For those in manufacturing, these are exciting - but uncertain - times. Manufacturing had resisted embracing many high-tech upgrades for longer than most industries, but a combination of buyer-side pressure and the sudden disruption of COVID-19 are making upgrades increasingly mandatory. At this point, manufacturers who don't begin to invest in upgraded technologies are going to be increasingly disadvantaged in the market.
As this Forbes article points out, “smart technologies are merging to create new AI solutions, digital twins, digital threads, industrial IoT, AR/VR solutions and more. Industry leaders are using these smart technologies in creating Industry 4.0 and driving economic growth through digital transformation and smart manufacturing.” These upgrades stand to truly reinvigorate the manufacturing industry.
The Three Components: Data, Automation and Analysis
There are three key concepts which form the basis of digital upgrades: data, automation, and analysis. Just as Industry 3 - the robotics upgrades of the 1970s-90s - reinvented manufacturing, Industry 4.0 stands to take those same ideas to the next level.
Data: The proliferation of persistent online connections, local networks, and effectively unlimited data storage space means that every aspect of a manufacturing facility's operations can be tracked at high levels of precision. A fully modernized plant will have digital sensors on every crucial component. Every pipe's fluid pressure and speeds are tracked. Every flow valve is measured. Every machine's operating parameters are constantly compared against tolerances.
Automation: This creates a firehose of data that would be impossible for humans to sort through effectively on their own - but they don't have to. That data then feeds into the automation systems. Increasingly smart AI controllers can oversee operations with a level of care and attention to detail that human operators can't match. Even minor variations in expected performance will be tracked and, if deemed necessary, reported to managers to investigate.
Some systems are already smart enough to auto-adjust parameters based on desired performance, and predicted outcomes. These abilities will only grow in the years to come.
Analysis: All that data being collected also has a second purpose: analysis. Never before have manufacturing operations had access to such granular and global insights into their entire operation. Ongoing data analysis of the processes will allow further refinements to the workflow, continually reducing waste and moving towards ever-better optimization.
As a result, manufacturers who successfully upgrade will see numerous benefits:
- Lower operating costs. With less need for human workers, and robots/AIs capable of working around-the-clock nonstop, operating costs for facilities will steadily go down.
- More effective use of space. When there's no need for people to work on assembly lines, those lines can be placed closer together, or utilize vertical space that would otherwise be inaccessible. Manufacturers will be able to do more, with less.
- Improved quality control. Manufacturers adopting Industry 4.0 techniques are already seeing massive improvements in QC, with an average of 40% improvements to quality, as well as more reliable deliveries and less post-sale support.
- Happier customers. Who wouldn't want to work with a manufacturer who can deliver products faster, more reliably, and with higher quality than the competition?
- Improved perception of manufacturing. Currently, "factory work" is seen as a negative in many circles, and manufacturers may even face difficulties getting zoning/permits for "dirty" manufacturing centers. Modern high-tech factories will be cleaner, less disruptive to the local environment and infrastructure, and more attractive to cities.
LogicBay Makes Digital Transformation Easier
For more than a decade, LogicBay has specialized in helping operations go digital, embracing better data-tracking and communications within their ecosystems. No matter the size of your business, we offer support, consulting, and software tools designed to make the transition into digital upgrades easier.
Click below for an overview of our Channel Program Services. This three-part resource bundle provides practical steps to establish the current state of your distribution channel, develop a roadmap of improvements to carry forward, and how to align all stakeholders via our formal communication plan.
LogicBay Navigating Digital Transformation