Oracle Industry Solutions - Manufacturing

The Digital Future of Manufacturing
The people, processes, and technology you need to succeed

Manufacturing’s next major transformation

From the way we interact and communicate with one another, to how we make basic decisions about our day, shifts in the technological landscape have completely transformed the very basics of what life looks like, and how society operates today. Nowhere have those changes been greater than in the world of manufacturing. From the dawn of the first industrial revolution, technological changes have had a major impact on how products are manufactured – opening up new opportunities for improving efficiency, productivity, and quality.

Robotics, CAD, and machine-assisted processes all had a huge impact on manufacturing, but now they’re yesterday’s innovations. Now, it’s time for the next major transformation: the Smart Connected Factory.

The rise of the Smart Connected Factory

The Smart Connected Factory is all about changing the ways that humans and machines interact and learn from one another – so that both can do more. Behind those interactions is data—the fuel that drives the Smart Connected Factory. Sensors, platforms, and people constantly generate data that the smart connected factory can analyse and action on its own through deep automation. That data provides the foundation for the factory—effectively enabling the use of all kinds of sophisticated, intelligent tools and technologies. Artificial Intelligence, Virtual and Augmented Reality, and advanced robotics all have a role to play in the Smart Connected Factory. But ultimately, it falls to you as a manufacturing business to identify which new digital tools you can best apply to your operations, and how they can help deliver better results for your customers and your business.

It’s more than just technology

Understanding how you can apply new technologies to build smart, connected factories can help you get ahead of the curve and start driving change instead of simply reacting to it. But that entails much more than choosing the right operational technologies. It also means finding the right people with the right digital skills, and implementing the right data foundation to underpin it all.

In this digibook we’ll explore what the future looks like for industrial manufacturing, and what you need to consider as you get your business ready for the changes ahead.

The Smart Connected Factory of the future

The factory of the future will be smart and connected. By 2020, 60% of plant floor workers will work along-side automated assistance technologies such as Advanced Robotics, AI, and AR/VR on factory floors1.

Across the factory an interconnected set of sophisticated technologies come together to deliver a wide range of benefits, including:

More efficient manufacturing operations
New opportunities for precision design and building
Heightened levels of productivity

Artificial Intelligence

AI technology has come a long way in a few short years. What seemed like science fiction a decade ago now presents a very real opportunity for manufacturing organisations. Armed with deep data from across the factory and able to continuously learn by monitoring operations, artificial intelligence can be the backbone of a Smart Connected Factory. In an ideal world, Smart Connected Factories can almost become perfectly self-sustaining.

Each part and process generates data, that data is then automatically analysed and acted upon by AI, then the AI makes intelligent decisions, based on real-time information about what’s going on at that moment. This is the next evolution of automation. It’s no longer about finding simple repeatable processes and cutting the manual effort out of them. This is a powerful opportunity to bring objective, real-time, data-driven decision-making into the factory, and ensure that every bit of data you gather is used to improve outputs and operations.

Top 5 current applications of AI in business

0% 1
Detecting and deterring security intrusions
0% 2
Resolving technical problems
0% 3
Reducing production management work through automation
0% 4
Gauging internal compliance
0% 5
Anticipating future customer demand and sending offers proactively
Source: Harvard Business Review

Advanced robotics

Robotics have been in use in factories for years. But recent developments in the physical capabilities of robots, and in the software used to power them, mean they can do more than ever before. Today’s manufacturing robots don’t simply perform the same basic task again and again in an assembly line. They’re directed by data gathered from across the business, and able to execute precision tasks such as product customisations with no direct input from human operators. The next generation of manufacturing robotics are designed to turn data into automated physical outputs. The more information you can feed them, the more they’ll be able to do without manual intervention.

Spread creates the world’s first fully robot-operated farm

Japanese vertical farming company Spread has built a fully robot-operated growing floor where automated bots harvest 30,000 heads of lettuce every day. Keeping the growing floors human-free means the company can operate 24 hours a day, without risk of contamination.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

Augmented and Virtual Reality technology aren’t yet in widespread use in factories. But both technologies open up exciting new opportunities for designers and manufacturing teams to interact with products, equipment, and each other. By visualising complex processes or products using AR and VR, you can view and explore things before you’ve even created them. That can help with building and testing product prototypes, giving humans manual control of advanced robotics, and even exploring factory operations in granular detail. Whether you’re virtually mapping your factory floor to study workflows, or designing products virtually in 3D to better understand the manufacturing challenges that you’ll face when building them, AR and VR can help you get “hands on” while remaining physically “hands off”. By keeping more work in the virtual domain, it significantly lowers the cost of everything from R&D to maintenance cycles.

