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These Five 5 Digital Solutions Can Help Your Company Grow

Five 5 digital solutions that can help growing companies survive threats to functional operational and IT, thrive if exposed to natural disasters, and provide powerful enhancements that secure your business’ unassailable position.

Digital and cloud enabled systems support IT solutions are no longer optional for businesses. Growing companies must embed a digital-first approach into every facet of the business process if they expect to grow in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace.

Contributing Source: Jason Albanese, Co-founder and CEO – INC.com | Published Sep/21/2017

Amazon made headlines again when they recently announced they’ll be hiring 50,000 jobs across the country. Considering this hiring surge accounts for nearly one-quarter of the 222,000 jobs that the U.S. added in June of this year, I think it’s safe to assume Amazon is experiencing a growth phase.

Yet, as with any expansion, Amazon is likely facing a slew of challenges as they welcome new workers into the fold. Is each facility prepared to handle the influx of employees? Can the current human resources system manage a massive spike in users? Is the company generating enough revenue to support 50,000 new wages?

I have no doubt that Amazon is well prepared to handle this expansion, but this is not always the case for most businesses. In fact, last year, the Kauffman Foundation and Inc. Magazine discovered that nearly two-thirds of companies that had previously been on Inc.’s 5,000 fastest-growing companies list had either been sold, reduced, or gone bust.

While growing pains can make or break a company, there are a number of digital solutions you can adopt that will make the expansion much easier. Why? Because companies that embed digital into their everyday operations are more agile than traditional businesses when it comes to managing change. This agility will come in handy when you need to make a last-minute pivot to handle the demands that come with any growth phase.

So, if you’re going through growing pains (or are hoping to in the near future), here are five digital solutions you’ll want to consider:

 

1. Incorporate data into everyday decision-making

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As your company grows and expands, it’s important to keep a close eye on performance both internally and externally. And the best way to monitor this is by measuring and tracking data. With the right data-driven dashboard in place, you’ll be able to:

  • Empower leaders to make difficult hiring and firing decisions by using data that backs those decisions.
  • Put new policies into place that are supported by persuasive numbers.
  • Provide leadership with a better idea on where operations may need to change, which will enable them to streamline the business.

But, for many smaller companies, the first step is to start tracking and storing data in the first place. Unlike larger corporations, small businesses tend to be lacking in this area.

If you want to start tracking data externally, consider implementing a customer relationship management tool and investing in analytics on your website, marketing campaigns, or apps. For internal data tracking, project management tools and time-tracking software can yield a treasure trove of insight. In both cases, however, you’ll need to put controls in place that will enable you to collect Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and use dashboards to contextualize the data.

 

2. Ditch the paper

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Growing a business puts a demand on resources, so you’ll want to find ways to cut costs throughout the process. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to ditch the paper.

Whether it’s by getting rid of paper contracts, enforcing a new policy on e-statements, or removing printers from the office, digital communications can save your company quite a bit of money. It will also dramatically streamline your processes and operations.

 

3. Create an omni office environment

I touched on this in a recent article, but if you’re outgrowing your current office space, then consider what it might take to create an omni office workspace for your employees.

Don’t Ignore Mother Nature – Plan Now to Ensure Business Continuity When Disaster Strikes

 

While companies like IBM and Yahoo are no longer allowing employees to work remotely, a hybrid approach might be the best solution when it comes to creating an effective work-from-home policy. But no matter what you decide to do, enabling your employees to spend some time working from home can help keep overhead costs low, while potentially increasing productivity.

 

4. Secure important functional operational areas

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Cloud mostly refers to the hosting of virtualized systems infrastructure and data in some datacenter aside from your own. In particular, this applies to office software and management and project accounting software as a service in, the cloud. What does this mean for small business organizations and large corporations that need protection of proprietary information to assure their company’s continued survival and success in highly competitve markets and challenging political and economic times? Most manufacturers, government agencies and public / private sector corporations would want to consider the risks. How would disruption in functional operational areas impact on market position and bottom-line in the face of IT systems anomalies, cyber-attack, hurricane management or other natural disasters?

I have to agree that eliminating tape, disk to disk, courier and select file backup protocols with tech savvy Virtual Private Cloud VPC on-premise continual backup would not only save your company tens of thousands per month, but when combined with cloud enabled IT backup and systems support, could make the difference between surviving threats mentioned above, and thriving in the face of these threats, while attaining assured readiness for the biggest challenges, and reduced cost.

