If you’re involved in the manufacturing industry, you should have heard of Industry 4.0, or at least of Smart Factory or Industrial IoT. If you haven’t, then it’s time to learn more about what many refer to as the fourth industrial revolution following the first three revolutions of mechanization, mass production, and computerized automation.
Industry 4.0 is the manufacturing part of the digital revolution. At its heart are connected and intelligent manufacturing systems that are agile, efficient, cheaper and faster, producing better products. I’ve been studying and writing about Industry 4.0 since it was conceived around six years ago.
6 thinks you need to know about the 4th industrial revolution
Here are six things you really need to know:
1) Your manufacturing partner should be heading to Industry 4.0 nirvana.
If you outsource or buy parts from a manufacturer, ask them about their Industry 4.0 or Smart Factory strategy. If they look at you blankly or suggest it’s not important, look for a new manufacturer! If you or they do not have a strategy, you’re in serious danger of irrelevance as the digital revolution drives change and disruption in your industry. You need to be part of this industrial revolution to stay competitive. In my view, there is a strong likelihood that brands will cease using vendors that don’t employ Smart Factory processes.
2) Data is at the core of Industry 4.0
In the Smart Factory, data is the fuel and the lubricant that makes every machine work. Get control of your data and you have control of your factory, your processes and your products. It’s about more than simply collecting data, it’s about what you do with it. Once you have data, the most important thing is how you use it and share it. Data needs to be delivered to every stakeholder in a way that drives value and helps them do their job better. Raw data is impossible to consume, especially in the volumes that we collect. Good customizable dashboards are essential, as is the ability to drill down when needed. Think hard about who gets what data. Customers, operators, managers, etc. all have different data needs; give them what they need and not much more.
3) You need to Read, Record, Relay and React
Every part of the manufacturing process should be able to read, record, relay, and react to data:
- Reading every product, part or consumable that enters a machine or process, including data on the operators or consumable is essential.
- Recording every action that occurs in detail, down to the torque of each screwdriver, the pressure of each SMT placement, or the temperature of each reflow profile, is needed to create the full manufacturing picture.
- Relaying this data must be uniform and available in an open protocol throughout the factory and beyond.
- And lastly, each machine should to be able to react to external data to improve its own process performance. Get these cornerstones working and the rest will follow, miss any and you’ll have holes in your data throwing you straight back to Industry 3.0.