Manufacturing in a Digital World

By Mark Lalley, VP & CIO, UTC Climate, Controls & Security And Ed Dunn, VP, Supply Chain, and Ken Erickson, VP, Manufacturing Operations, UTC Climate, Controls & Security

Mark Lalley, VP & CIO, UTC Climate, Controls & Security

How do you move the world forward? We happen to work for a company that does it quite literally through its Otis elevators and Pratt & Whitney jet engines, while also advancing society through technologies from our division, UTC Climate, Controls & Security that enable sustainable urbanization. But behind the people movers, plane powerers and building brains sits one common theme—information.

From smart, connected products to the Internet of Things, we’re hearing a lot about all things digital now. And rightfully so. Digital isn’t just changing the way we interact—with each other, with products—it’s changing the way we develop solutions that make the world a better place to live. Not only do you no longer need to walk to your thermostat to adjust it, in some cases, you don’t even need an app. Technology exists today that can utilize access control solutions—the card reader you swipe your company ID against when you walk into the office—to call an elevator that knows which floor you need to go to, while the climate control system has been notified that you’re on the way and begins adjusting to your preferred temperature.

Clever, right? But that’s just the beginning. Digital became hot because it presented a solution (connectivity, convenience) for businesses that grappled with how consumers could better use their products. It enables end users to increase the utility of traditional mechanical products through remote connectivity, essentially operating and monitoring equipment from anywhere—removing physical constraints. This benefit further scales with the connection of multiple pieces of digitally enabled equipment.

"There’s a saying that information is power. In today’s world, it’s quite literally powering business—in our case, manufacturing"

But why stop there when there are other questions digital can answer. How can employees work smarter and more efficiently? How can team members halfway around the world from one another manufacture the same high-quality products with no variances? How can we improve a customer’s experience with a product?

Take our company for instance. We manufacture air conditioners, smoke alarms, security solutions and refrigeration equipment. These are all products we use every day—and likely products we don’t think about all that much; we just expect them to work.

So to remain competitive in our industry, we have to think, what makes an HVAC system more economically viable? What makes it valuable to a customer? And have we figured out a process to enable these goals that could be applicable more broadly across our organization?

Enter UTC’s Digital Accelerator. Based in Brooklyn’s “silicon alley,” the company’s $300 million investment will create 250 new jobs focused on developing software solutions for UTC products and services. This investment will not only ensure the company can continue to deliver user-friendly, time-saving apps, it can help create ways to cut the cost of elevator maintenance through remote diagnostics or provide performance data on heating and cooling equipment from anywhere in the world—helping to prevent downtime and unscheduled maintenance.

Ed Dunn, VP, Supply Chain, and Ken Erickson, VP, Manufacturing Operations, UTC Climate, Controls & Security

Digital advancements, though, are already benefitting the whole value stream, from design to servicing the customer. To serve our global customer base, we have a global footprint for manufacturing, yet we can see data at any time, regardless of location, to understand how efficiently and effectively we are producing product. We are also digitizing our service tools to allow technicians to scan a product, know what options are available in that particular serial number and have instant capability to access the appropriate diagnostics tools and material.

Timely and accurate information is also critical to our supply chain and we are seeing significant benefits from digital initiatives. Our Procurement to Pay (P2P) system for non-product (goods and services that do not go into the products we manufacture) is allowing us to collect data to make sourcing decisions, which leads to better deals and enables us to track usage of these deals once loaded in the P2P system.

Once a supplier agreement is set, the real-time nature of digital capabilities helps us better and more quickly understand if our sourced parts are performing as desired. For instance, more of our component suppliers are offering sensors in their products so we can collect valuable data about how parts are operating within our system, which can help us improve quality and drive additional value to our customers.

Looking inward, digital has also changed how we resource our business. Cloud computing, mobility, big data and more are all market-shifting capabilities that are minimizing the time between an issue-found to an issue reported. A manufacturing line can go down or a chiller’s efficiency can slow, but because of how information is shared today, we can troubleshoot and often correct without visiting the line or the equipment in person. Minimal downtime. Maximum convenience.

There’s a saying that information is power. In today’s world, it’s quite literally powering business—in our case, manufacturing.

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