 

5. Constantly monitor the latest technology trends

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Can virtual assistants improve your company’s order fulfillment process? Can AR or VR enable your team to create prototypes that are easily shared across continents? Will IoT devices and smart sensors work to reduce manufacturing costs? Maybe or maybe not, but if you are not at least aware of these trends, you will not be able to make informed decisions about which might be applicable to your company.

The latest technology trends could be the key to getting your company through a growth phase with ease. But if you don’t know what’s happening, then the opportunity to integrate this tech into your operations will never see the light of day.

 

Wrapping up

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If growth and expansion are on the horizon for your business, you’ll want to make sure your company is digitally mature before you get too big to function. You can bet Amazon is taking full advantage of digital solutions as they expand their workforce and you can do so today by taking the above into account.

 

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Don’t Ignore Mother Nature – Plan Now to Ensure Business Continuity When Disaster Strikes

Follow six key steps to develop your own business continuity management plan. – Says IndustryWeek’s Nicholas Bahr | Feb 23, 2018

Why companies have a BCM Business Continuity Management plan?

It has been said that an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This advice is especially true when it comes to planning for business continuity during natural disasters. Given the many competing priorities facing company leaders, it can be easy to assume, because severe weather events and natural disasters are rare, that anticipating them doesn’t require immediate attention. But such thinking is effectively gambling with your company’s ability to operate, because if recent history is any guide, severe natural events are now occurring with alarming frequency.

Earlier in January, the United States experienced an Arctic blast that subjected many cities to sub-freezing temperatures for more than two weeks. Simultaneously, a “bomb cyclone” along the east coast of the U.S. left states from Georgia to Maine mired in ice and blizzard conditions. Last summer saw some of the most extreme tropical weather events ever before witnessed in North America when Hurricanes Harvey, Ima and Maria devastated the Caribbean and southeast United States during a single month.

These Five 5 Digital Solutions Can Help Your Company Grow

 

As alarming as the frequency of these extreme events is their severity. When Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, it knocked out power and water to nearly the entire island. Today, roughly 40% of the island still has no electricity. Hurricane Harvey dropped more than 27 trillion gallons of water on Louisiana and Texas; more than 40 inches of rain fell in some areas of Texas over a four-day period. The impact on just one industrial sector was significant: As much as 31% of total U.S. refining capacity had to be taken offline or drastically reduced in the wake of the storm.

Mother Nature is as unpredictable as she is unrelenting, and that is why companies are smart to have in place business continuity management systems (BCM) sooner rather than later.

As we all know, the longer a company experiences downtime, the more money it loses, not to mention reputational damage and loss of market share. Anticipating the likelihood of severe events and mitigating downtime that follows is a wise investment of time and manpower. But it is important not to equate emergency management or crisis response plans to a BCM system. The former are appropriate for specific catastrophic incidents, such as a computer network failure at a power plant, structural failure at an offshore oil rig, or a cyber-attack. While having such emergency management and crisis response plans in place is important, they are different from a BCM plan, which guides the business in the event of a large-scale, long-term disruption resulting from extreme weather and natural disasters – or man-made disasters such as terrorism.

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What is a BCM system?

A BCM system is a holistic management process that identifies potential threats and vulnerabilities to a company’s business and operations, develops strategies to make operations resilient to a large-scale event, and employs procedures to quickly restore services and continue operations. This is done through a comprehensive set of arrangements and processes that define specific measures a company can proactively follow to prepare for a crisis or disaster, hopefully prevent some of the worst scenarios, respond during the actual crisis, and effectively manage the long-term recovery (see illustration below). Its purpose is to restore mission critical services and operations following a disruptive event as quickly and effectively as possible.

dupont-risk
Copyright 2018 DuPont. All rights reserved

There are six key steps to building a BCM plan:

Step 1:  Establish Planning Roles and Responsibilities

Identifying and understanding who in the company is responsible for specific essential tasks during and after a severe event is critical to effectively responding and recovering from the event.

Step 2:  Conduct Risk Assessment

Understanding all the risks that can impact the business during a severe event is critical to effectively managing them. Companies should conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify and prioritize all risks that could arise during a severe event.