Ford reduces employee injuries by 70% using Virtual Reality

Ford was an early adopter of VR, using it to simulate assembly processes long before physical production begins. By training staff in those processes using virtual reality, the company reduced injuries by 70%. Source:

By putting IoT sensors in its engines, Rolls-Royce now sells “power by the hour”—a service where people pay for the power delivered by engines instead of the engines themselves. The IoT sensors enable Rolls-Royce to monitor engine performance and status remotely, deliver service proactively, and accurately track customer usage of the engines for accurate and reliable pricing.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) enables manufacturers to capture data from just about any process or moving part in the modern factory. This has helped shed light on areas of operations that were previously extremely difficult to track – or even see. With data being constantly gathered from across the factory environment, manufacturers can gain new insights into failure characteristics and start detecting and protecting against them proactively. That data fuels modern analytics platforms, turning huge volumes of raw information into actionable insight into things like:

Process efficiency

Output productivity


Machinery maintenance needs

Energy and fuel efficiency

Rolls-Royce delivers “power by the hour” using IoT sensors
Explore more IoT innovations
The IoT isn’t just transforming factory operations. See how manufacturers are harnessing the power of sensors and connected devices to transform the way they deliver aftermarket service and monetise what they produce – read our digibook: The Manufacturer’s Guide to Digital Connected Service


Every piece of technology used in the Smart Connected Factory generates data. Analytics platforms are the key to turning that raw data into actionable insight, and ensuring that the right people and systems have access to those insights when they need them. With the right analytics platform, processes across the Smart Connected Factory become visible to everyone who needs to analyse them. Asking a question about a process, output or piece of equipment is as simple as choosing the right criteria within a dashboard. The end result is that people at all levels are empowered to make better-informed decisions about production and maintenance, while insights from analytics can be used to direct autonomous processes.

A world of devices and data

By 2020, 50 billion devices will be deployed to create and share manufacturing data, producing a predicted 40 Zettabytes of information for analysis. Source: PWC

Self-driving processes

Manufacturers that can gather data from sensors and mine it for insights are well placed to start building processes that are truly self-driving. With the right data foundation in place, and sensors monitoring what’s happening, even the most complex manufacturing process can be completely automated. The latest data from across the factory helps ensure errors are avoided, and with instant reporting to the humans managing and overseeing the processes, there’s little danger in going “hands-off” – no matter how sensitive the process.

What it all looks like together

Not every factory will adopt all of these technologies. But no matter which ones you choose to use – or how you choose to use them – the key principle behind the Smart Connected Factory remains the same. It’s all about bringing new technologies together to create a data-powered environment that’s able to constantly learn and improve operations. From changing the way humans interact with digital tools, to automatically gathering information using discrete sensors, every part of the Smart Connected Factory is set up to simplify operations and enhance the processes surrounding it.

For your business, that means:

Leaner, more cost-effective operations

Reduced wastage

Increased opportunity for product innovation

Faster time-to-market

Continuous operational improvement

Better, more predictable product quality

How people power digital manufacturing

With so many new technologies applied within the Smart Connected Factory, there has never been a greater need for digitally skilled workers. As your factory becomes more digital, you need the right skills in place to support that technology and unlock the full value that Smart Connected manufacturing environments can deliver.

Digital transformation requires the right people—not just in terms of their digital skills, but also in their ability and drive to innovate. If you want to make great things happen in digital manufacturing, you need a team of people that are both capable of and driven to achieve that kind of digital transformation. In order to attract the kind of digital—often millennial—talent that is required to power digital manufacturing, you need to understand what those people are looking for in a modern employer. Today’s top digital talent demands a certain level of user experience. They want to be empowered to work in ways that suit them, and have the same kind of seamless technology experiences at work as they’re used to getting in their personal lives. In practice, that means offering things like mobility to empower them to work from anywhere, enabling open and continuous collaboration, and making all systems and interfaces as simple and intuitive to engage with as possible. When you empower your employees and deliver superior user experiences for them, word will get out, and top digital talent will naturally start to gravitate towards you.

5 ways to get the skills and people digital manufacturers need

Analyse skills gaps to understand exactly what’s missing
Build a compelling employer brand that showcases your digital workplace
Look to social networks as a powerful source of talent
Make development opportunities visible and accessible to all
Have mandatory training for all as new technologies are rolled out across the factory

Analyse skills gaps to understand exactly what’s missing

Before you start thinking about new digital skills you might need to acquire, you first need to understand exactly which skills you already have. With complete visibility of your workforce delivered by a modern HCM platform, it’s easy to identify where your key skills gaps are, and identify which of your people have abilities that aren’t being put to full use.

Build a compelling employer brand that showcases your digital workplace

Top digital talent belongs in the best digital businesses. If you’re adopting new technology to create a Smart Connected Factory, you need to make that visible to people outside of your business. By showcasing your innovative workplace and how you enable digital talent to excel, you can start attracting the kind of people you need to succeed in the age of digital manufacturing.

