Empowering businesses in the Industry 4.0 era
Industry 4.0, smart factories or the Fourth Industrial Revolution is the future of manufacturing. Technological advancements available today are helping gather vital manufacturing and machine performance data to make automated improvements and aid in making informed decisions in operational processes.
Taking what was started in the Third Industrial Revolution with computers and automation, Industry 4.0 is elevating it with intelligent, autonomous factory systems integrated with each other and with the internet, fuelled by data. This will create what is known as the smart factory, where machines learn and are able to provide accurate real time analytical data that enables educated proactive decisions.
While smart factories, IIoT, machine learning and big data seem futuristic, the reality is that they are here, and development and adoption is accelerating — investment and plans to adopt Industry 4.0 are happening across the globe. China is one example leading the initiative with “Made in China 2025”; the proposal is to encourage every factory in China to be a smart factory by 2025.
The digital transformation of the supply chain
There are a multitude of factors that are driving this industrial evolution, and the key drivers vary between industry sectors. The growth of e-commerce and omnichannel retail is the main universal driver facilitating the push for a more efficient supply chain.
The demand coming from consumers is putting pressure on every component of the process from sourcing of raw materials, processing, packaging, supply chain and retail to deliver perfect products faster and more efficiently. While it’s estimated 73% of consumers are omnichannel shoppers1, only 42% of supply chain respondents are operating at an omnichannel level.2
However, to be able to operate at this level and fulfil these orders with 100% accuracy requires visibility across the entire supply chain. This is exactly what Industry 4.0 is making possible.
The smarter factory
Consider Apple’s Cloud, Amazon’s Alexa or Microsoft’s Cortana — they’re all smart technologies that have existed for years collecting data about the people using these devices to provide a better user experience. This begs the question: if the technology has existed for so long, why is it only now being utilised?
“It’s the development of device connectivity or cloud-ready devices that have allowed cloud technology to become more available to the industrial world,” said Andrew Wilson, Head of Corporate Business for insignia.
“The data gathered by the devices can be collated into meaningful insights.”
Right now, cloud technology in these industries is still in its infancy but its adoption is accelerating as more devices become smart and cloud-ready. Wilson confirms reported statistics that the population of smart factories will increase productivity by 2022 — creating potential contributions between $500 billion and $1.5 trillion globally. With such attractive statistics, it’s no surprise that over three-quarters of manufacturers either already have a smart factory initiative or are planning one.
“Connected devices are turning things upside-down in a good way,” said Blair Kietzmann, insignia’s Head of Sales for Domino.
“Machine builders, service providers, operators, and management have real-time communication with machines to proactively manage the process, providing real benefits to different parts of the business. As an example, the machine operators gain visibility over the health status and replenishment timelines of the equipment, helping manage priorities and reduce unnecessary line stoppages. Continuous improvement personnel can analyse the data and focus improvements in areas that provide the best value to performance and quality. And perhaps most importantly, management have full visibility of their manufacturing lines from anywhere in the world, giving them immediate accurate data in real time that would have taken days to gather in the past, with differing degrees of accuracy.
“As mission-critical service providers, insignia is changing the way we support our customers by investing in cloud technology and data analytics to provide a level of support never experienced before in our field. By analysing accurate machine data in real time, we can predict potential line stopping events before they occur. If the machine does experience a critical fault our Help Desk is automatically alerted and can proactively resolve the fault, reducing the impact on our customer.”
All this drives performance and availability of the machines, lowering costs, improving quality and OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness).
With more advanced cloud software, particularly in the enterprise mobility space they provide a two-way connection. This allows the operator to not only receive data but roll out software updates amongst a fleet of devices at the press of a button.
Having visibility over your devices means you can better manage your fleet, particularly in the realm of mobility. Wilson explains that device management features including geolocation and usage data gives management the ability to know where each device in their fleet is and how it’s being used, so they can ensure each device is being fully utilised.
This is an incredibly exciting time for industry. The leaps in technological advancements, analytics, visibility and performance provide potential that we are only just beginning to tap into.
Imagine a state where the machines understand their requirements and communicate with appropriate machines, systems, personnel and support providers autonomously. Connected to ERP systems, the potential to self-order consumables assists in lean ordering, avoiding over or under stocking. Operational staff only need to conduct physical action/improvements based on informed data from the machines. Managers have real time accurate automated dashboards and reports to make informed decisions from anywhere in the world.
The reality of smart factories is closer than we think — a lot of the technology that has the potential to build them already exists.
Industry 4.0 doesn’t happen overnight and is not one size fits all; it should be shaped to fit the industry and the business. Rather than just investing in the latest equipment, the focus should be on improving processes and prioritising based on importance and cost.
From coding and marking to mobile computing and printing, insignia is embracing a broad spectrum of IIoT technology to provide their customers with cloud solutions that offer better visibility over their devices and improved performance. Wilson explains that the cloud software and dashboards are just one part of it, decision makers should be focused on investing in cloud-ready devices so they are Industry 4.0 ready.
“To put it into perspective, you may have a desktop printer that you’ve had for 10 years and works fine, but with the advancement in technology the new printers hitting the market are giving businesses information and data that they’ve never had access to before. This data allows them to make educated business decisions around their hardware, spares, consumable usage and output.”
Smart factories are coming and coming fast. It’s a new exciting era, that is rapidly being invested in and deployed. How is your business getting ready and capitalising on the vast array of opportunities it presents?
 Harvard Business Review, A study of 46,000 shoppers
 Zebra, The future of fulfilment: Asia Pacific vision study
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