The manufacturing industry has been continuously evolving. It all started with the invention of the steam engine in the 19th century, which led to the onset of mechanization. As time moved forward, so did the technologies that were used in manufacturing. This has ultimately led to the onset of the 4th industrial revolution, commonly referred to as industrial revolution 4.0.
This new era in manufacturing is marked by 4 key components: instrumentation, inter-connectivity, inclusivity, and machine intelligence. With industry 4.0, manufacturing plants are incorporating interconnected devices into their factories in order to collect, analyze and share data in real time. Also termed as IIoT, these technologies can be placed on individual machines to track performance and to monitor relevant KPIs.
As a manufacturer, it is important for you not to be left behind in this industrial revolution 4.0. To get onboard, you need to embrace new technologies and use them to increase the efficiency of your plant operations. This means promoting inter-connectivity of devices throughout the plant, collecting and sharing data in real time, and making decisions based on real-time visibility of the factory.
So what should you do to make sure you get onboard the 4th industrial revolution? Here are 7 key steps you must take.
1. Embracing changes and evolution in technology
The first thing you must do to get onboard with industry revolution 4.0 is to embrace changes in the manufacturing sector. You must be able to recognize how these new interconnected devices can significantly increase the effectiveness of your production processes.
Robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) are all at the forefront of spearheading this industrial revolution through automation. Tasks that were previously too complex or too cumbersome to be carried out manually can now be carried out by robotics and AI. 3D printing also has the capability of revolutionizing how items are produced and supplied to the end-user.
As a manufacturer, you need to embrace these changes and to plan your development strategy around these emergent technologies in order to truly benefit from industry 4.0.
2. Turn your factory into a smart factory
It will be impossible for your manufacturing plant to truly embrace industrial revolution 4.0 without turning your factory into a smart factory. A smart factory is one that leverages the benefits of IIoT technologies in its daily operations. IIoT is a network of interconnected devices that are strategically placed throughout the plant to monitor equipment in real time, collect and analyze data, and improve the overall visibility of the entire plant.
Manufacturers who utilize these technologies are able to monitor their equipment to prevent downtime, collect high quality data that will result in better business decisions, and redirect the efforts of their employees towards more technical processes within the plant.
To get onboard with the new industrial revolution, you need to incorporate these new technologies into your factory.
3. Improve the visibility of floor processes
A key step that any factory must take to get onboard with industry 4.0 is to improve the visibility of its floor processes. This means using interconnected and portable devices to keep track of critical functions in the plant and to share data in real-time.
Take steps to equip your team with digital tools (such as mobile devices and digital dashboards) that will improve the efficiency of their activities. Data should also be displayed on the factory floor to keep all employees on-board with on-going processes.
By equipping your team with the tools they need to carry out their functions with increased efficiency, floor processes will become more visible to the entire factory and better decisions will be made in real time.
4. Make data-driven decisions
One of the greatest benefits of industry revolution 4.0 is the ability of manufacturers to make data-driven decisions. Decisions that are made based on real time and high quality data tend to be more objective than decisions made from estimations and subjectivity. Industry 4.0, through IIoT technologies, enables factories to collect data from multiple devices, analyze this data and make decisions based on the results.
These decisions can also be made in consultation with team members and the performance of various systems within the factory.
5. Valuing and nurturing innovation
Getting onboard industry 4.0 also involves valuing and nurturing innovation. New innovations in the industry are revolutionizing how we have traditionally viewed our products and services. For example, technologies being used in cars are following the trend of turning your vehicle into an automated machine that can integrate with your smartphone and other mobile technologies to deliver critical services.
To keep up with these rapid innovations, you need to hire high quality talent that will help you transform your outdated processes. Being on the lookout for computer and electronic engineers, data scientists and manufacturing experts can help you implement the latest and most effective technologies in this new industrial revolution.
6. Implement scalable technologies
It can first seem overwhelming to implement industrial revolution 4.0 into your factory. The secret is to start small by using scalable technologies that you can evolve with. For example, investing in SaaS and other cloud solutions will provide your company with a flexible platform that can evolve as the needs of your business expand.
Scalable technologies also allow your factory to build on their knowledge of IIoT, data science, and AI in order to maximize on the use of smart technologies within your factory.
7. Increase collaboration with partner companies
Industrial revolution 4.0 is grounded in collaboration. Not only collaboration with IIoT technologies, but with other companies as well. To deliver high-quality products, you need to work closely with your suppliers, customers, and employees to optimize all relevant areas of the value chain.
Collaborating with all the stakeholders of your factory processes enables you to implement a framework that will benefit all the parties involved. For example, you can use IIoT to integrate your inventory with your suppliers so they can automatically get notified when your inventory is running low. This leads to lower inventory costs and faster fulfillment of customer orders.