Step 3:  Conduct Business Impact Analysis

Determining the impacts of all identified risks on specific business processes will help companies to appropriately prioritize available resources to mitigate the loss or disruption of key operations and services.

Step 4:  Develop Continuity Strategies

Having plans, procedures and agreements, such as memorandums of understanding with emergency suppliers, in place ahead of time to prevent, detect, respond, and recover from severe events are fundamental building blocks to sustaining operations, no matter the disruption.

Step 5:  Plan Testing, Training, and Exercises

There’s an adage in the risk management business that says, “You must test to ensure success.” Once a business continuity plan has been developed, it is wise to take the time to train staff so they are familiar with their responsibilities, and conduct simulation exercises to put the plan into practice so that when a severe event occurs, the company will be prepared.

Step 6:  Plan Maintenance

Things inevitably change within a business over time, whether adding facilities, shifting personnel to different locations, or changing suppliers and vendors. It is therefore important to regularly review and update the business continuity plan, ideally whenever there is a change to the business or operations. This will keep companies in the best possible position to manage unforeseen severe events when they occur.

Severe weather events or other disasters that can cause a lengthy disruption in operations are bound to occur, so smart companies are taking the time to plan ahead and anticipate those situations. Having a BCM system in place, and regularly reviewing, updating and practicing it, will help companies weather the storm and resume regular operations – and lose less money – when a severe event inevitably occurs.

Nicholas Bahr is global practice leader for operational risk management at DuPont Sustainable Solutions. DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS), a business unit of DowDuPont Specialty Products, is a leading provider of world-class operations consulting services to help organizations transform and optimize their processes, technologies and capabilities. DSS is committed to improving the safety, productivity and sustainability of organizations around the world. Additional information is available at: DuPont

Main Image: Floodwaters left in the wake of Hurricane Harvey–Copyright Scott Olson, Getty Images


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5 Key Benefits of Computer-Integrated Manufacturing

There’s no question that digital operations are transforming manufacturing. A range of innovations that fall under the ‘IIoT’ or Industry 4.0 umbrella all point towards more computer-integrated manufacturing operations or the ‘connected enterprise’.

Some manufacturers are moving towards varying levels of IT and OT systems integration managed through a centralised platform, but the practicalities of actually achieving IIoT capabilities seems far off for others. Nevertheless, research shows businesses will need to heavily invest in digital technologies over the next five years in order to remain competitive.

The common theme? Manufacturing is becoming more connected and centralised. As this connectivity increases, companies must dedicate more resources to data analysis and management.

We propose that central management of computer-integrated manufacturing systems is essential. Here’s why.

First, it’s useful to outline two distinct concepts of what ‘centralised computer-integrated manufacturing operations’ might look like:

1. The fully integrated operation.

Fully integrated operations are incrementally harnessing IoT technologies through the use of:

  • integrated architecture and software
  • connected sensor technologies
  • powerful data analysis
  • planning for cloud storage and edge computing solutions – at machine and enterprise level.

2. The Integrated Manufacturing Operations Centre (IMOC).

5 key benefits of smarter integrated manufacturing operations July 9, 2017 by Frazer Porter

While a plant can be fully integrated, the management of each system’s data will likely fall under a number of departments and staff. While more data can be gleaned from new systems, there isn’t always time to process and use it to affect change. A central division that’s dedicated to monitoring and analysing plant-wide (or multiple plants’) data may suit some organisations with distributed operations.

We call this the Integrated Manufacturing Operations Centre (IMOC). It combines the fully integrated operation with traffic management’s brain child: a centralised ‘operations centre’ with a dedicated team making collective decisions about the business.

See our next blog post ‘Operations centres: How they’re making manufacturing smarter‘ for the benefits of a centralised Integrated Manufacturing Operations Centre.

Here are the 5 benefits of smarter, fully integrated operations:

1.    Bring together siloed information streams for business-wide improvements

Integration does what the name suggests: it connects what happens on the shop floor to the enterprise level. The most widely used digital transformation routes are through manufacturing execution systems (MES), dashboards displaying trend data, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) connections to plant floor systems.

