Workflow automation in manufacturing: Filling the gaps

Published: February 1, 2018

Manufacturing is one of the mature industries humans have nurtured over hundreds of years now. Over the past 120 years, manufacturing transformed itself to large-scale mass production factories spurring many economies into advanced industrial economies. This transformation is called mass manufacturing and resulted in the rapid enhancement in lifestyle and plentiful product availability. It also gave rise to allied industries like transportation and logistics.

The underlying concept of mass manufacturing is process and process automation. Over time, this industry has focused on scaling production by leveraging the fine art of industrial engineering, process engineering, and monitoring product quality using automation.

Pegasystems focuses on automating business processes. Over the years, this solution has reached a stage where any large organization looking at automating, tracking, and decision making in business processes cannot ignore the efficiency gains it produces.

The big customers for Pegasystems BPM solutions are still in the space of healthcare, insurance, life sciences (HIL), and banking and financial services (BFS), with very few in large manufacturing companies. Why is that, and can this be changed?

Process automation and workflow integration in manufacturing is in high demand

Core manufacturing organization consists of following important departments.

  • Production shop floor (multiple sections as per the product)
  • Quality control
  • Industrial engineering
  • Design department
  • Purchase department
  • Sales and marketing
  • Service department
  • Finance department
  • MIS or IT department

Depending on the complexity of the manufactured product, each of the above departments manages a reasonably complex set of process and operations. In addition, the integration of all departments across the process is very critical for having a composite view of manufacturing.

Traditionally, Oracle and SAP have been pioneers in digitizing the manufacturing industry, like the mainframes it did in the banking and financial services industry. There are strong modules in both SAP and Oracle to cater to basic automation and process automation.

Mainframes did not evolve beyond a point in process automation, and user experience resulted in a massive opportunity for companies like Pega to fill the gap regarding providing niche solutions in banking, insurance, and the financial world.

Workflow automation in Manufacturing is still in its infancy

Just as in HIL and BFS sectors, Oracle and SAP have left large gaping holes in process automation, workflow visibility, end-user productivity, and experience in the manufacturing industry.

An example of the gap is a scenario where the design department comes up with the design of a new product part with its related bill of materials. Currently, there is no workflow communication from the CAD software where the design lives to the finalized bill of materials sent to purchasing. Even if some form of integration exists, no intelligence or workflow is built to automate a case for financial and purchase approvals. These must be manually triggered and in many cases across multiple siloed modules.

Pega can bridge the above gap seamlessly by starting a workflow case integrating various departments in the value chain from design engineering to procurement to production shop floor and service.

The Pega approach of solving a process problem is vastly different from traditional ERPs like SAP and Oracle. Pega can provide a completely new end-user experience and help increase the manufacturing organizations agility.

As Pega expands into IoT and decision management, implementing workflow-based solutions will help manufacturing industries overcome current hurdles in design engineering, procurement, shop floor management, quality control, and many more functions that will help save billions of dollars across the industry.

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