There has never been a higher demand for business scalability. Modern manufacturers are under increasing pressure from an unpredictable marketplace. They are processing huge amounts of data, especially in complex and highly regulated industries like aerospace, defense, and healthcare. Facilities are spread out across countries, with workers all speaking different native languages. All of this calls for a business designed for efficient implementation of business processes, and a structure that enables high-speed scalability.
One example of how manufacturers are investing in business scalability is with how they are managing their operations. Increasingly, factories can no longer operate in a silo. Nor can the associated data collected from these operations be hidden in legacy systems or isolated equipment.
Based on what we have observed over the past 12 months, best-in-class operations management strategies are increasingly reliant upon the following systems and technology attributes, as part of enabling a scalable business. As you examine how best to apply your Industry 4.0 strategy, it would be good to consider these features.
Unified Workflows Across Design and Business Systems (PLM, ERP, etc.)
A great way to build scalability across your systems architecture is with RESTful APIs, based on Representational State Transfer (REST), an architectural style and approach used to communicate between systems. The benefit is that you can take advantage of web services to communicate (via HTML) between systems. APIs can now be part of a workflow to create more scalable end-to-end processes from design to production to sustainment. What results is a UI that can be invoked from other systems, utilities, and clients that continues to scale and grow along with your business.
Microservices Architecture & Containerization
A microservices architecture that can be deployed with containers is increasingly being adopted by companies seeking more efficiency in software deployment, critical to scalability. This concept was a core component of iBase-t’s vision to develop its next generation of Solumina, the iSeries. Each service can be deployed, enhanced, and released independently. Think of a microservice as a feature, capability, or performance improvement. Initial deployment is easier, as are future updates, expansions, and roll-outs to ensure a high level of future scalability.
Learn more about microservices in a manufacturing environment: In MES, Microservices Deliver High Benefits.
Connected & Consistent Work Processes
The entire production process is made easier when workers have access to everything needed to perform their jobs in one consistent environment. When that environment connects to the rest of your business by feeding data for analysis and automation or sending videos straight to Quality Assurance, then you have a dynamic production process. It no longer matters how far-flung or diverse your operations are. Processes can now span across your entire value chain.
Varied Deployment Methods
Every business is different. That means every deployment strategy is unique. When choosing a digital platform to manage your manufacturing operations, be sure it can be deployed on-premises, on the cloud, or as a hybrid environment. This gives you the option to use the cloud as needed for accelerated deployment without incurring as much IT overhead. For companies that want to scale quickly, having the flexibility on how to deploy will help you scale faster.
Low-code / No-code Development Platform
Part of easing scalability is having access to the right resources at the right time. Often there are times when small customizations might be needed with how your enterprise application runs. But, if any change requires an IT team to be commissioned to build new functionality, then your system won’t be very scalable. The easier you can build and deploy working apps to complete a specific task or solve a particular problem, the more efficiently you can address any sudden requirements.
As the Internet of Things continues to grow, more and more companies are dealing with thousands of servers and huge amounts of data. There are big advantages to picking solutions that empower you to create a hyperscalable, distributed computing environment. The Solumina iSeries, for example, includes an ELK Stack – a combination of three open source projects (Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana) that store, analyze, and visualize all of the company’s data with a dynamic data collection pipeline. This data structure can then be hosted on the cloud or on-premises.
This article, A Blueprint for Better MES Integration, explains how important systems integration is to maintain data scalability.
Finally, let’s not forget the human side of the equation. It’s not all about technology. Scaling across an enterprise requires a solution that people can use easily, with minimal training or help desk support. This means having applications that are intuitive, that incorporate the entire workflow, and that can be easily customized for every user. The data people need must always be current, at their fingertips, and in the language of their choice.
In the years ahead, the businesses that can successfully scale and change rapidly will reap the most success. Those that provide a wide variety of features, structure, and deployment options can give you the best scalability performance – not to mention will be better able to adapt to new business opportunities. Those that choose smart will not only have a systems infrastructure that supports change and innovation, but will also give you a better chance to survive and thrive with unlimited scalability in the unpredictable future.