Look to social networks as a powerful source of talent

Good talent knows good talent. If you can turn your best people into powerful advocates for you as an employer, you can tap into their personal and professional networks to attract more of the same kind of people, with the skills you need.

Make development opportunities visible and accessible to all

One of the most efficient ways to acquire digital skills and capabilities is to develop people yourself. With a strong digital development program, you can tailor skills to your exact needs, improve internal mobility, and give your people exciting new opportunities for career progression and skills modernisation.

Have mandatory training for all as new technologies are rolled out across the factory

During times of major digital transformation, it’s often not the complexity of new technology that leaves people overwhelmed, but the volume of it. By offering training as new technologies are deployed and transforming gradually, you can keep everyone up to speed with what’s going on, and ensure that as your business transforms, none of your people get left behind.

Augmenting and enabling your digital teams

Attracting and retaining top digital talent is a major challenge, but it’s not the only one. Once they’re on board, those people also need the right tools to perform effectively for you in their role. In addition to the right skills, your people need to be armed with modern solutions and collaborative technologies to do their jobs as effectively as possible, and become an integrated part of the smart connected factory themselves.

Those solutions commonly include:

Collaboration tools that enable continuous communication and flexible working

Simple platforms and interfaces that help people make sense of data and analytics

Management tools that grant visibility across the factory floor

Simple tools for accessing internal services such as HR and payroll

Enabling agile operations

You’ve developed the vision of how you’d like to digitally transform your manufacturing operations, you know which operational technologies you plan to use, and you know how you’re going to ensure you have the skills to execute it all. There’s just one piece missing – a robust and streamlined data platform to tie everything together.

As the technology in your factory has evolved and your needs have changed, chances are your IT environment has become complex and difficult to manage. With different solutions and systems deployed over the years, many manufacturers currently have patchwork environments where critical information remains siloed, making it hard to access, learn from and share. For those looking build a Smart Connected Factory, that’s a major challenge. You can’t build and implement new processes powered by new technology if you don’t have the agility to support them. If you’re still struggling with IT complexity, you need to focus on streamlining and simplifying what you already have before you start building a future-ready digital strategy.

The factory of the future also depends on being able to share data between people, machines, components and systems. No matter which modern technologies you want to start taking advantage of, they all require a simple and standardised data foundation to deliver the best results. Whether you want to use AI to automate repetitive processes and enable predictive planning, or just improve machinery monitoring and management using IoT devices, you first need to standardise and simplify your operations – providing the foundation for that single data view.

With a single data view across your entire organisation and a completely standardised data environment:

All parts of the Smart Connected Factory can learn from each other, enabling robust process automation and continuous learning and improvement

You can maintain an accurate and up-to-date view of your workforce, enabling smarter management of the resources you have available, and easier identification of skills gaps

AI can automate business intelligence, maintaining a central source of learning based on data created and gathered from across the entire organisation

Improve the visibility and accessibility of internal services such as training and development, and other HR services that improve internal mobility

Deep-dive analytics can easily pull together information from across the organisation, enabling strong business intelligence and helping to uncover timely insights that drive innovation and fuel continuous operational improvement

Human-machine interaction is simplified, as digital experiences are more consistent and predictable for the people engaging with the systems that power the Smart Connected Factory

Improve the visibility and accessibility of internal services such as training and development, and other HR services that improve internal mobility

Everyone is empowered with the information they need to do the best job possible and achieve maximum productivity – whether it’s about people, processes or products

Total visibility of all operations enables total control – opening up powerful new opportunities to improve efficiency, cut costs and make limited resources go further

Enable agility across your value chain
The digital factory is just one part of your wider operations. See how you can enable greater agility across the value chain and optimise outcomes for customers and your business in digibook: Smart and Connected Value Chain

Oracle Can Help

Whichever aspect of digital manufacturing and the Smart Connected Factory you need assistance with, Oracle can help.

Transform manufacturing operations with a connected platform approach Transforming your factories and embracing digital manufacturing can bring a huge range of benefits for both your business – as long as you make the right technology decisions. If you take a bolt-on approach to data and systems, you simply won’t have the connectivity and integration required to support digital manufacturing operations. By adopting a unified platform for all of your manufacturing operations, you can create a strong, scalable foundation for process innovation. Developing a connected manufacturing platform can help you standardise your data and technology, laying the foundation required to embrace innovative new tools and processes across your factory and supply chain.

Oracle’s complete digital solution for manufacturing Oracle delivers a complete cloud-based solution for manufacturing that enables the integration of CX, workforce, finance, supply chain, and data systems and solutions. This tightly-integration suite of solutions enables manufacturers to transform the way they operate at every level – from improving core processes and operations, to embracing new data-driven technology and seamlessly weaving it into current operations.

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To learn more about how Oracle can help you to transform your manufacturing business around the customer experience, email our Customer Success Team, call us on +44 203 580 4030 or visit our Industrial Manufacturing solution page.
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