With the current demand for flexibility across manufacturing industries, companies are being forced to reconsider their business models. To remain competitive in today’s marketplace, companies have ramped up the implementation of digital technology in their operations.

While MES, ERP, QMS, and many other enterprise systems have become commonplace in manufacturing facilities across the globe, the rise of Industry 4.0 and related technological advances have highlighted a number of pitfalls associated with the incumbent solutions.

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, high cost of ownership, slow deployment and development cycles, and complex customizations have given manufacturers a lot to consider when it comes to determining the right solution for their operations.

By contrast, digital operations platforms aim to alleviate many of these pain points by providing flexible, scalable, and easily configurable solutions that enable businesses to adapt to changes in processes, competitive landscape, and consumer demands.

In this post, we’re going to unpack the Digital Operations Platform, compare platforms with traditional manufacturing solutions, and explain the benefits that operations platforms can provide businesses relative to other options.

What is a digital operations platform?

A digital operations platform (also known as digital ops platform or DOP) is a connected data and process management tool that connects people, things (machines and devices), and systems used in a production or logistics process in a physical location.

In manufacturing, operations platforms enable businesses to measure, track, and visualize data at every stage of production, making processes more efficient and productive than ever before.

With the advancement of technologies including 3D printing, cloud computing, edge connectivity, and artificial intelligence (AI), digital operations platforms are becoming an increasingly popular solution type for businesses looking to implement or advance their digital transformation initiatives.

Benefits of operations platforms

A digital operations platform is capable of transforming the way companies operate both internally and externally, providing solutions for increased production capacity, access to real-time data, and enterprise-level features and security.

They also offer manufacturers solutions for overcoming technology constraints that previous-generation technology either couldn’t accommodate or couldn’t be easily altered to meet changing requirements. Some of these key benefits include:

  • Flexibility - businesses can easily configure the platform to address their specific needs and challenges

  • Implementation - operations platforms can be implemented incrementally, allowing businesses to prioritize and tackle specific use cases for faster time-to-value than traditional systems

  • Ease of use - No-code and low-code platforms enable the workers closest to the operations to build and configure the tools they need and implement new tools as needs change over time

  • Total cost of ownership - Between up-front infrastructure costs and costs associated with maintaining and customizing traditional solutions, perhaps the greatest benefit is the lower cost of ownership of SaaS-based operations platforms.

Key features and use cases of a digital operations platform

Production tracking

Production tracking is a strategy used to measure, analyze, and improve visibility throughout the manufacturing process. From the sourcing of raw materials to the shipping of final products, production tracking allows businesses to monitor the performance of each production step and improve their processes using aggregate data.

With a digital operations platform like Tulip, manufacturers are able to monitor production status and cycle time, as well as track KPIs across their facilities in real-time.

Work instructions

In many operations, work instructions are paper documents. Each page describes a single step, and these pages are sorted and rearranged every time a new instruction sequence is needed to build a product.

Digital work instructions help automate and digitally rearrange workflows, making managing paper-based work instruction variations easy.

IIoT and edge connectivity

As we’ve discussed, innovation across edge technologies provides manufacturers with increased visibility across users, machines, and IoT devices across the shop floor. Digital operations platforms leverage this increased connectivity to provide manufacturers with a holistic, real-time view of production.

Native analytics

As a result of the increased connectivity, digital workflow, and production tracking capabilities discussed in the sections above, it’s only natural that digital operations platforms also provide native analytic visualization.

By providing native analytics within the platform, manufacturers are easily able to identify bottlenecks and deviations in productivity across every stage of production. Conversely, supervisors are able to identify operators with a higher level of productivity, determine what’s driving the increased productivity, and apply findings across other lines and assembly stations across the organization.

Enterprise-grade security

Data security and customer trust are core business components for most manufacturers, particularly those operating in regulated environments such as pharma, biotech, and aerospace/defense.

As a result, enterprise-grade security and governance features found in digital operations platforms enable businesses to convert analog operations workflows into instrumented, data collecting, digital processes—without the need for complex system integrations or expensive third-party support.

The importance of digitizing your operations management

Building high-quality products while maintaining low costs is the key to success in the field of business operations.

Digital operational platforms in manufacturing industries are increasingly becoming a necessity in today's marketplace. As we’ve discussed, firms that embrace DOPs realize multiple competitive advantages over their competitors, including increased flexibility, higher product quality, and greater productivity.

When choosing an operations platform vendor, it is important to consider many of the benefits and features listed throughout this article. With Tulip’s Frontline Operations Platform, hundreds of businesses across manufacturing industries have benefited from the increased flexibility that an operations platform provides relative to the vast majority of enterprise solutions that exist on the market.

For more information on how Operations platforms stack up to MES, you can visit our ultimate comparison guide.

Learn how a digital operations platform can help improve your business

See how a system of apps can help you digitize workflows and streamline real-time data collection with a free trial of Tulip.

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