Competitiveness and the capacity to adapt have become the axes that support the success of any business. Nowadays, the many changing intrinsic factors in each region and sector, macroeconomic trends of a hyperconnected global market, specific regulatory aspects in each country, or the consumer’s own behavior, can have a positive or negative impact on the results of any organization.
In multi-location, many companies have found a business formula to compete in this new globalized scenario. It allows us to identify and capitalize on the competitive benefits of other regions and adapt the business and its processes from a global angle, cushioning the effect of the circumstances in each local market in which it operates.
In this context, technology becomes one of the main facilitators of these multi-location strategies, as it allows the integration requirements between different production plants to be met, doing away with information silos, promoting uniform and standardized processes and making it possible for communication to be streamlined, reliable and in real time.
Choosing the right tools
As digitization makes progress in industrial companies, scenarios where orders depended on telephone inquiries or emails have been left behind, making way for the interoperability between systems, to accelerate processes and client response. Equally, old scenarios where the deficient coordination between departments was a source of operational inefficiencies have been replaced by new ways of management which have 360º visibility when planning and operating. In a multi-location scenario, the same paradigms are applied, but on a different scale.
When deciding upon the ideal technological solutions, it is important to consider the company in question as a whole, along with its level of digital maturity, which will determine the objectives and level of complexity of the processes to be implemented. We also have to find out which technological infrastructure it has, which management systems it uses in each one of its entities and/or in the group and, likewise, analyze which tools adapt to these existing systems. All of this conditions the work model chosen and the management system to support this model.
Using this analysis, we can draw up the map of technologies that we should apply. There is a wide range of possibilities given the exponential advancement that has occurred since the irruption of the Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) paradigms. Among the most common objectives that must be covered when applying these technologies in multi-location environments lies in the interoperability and connectivity between systems and entities, the standardization of processes with the possibility of local customization, remote and/or delocalized accessibility, ease of deployment, assurance of high availability, ability to scale according to the demand, government and consolidated exploitation of the data, … all of them common characteristics of these so-called smart factories, synonyms of a high level of digitization and software deployment.
The cloud environment, differentiating factor in multi-location
Evidently, it is also important to have system to system interconnection mechanisms (S2S) that, through centralized cloud services, allow us to find out the status of any production center anywhere around the globe in real time and to coordinate their activity. Subsequently, one location could assign surplus work to another center that has available capacity in another location, or determine which would be the most cost-efficient production plant for a specific order, managing the work centers and available resources as if they were those of their own plant from a global control panel.
We are moving, therefore, towards smarter and more efficient manufacturing, that is able to adapt to a context that is volatile by nature. Having the aforementioned technological systems and solutions implies addressing interconnectability and interoperability between systems, processes, machines and people and, of course, integrating the partners ecosystem, regardless of where they may be. This provides a more holistic vision and encourages the creation of synergies, which bring greater dynamism and flexibility to the structures of multi-location companies, so that, in the words of Aristotle "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts".