In the global electronics market, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are creating the technology of the future, but at the same time, technology is completely transforming the way products are made. Industry 4.0, also known as Smart Factory, is changing production by leaps and bounds, and the trend will likely accelerate.
Industry 4.0 refers to smart factories that leverage a network digital devices to communicate with an enire ecosystem of raw materials, semifinished products, machines, tools, robots and people. The end result is that resources are used more efficiently, production is more flexible, and customers and partners are closely integrated into critical business processes. People are increasingly working with robots. Embedded sensors constantly gather information. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other emerging technologies further enhance these efforts.
We sat down with François Monette, chief sales and marketing officer at Cogiscan to get his thoughts about where smart manufacturing is going and how technology is going to transform the supply chain. Cogiscan provides track, trace and control (TTC) solutions for the electronics manufacturing industry. Monette graduated with a degree in manufacturing engineering from McGill University in Montreal. He started his career at IBM, and worked at contract manufacturer, C-MAC (Solectron), before joining Universal Instruments as a senior sales engineer.In 1999, he co founded Cogiscan with André Corriveau and Vincent Dubois.
EBN: What are the most significant ways that the factory of the future and Industry 4.0 will shape the supply chain of the future? How do you see the processes of materials management being impacted?
Monette: I think one major issue at play is traceability up and down the value chain. OEMs or brands are insisting on it. First with product and parts but increasingly with machines, processes and operators. We’ve all seen what can go wrong for a brand when problems are found several layers down the supply chain. Industry 4.0 and Smart Factory delivers full traceability.
This can also help with the counterfeiting issues the industry is experiencing, not to mention the massive cost of recalls. If you can trace an issue to a process or a specific batch of parts you can reduce the number of recalls, delivering a massive cost saving, and perhaps reducing the impact on the brands market position.
Lastly all that data delivers feedback along the value chain. That might help in vendor selection, process control and even design improvement.
EBN: Since you focus on the electronics industry, what are the ways that the biggest trends (such as Industry 4.0, IIoT, Big Data/Analytics) can be leveraged to capture a leadership position? And what are the biggest pitfalls or risks that you see on the horizon?
Monette: There is always pressure from up the value chain from customers. OEMs are putting pressure on their manufacturing partners and they in turn put pressure on their vendors. But being the smartest manufacturer is an exciting prospect for any manufacturer and is increasingly the battleground beyond price and scale.
It is also true that more data is shipped with a product than ever before, so having the ability to deliver that data in a manageable way is essential. A smart factory strategy really is table stakes for a modern electronics manufacturing services (EMS) company now.
Image Courtesy: Pixabay
EBN: What technology trends are most likely to further transform factories in the coming years? And what are the greatest impacts that OEMs can expect from them?
Monette: There’s a lot of talk right now about AI and its potential to transform the world and indeed the manufacturing process, but we shouldn’t think of it as a silver bullet. There is a lot of factory intelligence that needs to be implemented before we start to let artificial intelligence make decision for us. Virtual reality too has a limited appeal in manufacturing. It’s wonderful for design, where sharing a virtual vision of product can speed the ideation and iteration process and allow multiple stakeholders to share a vision from afar.
Probably one of the bigger trends is digital twins. Using all the data collected to create digital twins of products, lines, even factories, where the data collected informs decisions in the factory and in the supply chain. The ability to use a digital twin to emulate changes to volumes, supply chain disruption or the introduction of a new product could add real value.