What makes a Smart Process, Facility, Company?

Dec. 26, 2020 - Dennis Fairchild

A smart company doesn't become "smart" overnight - it's a continual process. There are many interpretations of a smart company, such as

  • A smart company provides open data

  • A successful smart company needs the involvement of stakeholders

  • A smart company is connected

1. Open Data

Sharing data is essential for a company to be smart. However, it’s not just sharing data within the company but also sharing data between companies. It can benefit employees, the independent industry, external industries, businesses large and small, and other public and private sectors. It’s not possible or expected that all process data should be released to everyone.  Smart companies will have the capability to integrate and make data available from many different areas when needed.  The sharing of data can result in better productivity, reduction in waste, improvements in employee health and safety, and many other benefits.

2. Collaboration and Involvement of Stakeholders

Smart companies should be designed to benefit all of the employees. They should have visible results for hourly workers and the organization's management staff. Some of the benefits will be immediately obvious to the employees, others, in areas like employee health may take longer to realize. Monitoring Production Rates and Maintenance, Repair and Operation (MRO) costs are two examples of smart company development. Sharing information - like machine production efficiency - is an immediate result. Knowing exactly how much product is being produced across a fleet machine, plants, and companies at any time opens opportunities for companies to give the information directly to the employees/owners/shareholders.

Counting employees in a building or processing area informs the company of the number of people on-site and tracks them by the time of day. The data helps operational costs by comparing production rates with the number of employees assigned to the work center.  It also enables near real-time modification of the facility services required across the organization. With the changes in an organization operating practices initiated by the recent pandemic, live occupancy figures for each facility can be compared against infection rates and available workforce with other facilities.

The smart company data helps quantify the decisions for production improvements, renovations, and retirements of inefficient processes. It shows the use of raw materials for production systems, distribution costs, and reveals the facilities that require a higher degree of MRO expenditure to achieve the same output. Creating a company that uses technology to meet the complex needs of its employees and drives productivity and revenue for the organization as a whole is a long and difficult process. The continual collection of data enables the process analysis to change over time. The analysis is able to be refined and modified as the data trends mature.

Asking all levels of employees in the organization which projects are most important to them helps company management decide the direction of the growth of a smart company. As with any project – getting “buy-in” from those most affected makes integration and completion much easier.

3. Understanding the Technology behind Smart Company Connections

For a company to be smart it needs to be connected. It needs the digital infrastructure to transmit the company data and make it available to interested parties. For example, sensors and devices around the company might collect data and upload it wirelessly to "the cloud". These cloud services process the data and then make the information available to those who need it in the format they need it. The smart company needs to be built with a scalable framework of the information systems so they can be easily expanded as it needs to grow.

Adaptation from “What makes a City Smart?” By Urban Sensing www.urbansensingltd.com