Are you aware and ready for the next step?
Industry 4.0 is expected to bring about many changes in the manufacturing industry in the next ten years. But what exactly is Industry 4.0 and how can small and medium-sized companies stay ahead of the competition in this rapidly changing world of automation.
What is Industry 4.0?
Machines in factories are connected and their data read out in order to provide a complete overview of what is actually happening within the factory and to allow the prompt optimisation of processes. By automating repetitive manual work in particular, lead times can be shortened and work can be performed more efficiently, for example, by implementing software systems that eliminate the need to retype information from one software system into to another software system. Ever smarter systems are also emerging in the field of service, able to predict maintenance work on the basis of machine data so that action can be taken more promptly, more efficiently, or even preventatively.
Horizontal and vertical integration
With such software systems, a distinction is made between horizontal and vertical integration. Horizontal integration involves the digitisation of order processes such as requests, quotes, orders, insight into the production progress, and invoicing. Vertical integration concerns the integration of information flows from the production floor to the management office, such as MES systems and ISA-95. They establish the connection between sensors and ERP systems. With Industry 4.0, everything in and around a manufacturer – including suppliers, factories, distributors, and even the product itself – is digitally connected and offers a highly integrated value chain. This is important to prepare the manufacturing industry for all the technological developments that await us.
Industry 4.0 in SMEs
Industry 4.0 is not only for large multinationals. It is also becoming easier (and more important) for SMEs to optimise their business processes in a data-driven manner. This affects not only the production floor but all parts of the business. By integrating software systems, raw machine data leads directly to real-time information that can be used to allow work to be done more quickly and more effectively. Reducing failure costs, speeding up response times, shortening lead times, making scheduling more flexible, introducing paperless production, improving traceability, and predicting staffing provide numerous opportunities to generate a competitive advantage within the sector concerned.
From habituation to modernisation
The methods employed and the associated methodologies used over recent decades will have to be incorporated into the automated production world that has finally reached the manufacturing industry. These developments are still ongoing. Technologies such as augmented reality and smart glasses on the work floor are on the horizon.