How CONNSTEP is transforming manufacturing in Connecticut with SIRI

The manufacturing industry in the US state of Connecticut has seen less-than-ideal progress when it comes to Industry 4.0 adoption. The perception that transitioning to Industry 4.0 technology is only achievable in larger companies is prevalent, and many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have misconceptions about the goals and purpose of Industry 4.0.

In a state where family-owned SMEs make up a large part of the industry, many companies currently lack the resources and skills to investigate and adopt these technologies.

The global pandemic has only exacerbated these hurdles with social distancing in plants resulting in less staff combined with supply chain pressures. Manufacturers in Connecticut urgently need Industry 4.0 knowledge and solutions.

That’s where business consulting firm CONNSTEP comes in. As the first organisation in the state to offer Official SIRI Assessments, CONNSTEP is supporting businesses to equip themselves with the tools they need for their transformation journey.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Certified SIRI Assessor (CSA) and CONNSTEP Senior Technology Solutions Consultant Erik Fogleman to discuss how SIRI has been implemented in Connecticut and what results they’ve seen so far.

What are some of the benefits of Industry 4.0? Why should manufacturers in Connecticut – and on a broader scale, in the US – go digital?

The biggest benefit is improved productivity. Industry 4.0 helps people reduce costs while improving their efficiency and their capacity at the same time.

It also gives us visibility on data to understand our businesses better – for example we can see what disruptions are in our supply chain or what the inefficiencies are in our processes or our equipment, which lets us know what we need to improve.

Industry 4.0 and digital transformation is also a huge opportunity to enhance the capabilities of our workers as we face a shortage of skilled and qualified workers.

That doesn’t mean replacing workers; instead, it means utilising technology like automation and augmented reality to help multiply the efforts of people so they can do more with the resources they have.

These technologies are no longer just a nice-to-have, but are becoming a necessity to continue to be profitable and productive in the industry globally.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Industry 4.0 transformation in Connecticut’s manufacturing industry?

The shortage of skilled workers was already the number-one issue for our local industry, but it has been multiplied by the pandemic.

Because of health concerns employees were not coming to work, and we also had the challenges of social distancing and building capacity, which made it difficult for people to do their work. But businesses started finding interesting ways to use technology to work around these.

One of the big things that came out of this was remote collaboration. Companies looked at enabling some functions, such as production planning, to work from home and utilised a lot of collaborative work methods to enable this.

On the production floor, collaborative robots, or cobots, were used to help get separation between people to help them stay at a safe distance and also accomplish two things at once.

What prompted you to sign up to become a CSA?

We were having a conversation about how we’re going to go to market with helping our clients with these fairly new technology practices. SIRI stood out because it has a lot of unique features that we didn’t see in other assessments at the time.

We had many clients who wanted benchmarking as well as an objective assessment. SIRI’s prioritisation matrix was the biggest deciding factor for us because of its benchmarking function – the ability to say, “Here’s a prioritised roadmap and these are the next steps you should take.” The other assessment platforms didn’t offer this clarity and guidance.

How has SIRI made a difference in your projects to date?

We’ve been working with a lot of aerospace-related companies, helping them adopt model-based definition tools. We used SIRI to look at multiple areas in their business to see how technology can benefit them and leverage the models.

The main focus of these projects was digital data and the use of 3D models; for instance, SIRI highlighted the need to train workers to use 3D models as part of work instructions. Most of these businesses are now at the starting point where they’re beginning to adopt these tools.

What feedback have your clients given you about SIRI?

Across the board everybody has had positive reviews and positive comments. I think one of my favourite comments was when somebody said they were surprised that the findings were not actually surprising to them.

This comment really spoke to the process of going through the Assessment Matrix Workshop, because as they sat there as a team and discussed the pain points across the business, they came to understand how the other departments impacted each other and got a sense for the areas where impact was going to be.

They appreciate the fact that we present the findings we talk about during the process, and find the results very logical.