Brain Drain, Pilot Purgatory, and the PI System: All Things Manufacturing

Enrique Herrera, OSIsoft Industry Principal for Manufacturing, is no stranger to the manufacturing industry. With over 23 years of experience from both the automotive OEM and Tier 1 supplier perspective, Enrique was the perfect person to speak to the changes the industry has gone through, how digital will continue to shape the industry, and how things will evolve.

What are some of the challenges facing the manufacturing industry?

Traditionally, there's been an issue with getting data from disparate systems and disparate assets. The industry has a lot of legacy manufacturing data sources, so pulling all of that together with new data sources can be tricky. Also, trying to capture data quality information and draw correlations about what's actually happening on the processing side has historically been a challenge.

What's the bigger challenge, technology or culture?

Culture is definitely the bigger challenge, as the technology is evolving faster than the culture is. There are plenty of companies out there who are interested in implementing new technologies, but their culture isn't at the point that they can do that.

How can digital help solve some of these problems?

A lot of manufacturing is concerned with the physical side of things, particularly how we can increase efficiency, lower costs, and reduce energy usage of machines. Technology can create a digital representation of a physical infrastructure, allowing firms to blend the physical and the digital. Now, companies can design a solution in the virtual world, implement it in the real world, and then send that data back to the virtual world for iterations and improvement.

Where are firms hitting roadblocks with implementing new technologies?

Unfortunately, the promise of benefits from these new technologies doesn't always pan out. Since the manufacturing environment isn't homogeneous, what works in a pilot may not work in reality, and what works at one plant may not work at another. It's a sort of 'Pilot Purgatory' that prevents new technologies from being fully rolled out across a firm's operations.

What's driving the need for new technologies?

A major issue facing the industry right now is a turnover of the workforce, which also means a 'brain drain' on human capital. Essentially, subject matter experts (SMEs) are aging and retiring, and companies struggle to capture their knowledge, but this is where digital can help. By investing in digital technologies, firms can capture subject matter expertise, allowing them to bring in a new workforce and train them appropriately.

What's shaking up the industry right now?

Agility. The need to be agile is greater than ever, especially with the cost of raw materials fluctuating and government trade scenarios causing the industry to have to rethink supply chains. Agility may mean moving manufacturing to 'friendlier' countries (in the trade sense) or moving operations to a larger city to help reduce transportation time/cost. Agility may also mean moving manufacturing out of low-cost countries because the increased supply chain logistics costs may exceed the savings.

What changes do you expect to see by 2025?

By 2025, we'll see more movement toward autonomy, agility, and forging new commercial relationships. While I believe we'll see a greater evolution toward robotics, it won't just be employing robots to speed up a process - it'll be more cooperative than that (human collaborative robotics - co-bots). I believe we'll see firms working cross-functionally and across organizations to create a more collaborative engineering culture that will help all of the firms share knowledge, share skills, and grow.

OSIsoft is proud to provide solutions to top manufacturing firms. From saving Michelin over $4 million euros in one year (at one plant), to increasing productivity by 12% at Garant, to helping Kimball Electronics diagnose and prevent costly failures, saving them an estimated $100,000. Learn more about how OSIsoft works with the manufacturing industry here.

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