You’re Agile or You’re Dead


The world is changing, and the companies unable to adapt quickly will simply vanish.

agile2.jpgStrong words, but the message is true. Our times and the ways we do business have changed, and it is critical to understand how. In years past, a company unable to keep up might be left behind, but now it will simply be gone. As Bernard Baruch described the challenge of the Atomic Age, “We are here to make a choice between the quick and the dead.”

The global economy hasn’t just changed where products are made and how they’re distributed.  It’s changed competition. Manufacturing companies are searching for ways to produce a product ready to sell into any market, anywhere, and in short order. Globalization has removed the protections inefficient manufacturers had through geography, regulations and tariffs. Now, it is necessary to respond today to the trends discovered today.

Are there any constants anymore? Yes, one: The velocity of change is ever increasing. Companies that understand the new reality and truly embrace global manufacturing distribution, and the integrated enterprise with its constant change are clearly becoming much more successful than those trying to hold onto the past. For producers firmly in the new camp, production costs go down, procurement costs go down, engineering and development costs go down, and profits go up. Supply and demand rationalization becomes natural. It’s that simple.

To stay competitive in global markets, your systems must be integrated to produce the least amount of friction as raw materials become products and move to distribution. Friction is what happens when systems don’t talk to one another easily or simply don’t interface well. And friction costs money.

Real agility means improving your business systems on a continuous basis. Platforms supporting manufacturers today are capable of incorporating changes to bills of materials, recipes, delivery dates, and quantities within minutes rather than days.

Getting to the point where it is possible to thrive in this new environment is not easy. Changes to as-built documents, adherence to old inefficiencies and dwindling engineering resources can make it a major feat to achieve true agility. And you don’t want to kill yourself in the effort. One of the key goals in any reimagining of an enterprise’s process is to do all of this while keeping current operations going. While concentrating on the processes and procedures of yesteryear is a recipe for disaster, throwing out what mostly works is also a good way to fail.

Agility means instant connection to the rest of the enterprise. Every part of the enterprise, from supply chain to distribution channels, needs to be connected and data must move freely between operational areas. Real-time data must flow up, down, and across the enterprise, and become valuable information so those who understand the true business requirements have ready and timely access to it. Generally speaking, accurate, contextual and timely information makes for good business decisions.

The automation systems you have in your plant now were likely designed for the plant you started with. If you simply replicate the existing system, albeit a newer version, you aren’t taking the opportunity to design a control automation system for the plant you hope to have over the coming decades. Always remember, it??’?s all about innovation, not replication.

Today’s technologies are far more suited to today’s demands. For example, new HMI and alarm management strategies provide a much higher level of situational awareness for operators. Cyber security strategies provide ways to keep the connectivity you need from becoming a conduit for criminals. A better running plant with smarter operators in a secure environment is a critical part of embracing this new world.

There’s a lot more to this story. Learn more with the white paper You’re Agile or You’re Dead.