The digital manufacturing revolution - Asset Display Page

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By Pedro Valle

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August 17, 2017

The digital manufacturing revolution

How to become a member of the Industry 4.0 Club

Is your company hoping to join the Industry 4.0 Club? These are exciting times for the manufacturing sector, especially with the rapid technological changes taking place. But it’s not completely straightforward; there are some barriers to becoming a member of this cutting edge Club – three to be exact. Read on to learn what they are.

Industry 4.0’s principal objectives have not changed: optimizing efficiency to get more for less is still a priority. And with new technology such as 3D printing, the Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality (AR), and machine learning; the adoption of a consumer-oriented philosophy; and the idea that production should respond to demand, we can see a real manufacturing revolution taking place.

At a global scale, the manufacturing industry has been leading the Digital Transformation process. Cutting-edge companies—most of them in the automotive and aeronautical fields—have achieved dramatically high efficiency levels.

But there is still much to do. If you want to join the Industry 4.0 Club you must overcome three core challenges that involve changes in processes, technology and culture.

Overcoming resistance to change

Cultural change is the biggest challenge you’ll face on your path to Industry 4.0. In digital transformation projects, it’s common for production plant personnel to resist change. Telling someone to work differently or to share private and valuable information is no easy task.

Production managers also fear interference with their established plant operations.

To help overcome these fears you might provide training programs to help your employees and managers understand the transformation process, feel included, and ease transition to the new reality.

Clear and consistent communication is essentialfor program success.

Clear objectives

You can’t improve what you can’t measure, which is why Industry 4.0 is based on data. New platforms gather data about your company’s systems that, once analyzed, enhances productivity. Gather the information through connected devices that collect and send data from each machine to a shared repository. These connected devices should be noninvasive so as not to interfere with the systems’ operations.

You must then decide where to store the data. You can choose between a private server or a cloud repository. Whatever your choice, you own the data – it’s yours to use freely.

But don’t do what some hardware companies have recently done: they’ve charged their customers for pre-existing data without really offering any added value. This makes no sense at all.

Data collection is a simple process; but the trick is how to interpret it. Today we can gather huge quantities of data, but we often don’t know what to do with it. Apply Big Data and Business Intelligence solutions to gain actionable insights and deliver real value.

We recommend starting with small, pilot projects. Once you can prove the benefits with these smaller project, you can safely and systematically move forward with your digitization process.

Security is no excuse

Information systems in the manufacturing industry have traditionally lived in isolated silos. Data security was not a concern. Today, everything is connected; any data breach, however minor, can have a devastating effect on your firm. Though data security is never 100% guaranteed, if you properly implement proven market solutions security should not be an barrier to success.

Choose the proper path

To successfully implement an industrial digitization strategy you must adopt five key principles:

  • System interoperability. Every system is interconnected and works together.
  • System decentralization. A system does not reside in a single DPC, rather, numerous systems and formats are hosted at multiple locations.
  • Real-time decision-making. Your managers must have access to reliable information allowing them to make decisions in real-time.
  • Modularity. Adopt and seamlessly integrate changes in the production line without taking production off-line.
  • Security guarantee. Including both the data and processes.

Today you should be able to design a digitization model based on your own objectives. And the good thing is you’re not alone. There are many manufacturing examples that can serve to guide you as you start the process. These examples show how digital plant production costs have been cut 10%-20%, or how inventory management costs have been

Three challenges to overcome before you can join the Industry 4.0 Club

  • Overcoming resistance to change
  • Establish clear objectives
  • Considering all the available options in terms of information security

Figure out how to overcome these challenges and you'll be welcomed with open arms into the Industry 4.0 Club.

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