With all the discussion about digital manufacturing and its associated, sci-fi-sounding new technologies, one critical piece of information hasn’t received enough attention. That is, manufacturers already own the most valuable component required to power their move to the so-called cyber-physical future. It’s the factory data that is generated by what’s sometimes derisively dubbed “legacy equipment.” Manufacturers should think of this resource as their most vital asset because it’s the intellectual property that informs how they make and deliver their products and services.
Importantly, tapping that data isn’t only about transforming into a digital manufacturer; it’s also about manufacturer’s solving their biggest problems. Today’s factories are highly complex, with many data sources, multiple vendors and poor interoperability between equipment and machines. A production line typically has five to 15 machines, all from different vendors and with different protocols. This complexity leads to many problems, including out-of-date operational visibility, reactive maintenance, unplanned downtime, lack of flexibility and long time-to-value.