Some business-wide advantages of a connected system:

  • Supply chain: Streamline the business’ supply chain through real-time data. For example find out how much raw material is used in production, or find where time is lost in ordering and receiving parts. Benefits include: making better purchasing decisions, use of automated reordering tools, consolidating order loads, holding less stock on site, and a Just in Time (JIT) approach to replenishments.
  • Distribution: Integrated distribution systems can talk to production and be informed of delays, output, and defects. This results in a more accurate schedule, so the business is more likely to achieve customer service KPIs with on-time delivery, in full and as promised.
  • Business-wide decision making:Everyone from executives to maintenance managers should work from one true source of data. Integration allows this through collation of data sources such as production rates, order fulfilment and output, process data, or components and materials. Plus, time-series data sets can be analysed to uncover patterns and discover trends across the business.
  • Business-wide cost savings: It goes without saying that replacing manual recording with automated data collection eliminates human error, increases the amount of information available for analysis, and can take place in real time. Additionally, the freed personnel can be reallocated to more productive tasks, such as data analytics and improvement activities.

2.    Improved quality

Manufacturing demands an adherence to strict quality standards. But manufacturers can be reactive rather than preventative when it comes to quality management. This is especially true when quality reports are only available the next day, or if the source of product defects can’t be pinpointed along the line.

Fully integrated operations can improve quality through:

  • Faster reactions to defects: quality checks can be conducted live using sensors faster than the line speed. These range from check weighers validating unit quantities, to temperature sensors, x-rays, chemical sample analysis and vision systems.
  • More accuracy: a system that performs quality checks increases the chances of detecting and removing defective products from the line. For example, in a packaging centre, high speed cameras take photos of jars to ensure they meet the specifications for size and colour, or that label information, such as expiry dates, are correct.
  • Improvements to process to reduce defects: technologies that measure output and production data can pinpoint where defects occur in production and inform change programs.

3.    Machine learning

Benefits of a machine integrated operations centre

Greater integration naturally produces more data, which can be a challenge in itself. It’s one ‘concern’ that as IoT technologies come online we’ll be inundated with more datathan we know what to do with.

Lucky for us, advancements in machine learning are taking the pressure off humans.

Currently, standard data processing for integrated operations looks like this:

Data collection from machines, production lines and business systems > data conditioning > combination of data from disparate streams > data analysis and modelling from such consolidation > data interpretation and action by humans > repeat.

Slowly machines are driving more of the data analysis and corrective or preventative actions, so data processing will become more like:

Data collection from machines, production lines and factories > data conditioning > combination of data from disparate streams > data analysis and modelling from such consolidation > data interpretation and action by machines > monitored by humans > repeat.

Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence technologies can:

  • Analyse data at a rate far beyond that of humans
  • Analyse information that humans don’t have access to or data they wouldn’t consider important
  • Connect seemingly unrelated factors, for example, correlating X and Y event with a certain type of product defect or failure
  • Raise warnings or suggest corrective actions based on complex patterns and predictive models

4.    Target areas for continuous improvement

Sometimes what seems counter intuitive makes business sense – and the data will prove it.

Accurate, real-time data from multiple points across the production line can reveal improvement areas. For example, say machine speed is increased from 5500 to 6000 units an hour. Management are happy because they’re making more product in less time. However, the system is recording higher waste output than when the machine was running at 5500. Despite apparently improved efficiency, profit margin is higher if the machine runs slower. Such insights can only be gleaned from correlating multiple data points in time.

Advanced data analytics have fed into continuous improvement programs with impressive results. A top biopharmaceutical company increased yield by more than 50 percent, with no additional capital expenditure. How? Closely related production activities were clustered and put into one database. Then advanced analysis pinpointed which process parameters impacted yield and which were interdependent, revealing where changes should be made in the process.

Finally, an integrated system will bolster predictive and preventative maintenance programs. Integrated systems, for example, can automatically schedule machines for maintenance checks when sensors pick up abnormal heat or friction.

Having that data collected and analysed allows the business to make informed decisions based on the interaction of factors rather than on individual factors themselves.

5.    Business-wide visibility

Consolidation of multiple data sets often gives organisations a clearer picture of the entire operation. In one case, a major supermarket chain consolidated its forecasting, scheduling and traceability data across its meat processing operationsThe solution involved a customised pull model that managed raw materials according to store demands. The supermarket chain saved $50 per pallet and increased product shelf life for 1.5 days – all thanks to an integrative approach that used available data to better-track products from farm to consumer.

Source: Nukon Blog | Written by Frazer Porter | Jul 10, 2017 3:44:53 AM

 

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