The animal health industry is experiencing rapid change.

Even with many new companies stepping into the industry and global risks like COVID-19 disrupting supply chains, it’s fast becoming clear that the industry is on the verge of something big. As the animal health market continues to see significant growth, potential competitors must look for innovative ways to enter and capture a share of this market. I grew up on a dairy farm and have spent years working with smart manufacturing techniques. These combined experiences have shown me that this approach can reveal a path forward for companies looking to enter the animal health market.

What Is Smart Manufacturing?

Smart manufacturing — or manufacturing 4.0, as some call it — provides the means to shift how organizations think about and develop manufacturing processes. Smart manufacturing can be broadly defined as a process that allows organizations to gain capital efficiency through automation and data-driven decision-making.

Until recently, manufacturing operations stakeholders deployed isolated software systems to measure and improve certain aspects of the manufacturing process. Now, quality teams are beginning to measure and improve quality processes while energy management teams measure and improve energy efficiency at a site or at the corporate level. Vendors are working with subject matter experts to collect data and make incremental improvements within manufacturing processes.

This practice, in turn, has created data silos, isolating impactful information and data from other stakeholders in the manufacturing process. The result is most legacy manufacturing sites became data rich but now lack the necessary interfaces between their systems — such as quality systems, building automation systems and enterprise resource planning systems — to make data-driven decisions about how, where and when to invest in capital projects to capture new market share.

With siloed data, recapitalizing existing fixed assets and capital planning for strategic projects becomes a highly manual and challenging process that involves leadership from across the organization. Further, the spreadsheet-intensive capital planning process is prone to error due to manual data handling. Because of this, the process often lacks transparency, standardization and objectivity when making decisions about deploying limited capital to protect and maintain existing production — or revenue — streams versus strategic capital investments to gain new market share. 

Ultimately, smart manufacturing is about the ability to have real-time access to information to make data-driven decisions at the speed of business.

Therefore, smart manufacturing solutions will look different for legacy manufacturing companies than they will for companies entering the animal health industry or building new greenfield manufacturing facilities. For legacy sites, smart manufacturing may take on various forms. The most likely path forward will be to interface with existing systems to create actionable datasets on the path to data-driven solutions. Another option for these facilities will be to challenge the need for existing operating systems, opting instead for a replacement on the road to digital transformation.

Making It Work

Siloed data cannot coexist with advanced manufacturing techniques or with smart manufacturing. Today, new technology platforms are purpose-built to support industrial connectivity and leverage artificial intelligence, machine learning and augmented reality to help organizations gain competitive advantages and enter new markets, like animal health. 

There has never been a better time for new manufacturing sites — or those entering a new market — to select a platform built for smart manufacturing operations. Before selecting a platform, organizations must ask themselves if they have a platform that was designed to support their digital transformation goals. Most systems were originally built for financial management, quality management or energy management and have been modified over the years as requested by users. Most existing platforms were never designed to be embedded with technology to support advanced capabilities in manufacturing operations.

For this level of industrial connectivity and security, organizations should consider platforms that will become foundational for smart manufacturing initiatives. Even existing sites with legacy systems can often find solutions that integrate with new systems to support digital transformation efforts and shift toward smart manufacturing. 


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