovate and improve product development.

Each department and team involved in the product lifecycle must take responsibility to ensure they’re contributing to the digital thread, as well as making sure accessibility and cross-analysis are possible at all times.

Removing legacy systems

In many instances this will go back as far as the legacy IT systems which are in place, and a fragmented approach to enterprise IT due to a lack of quality.

Quality is key

For such changes to be made, it’s critical to ensure that quality is present throughout all software and IT systems. This should be viewed as equally important to having quality present throughout all products.

A digital infrastructure to support manufacturing is absolutely essential, but one pervasive enterprise-wide system built to provide agility and flexibility cannot survive (or even be implemented) without a laser focus on quality.

If quality is embedded in enterprise IT, products which are tailored to meet the ever-changing desires of the customer will be far easier to deliver, at pace and ahead of the competition.

Taking the necessary steps

Of course, we appreciate the above list of steps has a very strong ‘easier said than done’ feeling to it. Significant adjustments like this are daunting for any business, but it’s crucial to understand they are absolutely necessary to remain competitive and satisfy the technology-driven demands of your customers.

A trusted strategy for digitising existing business processes on this kind of scale is to seek the guidance of an experienced partner, to help manage both the cultural and technological challenges which will inevitable arise.

SQS prides itself on having quality at the core of everything it does. To learn how we can help you enquire today.

 

Colin Bull is Principal Consultant of Manufacturing and Product Development at SQS

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