The cost of variable yields, scrap, and rework still plague operations as the lack of real-time understanding keeps the operator fixed to his agreed schedule, impacting any ability to be flexible or minimise delays. Retooling is made under pressure to set the machine up differently, resulting in less-than-optimal operating time.

You can go on and on about issues that impact the manufacturing environment, but there are more innovative, more informed and intelligent ways to re-engineer the manufacturing process, applying IoT and digital solutions.

Why does Industry 4.0 not dominate, even today?

For so many years, we have talked about industry 4.0. You would expect this is so well-embedded in all manufacturing. Sadly, this is not the case. Tradition and legacy still rule, and all those stubborn owners or shop floor supervisors not wanting to make the changes due to fear can create a lot of misunderstanding.

The term Industry 4.0 actually refers to the 4th Industrial Revolution, a phase in the evolution of mankind’s manufacturing processes.

We have had three Industrial Revolutions in the past. The first took place in Britain during the eighteenth century, with the advent of mechanisation. The Second Industrial Revolution took place around the early twentieth century with improved manufacturing processes and assembly lines. The Third Industrial Revolution took place in the 1960s, with the implementation of digital technology.

Industry 4.0 really started to take shape in the 2010s, as computers became more powerful and the internet made us even more connected.

It is never too late to start your Industry 4.0 journey. You can even stand on the shoulders of giants! As we take an industry 4.0 approach, it opens up a transformation that provides value for asset utilisation and flexibility.

Let’s take a look at the business case for change and where it can open up in future possibilities

  • Today, it is becoming so important for having predictive and prescriptive maintenance. Understanding the many different failure modes of a machine can prevent downtime. IIoT solutions are constantly collecting data, tracking the device or machine and its multiple parts. Temperatures, speed, vibration, and individual moving parts collect “objective data”, so the health of a machine can through analytics prevent and predict.
  • The ability to collect real-time data gives real-time flexibility. Visibility both on the production floor and within the value chain shortens response time and increases the efficiencies of asset availability.
  • When we have higher visibility, we can become far more innovative and agile. The more connected both in the factory and outside, directly to customers and suppliers can give early adjustment, greater options to discuss, build and develop alternatives, if and when market needs adjust. This interactive and innovative flexibility gives the richer potential for plant outputs, scheduling, forecast planning and risk assessments.
  • The ability to alert all those within the process makes for a far more proactive environment, freeing up time for more creative and value-adding tasks. So much of the past “fire fighting” or apologising is reduced, and a far more cooperative one replaces it.
  • Taking time to extend training, investigate plant benchmarking, and be able to evaluate the same collected data, lifts conversations and unleashes those more creative suggestions. This replaces the defensive positioning so often caused by sudden or ill-informed information and confrontation. This provided that more uniform visibility.
  • Today, we are increasingly faced with a need to increase the level of training, upskilling, and flexibility for the workforce. Here, having a more digitally connected environment, you gain real-world benefits.
  • Getting from a point of limited training or lack of comprehensive understanding, apart from what one operator has gained or passed down to others, you move into the world of the future, one where 3D, immersive information can “flow” to and from the point of need. You become more aware, you place understanding into context, and you enhance understanding and awareness.
  • This immersive environment over time provides greater workforce agility and job satisfaction. Having available immersive guided tours, instruction manuals, repair procedures, line setups, and changeover guides helps to move your operator into a more skilled technician.
  • Having a greater awareness of the environment enables a greater dialogue, not passing-down instructions. It becomes bi-directional. The more real-time that can be built-in and provided, you can begin to build role-based dashboards that can relate to a specific environment, but can open up the potential for comparison and learning.
  • My last point for achieving a transformation is the constant ability to pass down insights, efficient learning and seek out new employee learning curves that focus on effectiveness, productivity, reducing errors and more expert guidance, not just from human to human, but from machine to human. Intelligence is mutual, and this new digitally partnership allow for a more skilled environment that increases effectiveness, satisfaction, and return.

To gain the benefits of any digital transformation, we need to realise more.

By achieving reduced downtime, increasing quality, obtaining data-based insights, and gaining from greater cross-collaboration across departments, you move towards a real competitive advantage.

Reducing your time-to-market speed offers growing production agility and reducing the cost of compliance builds. For your customers and suppliers, you will become a more preferred supplier due to this transformation, digitally enhanced and humanly enabled.

In order to achieve this transformation, you need a clear vision and objectives. It delivers on the alignment of investments made to future-business objectives and improving returns. Being digitally enabled allows for a greater pursuit of achieving industry standards, building a culture of constant auditing for improvement and learning, less for loss and downtime.

A transformation always takes time, with clear investment decisions over a planned period, but its payback needs to be measured in multiple ways.

It allows a manufacturer to align business objectives with greater reality based on informed insight and knowledge, promotes a culture of transformation in attitudes, and opens the door to learning, creativity, and innovation. The manufacturer builds deeper associations and future potential with the customer’s journey.

Getting the digitally connected basics right, through IIoT, the world of Industry 4.0 opens up. A digital transformation beckons

Simulation, Autonomous Robots, Additive Manufacturing, Further Augmented Reality, Greater Integration, Designing and Building Analytics and your own Apps will all come into your future horizon.

You often wonder why so many manufacturers still stay locked in the traditions of the past, those disconnected, ill-informed environments where constant crisis and fear dominate. Destructive tension or creative tension, appreciating the difference, and enabling the change is what industry 4.0 brings about.