Your essential guide to smart industry adoption

Operator of machine / industrial worker in an orange hard hat.


Smart industry is reshaping the way that businesses manufacture products and manage supply chains – but what is it exactly? And how can industrial businesses keep pace with the evolution of connected operations? 

It wasn’t that long ago that efficiency in industrial companies depended on people power and heavy machinery alone. Departments operated in silos, with staff working around manual control systems on the factory floor. Decisions were guided more by tradition than data. Maintenance was reactive, communication was limited and waste was considered just another consequence of getting things done. 

Fast forward to today and smart industry solutions such as ERP and MRP are changing physical workplaces into digital, data-rich environments that deliver greater efficiencies than most ever thought possible. Research from Gartner shows that 86% of manufacturing leaders already consider smart industry to be an integral component of their operations and supply chain management; yet less than 50% have fully deployed a strategy across their organisation. [1]

This variance spells huge opportunity for those that get it right. Let’s take a closer look at the ins and outs of smart industry, and explore how best to harness its potential.

Smart industry explained

In the same way that smartphones have transformed our concept of personal communication, smart industry has fundamentally changed how manufacturers, distributors and sellers operate across supply chains. 

These are the main elements to keep in mind:

Automation – Workflow automation is a cornerstone of smart industry, enabling businesses to streamline things like sales order processing, inventory management, production planning and resource allocation. Systems also ping notifications and alerts for critical events or delays so that production managers never miss a beat, even when focusing on other areas of operations. 

Cloud computing – Cloud computing is the framework behind your entire IT infrastructure, providing easy access to scalable resources and agile software solutions. Unlike the on-premise systems of old, modern cloud networks allow authorised access and remote monitoring from any location, which means managers and staff don’t always need to be at a central site to manage industrial operations.

Internet of Things (IoT) – In essence, the IoT is the foundation of data collection and connectivity in smart industry. Industrial businesses can make more informed decisions and are more adaptable to the changing landscape of industrial processes. This enhanced interconnectivity can be a huge competitive advantage for businesses that get it right, and it’s a core factor in the quality of modern employee experience.

Data analytics – With various software and devices capturing data on site, manufacturers now benefit from real-time insights into operations and productivity. Data therefore becomes vital to highlight recurring trends, reduce downtime, inform strategic decisions and offer full visibility of organisational performance.

AI – Although we’re in the early stages of AI adoption, businesses that take steps to integrate machine learning and predictive analytics now will likely gain a competitive advantage within their industry for years to come. AI tools already offer enhanced capabilities to identify faults, detect anomalies in production and optimise manufacturing processes by adjusting parameters in real time.

Why smart industry matters to supply chains

Today’s industrial businesses face global competition, talent shortages and increasing cost pressures at every turn, and even the smallest inefficiencies can quickly lead to losing an edge in their market.

Many companies believe they are getting by just fine with legacy systems and Excel spreadsheets; though the truth is they are losing out on potential gains and placing more burden on internal resources. Integration is difficult with outdated software, which makes the task of building a fully connected digital infrastructure a major headache for IT and business leaders.

The rise of smart industry is fuelled by a drive to solve these challenges and reach maximum operational efficiency. Digitisation cuts the risk of human error and makes it possible to monitor key processes and yields at a granular level, while also staying up to speed with ever-changing regulatory compliance.

Let’s not forget that industrial leaders typically employ a large deskless workforce, often across various sites and locations. Smart industry helps solve the challenge of engaging dispersed teams and connecting them with a single, reliable source of truth to ensure data accuracy and ease of collaboration. Employees and clients have come to expect superb digital experiences as standard, where anything less than seamless is a mark against the brand.

Launching your smart industry strategy

Every industrial business has different needs, though implementing a smart industry strategy always starts by establishing a clear vision for the project.

Business objectives should be defined in detail, whether it’s to improve efficiency, reduce costs, enhance product quality, become more agile or create a better employee experience. Linking each objective with corresponding KPIs enables leadership teams to benchmark success and track improvement following the launch of new technologies.

From there, it’s important to conduct a rigorous audit of your current systems and processes before beginning any plans for change management. The key is to flag up any inefficiencies and determine which areas are priorities for investment, including:

  • Production management
  • Factory floor processes
  • Stock management
  • Data management
  • HR and payroll
  • Supply chains
  • Internal communications
  • Customer service

Not only will this help to map out workflows and highlight any risks or bottlenecks that need to be addressed, it also gives senior leaders detail on their weaknesses and projections on the potential ROI from implementing smart industry best practices.

Time for you to become a smart industry leader?

The future is digital first. And in this world, only the most resilient and adaptable businesses will stay ahead of the curve and thrive in the face of emerging challenges.

Scaling up digital transformation across an industrial enterprise is not easy, yet industry leaders are already using smart technologies and software to achieve major efficiencies throughout the entire manufacturing value chain. In turn, they are gaining the visibility and capability needed to increase capacity, shorten lead times, improve customer satisfaction and take more informed strategic decisions. 

With so much at stake, it’s essential to plan priorities and investment in the right areas. Just as bricks and mortar provide a physical foundation for factory floors, data analytics, IoT and cloud computing form the virtual infrastructure needed to streamline manufacturing and industrial processes. For those that find themselves lagging behind, it’s time to start building.


[1] Source: Smart Manufacturing Survey, Gartner