Innovation, in manufacturing in particular, has exploded, thanks to Industry 4.0. The term was coined to reflect the trend towards the use of technology, automation, and data acquisition in manufacturing. Companies can now integrate their operations vertically and horizontally, leveraging previously untapped data analytics to get a handle on every aspect of their production cycle.
There are six core pillars of Industry 4.0 that will affect how manufacturing grows, now and in the not too distant future. With scalability of applications to work with different size organizations and technology that makes it more affordable than ever, why wouldn’t manufacturers embrace these changes?
Big data analytics — As noted above, collecting and leveraging the data from within an organization and even from the industry as a whole, will enable manufacturers to get a handle on every aspect of their production, with real-time data. With the insights pulled from the data, they will be able to optimize production levels and timelines, quality of production, better manage supply chains and inventory, and save money in the process, with less waste.
The Industrial IoT — The collection of data from machines, including production, speed, quality, measurements against OEE benchmarks, are all made simpler in a world where the machines are connected centrally. This connectivity allows the reading and manipulation of the data for the purposes of saving time, manpower, energy and, ultimately, improving profits.
The cloud — Operating in silos has always been a barrier to true integration, but with cloud computing, manufacturers can share data throughout the organization. This creates the ability to loop in all the players who need to be in the know on the same real-time data.
3D printing — Sometimes referred to as ‘additive manufacturing’, technology like 3D printing enables manufacturers to engage in low-cost prototyping, or high level / small run customized production, that will keep customers engaged.
Cyber security — With all of this interconnectedness in the cloud, the issue of cyber security has never been more prevalent. Fortunately, Industry 4.0 has kept pace with its own growth, and security is an important component of any integrated monitoring system that manufacturers use.
AI and autonomous machines — Machines will eventually include artificial intelligence, effectively learning processes so they can not only be reproduced but independently improved upon. In the short term, enabling machines to work more cohesively with their human counterparts, through the provisioning of more useful and real-time data, is the first step towards a world where machines will not only alert us when there is an issue during production, but will get to the point of diagnosing and repairing themselves.
As if the ability to customize and scale applications to the company, as well as the general affordability of these solutions relative to their ROI, weren’t advantageous enough, these innovations also enable:
Usability and performance can both be enhanced more quickly and ‘on the fly’ with real-time data integration, including customer responses.
When demand changes, all aspects of the production cycle can be adjusted more quickly, at a lower cost.
With cross-functional communication and data available at every level, production decisions can be made from operations to the C-suite, quickly and easily.
Overall, the pillars of Industry 4.0 are the leading edge of the competitive manufacturing of tomorrow. Companies that scale up will reap the benefits many times over!