With the arrival of the Industrial Internet of Things, manufacturers are finding themselves at the forefront of fast-moving, disruptive and revolutionary change. Among other things, this change is quickly introducing components for the creation of a smart factory. The concept of a smart factory uses “smart machines”, or IIoT enabled equipment, to drive enormous improvements in efficiency and maintenance costs along with the capability to connect all aspects of an operation. This includes production, finance, planning, supply chain, maintenance and field service all under one umbrella where advanced analytics and cloud-based computing allow production and service capabilities not possible before.
These changes, however, are not only in software, hardware, and machines. As a result of the capabilities being created by IIoT and smart machines, companies are finding that they must improve the way they make decisions, how they identify and deploy new value streams and even how they view the nature of their own industry to take advantage of these technologies. And, as machines get smarter, decision-makers and managers across manufacturing are also discovering new opportunities to become smarter about their role in the manufacturing lifecycle.
As new skills and a deep understanding of what smart machines have to offer is required to be successful in the manufacturing 4.0 era, this evolution in thinking is no longer optional. The opportunity to grow, to think in terms of what is possible now that wasn’t before and how to implement the changes to drive value and create new revenue streams is a natural product that comes with the capabilities provided by smart machines and automation.
The New Reality
Technologies like MachineMetrics provide both the platform and hardware to create a “Platform-as-a-Service” environment for companies looking to take advantage of smart machine technology. As companies undergo digital transformation and broaden their adoption of IIoT, there are also business adaptations that will require a more sophisticated understanding and approach to managing a complex manufacturing operation. This is true not only for C suite execs, but also for directors, department heads, front line managers, operators and technicians. Every role in the manufacturing system will in some way be affected. As a result, a new way of visualizing production will require those players to improve and/or reimagine the required skills and knowledge to deliver on the promise of the technology.
Learning from Smart Machines
As these opportunities are internalized, it is important to understand how they benefit all employees and inform their new decision-making processes. Because smart machines can, with the right people and systems in place, enable accurate predictive and prescriptive action across the operation, the expectations of these operators and system users are also changed. A shift in mindset to one driven by data will help operationalize and optimize the system for the benefit of production staff. Operators and technicians will be freed from stationary platforms where their view is limited and through mobile devices or other interfaces they will be able to interact virtually where their skills are needed the most.
Some of the areas that will drive this learning and change in the nature and quality of response include:
As smart machinery becomes the new norm, each company must set the stage for this point in time with an understanding of what works for them. Not every company can simply replace all their equipment with brand new IoT-enabled machines in one fell swoop. That said, the discovery of new value and revenue streams available with this technology will be what drives their learning and understanding of the system. Some suggestions for optimizing this journey can include:
The adoption of smart equipment and IIoT technology is enabling benefits that are real, fast-moving and available now. The late Stephen Hawking voiced concerns about whether artificial intelligence is a “threat to humanity”, while others worry about what smart machines mean for people and the displacement of jobs. Smart machines will indeed be digital disruptors because of the effects -- both positive and negative -- they will have on society. In manufacturing the competitive advantages these technologies are capable of providing, however, will undoubtedly bring higher profit margins and lead to more efficient manufacturing processes.