Change is hard. People don’t like change, but as did the three industrial revolutions before it, Industry 4.0 will deliver painful change and irrecoverable harm to those that don’t adapt.
But what does Industry 4.0 really mean? Am I being left behind? How do I get started?
Those were the questions Keith Kersten, industry marketing team manager for Omron Automation, said he has heard repeatedly from concerned manufacturers, speaking in a conference session, “Fear Not the Smart Plant: Exploring Manufacturing Trends in the Digital Age”, at Pacific Design & Manufacturing, running through Feb. 11 in Anaheim.
There are unknowns about Industry 4.0, of course, but inevitability isn’t one of them. “Customers are affecting how we manufacture,” Kersten said to a capacity crowd of around 60 manufacturing professionals, in reference to increasingly customized, short order consumer products and the demand for power of information through data transparency. “There’s a lot of apprehension.”
In addition to the customer-driven forces giving push to the smart, automated, changeable manufacturing of the future, product makers will require the power of information in order to know how and where to distribute scarcer resources, including skilled workers.
Kersten said the best entrée into Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing is to make a plan and set both short-term and long-term goals that are aligned with your customer and manufacturing situation.
One reason why smart manufacturing seems daunting is the premise of going from high-volume/low-mix to low-volume/high-mix, Kersten said. “The frequent changeovers and accommodating a variety of products mean downtime, which takes away OEE and requires a total rethinking of Henry Ford’s assembly line approach.”
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