Digital Manufacturing is the current buzz word on the internet. So much so that If you were to type in the keywords Digital Manufacturing into Google you will see 800 million results! That’s ridiculous! I don’t know for sure but I’d bet a good penny that this exact search term 5 years ago would have only produced ¼ to half of those search numbers.
So, what does Digital Manufacturing mean? Well, it seems to mean something a little different to everybody. To me, when I think of digital manufacturing I think of software that makes things more connected, more automated and more accessible. For example, ERP software such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. This type of ERP software can use built in artificial intelligence to predict when inventory levels will become low and when connected to the right software can even automate your replenishment orders.
I don’t know about you but the infusion of artificial intelligence into ERP software seemed to happen overnight. You know what else happened overnight? Connected cloud software. Four to five years ago, everyone in the manufacturing industry was seemingly afraid of cloud software. Now your cloud software doesn’t just connect to other software it fully integrates with it to bring you complete digital transformation.
Maybe you’re saying to yourself big deal, we can do with out all this digital transformation stuff. Well you might be able to but I remember hearing of some manufacturers who transitioned their software to the cloud right before the Covid-19 pandemic, and then when the lockdowns were implemented these same manufactures gave some of their employees small 3D printers to take home and their business was able to stay afloat because they had transitioned digitally, were connected, and better prepared than most.
So, how do you start to become a digital manufacturer? Here are the 3 steps I recommend to getting started:
Take inventory of the things you already use. This could be servers, desktop software, ERP software, Gmail accounts, etc. If you use it, write it down.
Research some software that is comparable to what you are using but is cloud based. I’m biased toward Microsoft software because they offer a full suite of every software you’ll most likely need, it’s integrated, and I personally love the digital vision of Satya Nadella.
Find yourself a reputable Microsoft partner. They don’t have to be local but they should have a gold competency in something. This way they have access to other Microsoft partners and resources because depending on the scope of your transformation it’s possible you may need more than 1 Microsoft partner.