How can knowing your plant’s digital readiness determine your success?

Digital Readiness blog

Table of Contents

I see it all the time…

Companies launch digital manufacturing initiatives based on trends, hype, or worse… consultant recommendations (I say this as a recovering McKinsey manufacturing consultant).

In my experience working with global companies on innovation projects, I’ve consistently observed that manufacturers don’t spend enough time assessing where their current capabilities sit, before embarking on new initiatives.

In my previous Digital Readiness blogs, I spoke to the readiness attributes that can make manufacturers more successful on their digital journey.  By answering questions related to the organizational and technical readiness of specific factories, manufacturers can map their strengths and weaknesses, and thereby better understand which projects are likely to be successful.

In evaluating readiness levels for over 50 engagements, I’ve discovered that individual plants/factories tend to cluster into five areas.  We call these clusters the Digital Readiness Success Zones, and they are: Connection Ready; Visibility Ready; Efficiency Ready; Advanced Analytics Ready; and Transformation Ready

Each of the five zones have several typical attributes:

Connection Ready:

  •     Machines are unconnected or not capturing relevant data
  •     Data isn’t flowing to a system of record (e.g., a database, historian or data lake)
  •     Cloud and data security strategies need to be defined

Visibility Ready:

  •     Machines have sensors and are network accessible
  •     IT leadership is providing support and resources
  •     Operations resources are available that understand how sensor data maps to production processes
  •     Change management capability is not in place at the plant level

Efficiency Ready:

  •    Technical connectivity is in place to capture machine downtime, defect, and batch/part serial numbers data
  •    Data is flowing to a system of record
  •    Plant leadership is committed to using data to drive operational execution
  •    Analytics and application development resources are not available at the plant level

Advanced Analytics Ready

  •   Data scientists/engineers are in place who can interpret and draw insights using analytic tools
  •   Staff is available to develop custom applications needed in the factory
  •   Business process change resources are available, but limited support exists for multi-plant (supplier) transformation

Transformation Ready

  •   Comprehensive technical excellence (machine connectivity, security, data) across the extended organization (including suppliers) exists
  •   Leadership commitment and align across corporate, plant, and IT for transformation is in place
  •   On-site and corporate change management functions, including communications, business process, training, and analysts are in place and aligned


Interesting perhaps, but why is this important?

What I’ve seen is that by simply knowing in which zone a plant sits provides manufacturers with insights into what projects are likely to see quick returns.  So which projects are ideally suited for your readiness zone?

Quick Win Projects

Connection Ready: The first order of business is to get the data flowing – connecting key sensors to the network and capturing all the data produced. At this level, plant personnel need to increase their understanding of what the data means, mapping out what each sensor describes about machine and product conditions at every step in the manufacturing process.

Visibility Ready: Quick wins at this level include a gathering machine data into a global view of real-time production operations and enabling statistical process controls for the prevention of scrap creation or monitoring of performance.

Efficiency Ready: At this level of readiness, factories move beyond visibility into using analytics to improve efficiency and quality. The projects increase profitability by solving stubborn scrap/quality problems or increasing productivity by optimizing processes. Potential use cases include parts traceability across the value chain, high-level defect analysis, and tracking machine performance using the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) metric.

Advanced Analytics Ready: Quick wins here include enabling the use of predictive analysis to provide advanced notification of impending downtime or defects, and using advanced statistical techniques to identify root causes (e.g., multivariate regression, factor analysis, decision trees, and clustering). Potential benefits include increased production, reduced cycle times, and decreased scrap rates.

Transformation Ready: Companies in this zone are ready to apply the learnings from their analytics to develop transformational business models such as capacity-based pricing.  They can also extend their analysis across their supply chains, using third-party data to transform relationships with suppliers and customers.

Of course, understanding which zone your plant sits in doesn’t mean you are limited to only those quick-win projects we call out.  But the zone attributes do help you understand the prerequisites you’ll need to work on – which is critical for establishing budget and timeline expectations.

To help you determine where you and your plants are, visit our interactive questionnaire available at (click on “Start your factory assessment”).

Picture of Sudhir Arni

Sudhir Arni

Senior Vice President, Business Outcomes at Sight Machine In this role, Sudhir leads a team of transformation leaders responsible for on-boarding all new customers and customer success managers who ensure adoption of Sight Machine technology across the global enterprise customer base enabling business expansion from existing customers

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