October 5, 2018
By Willem Sundblad
Itís no secret that Industry 4.0, or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has the power to drive true quantifiable change in the manufacturing industry. The immediate bottom-line production benefits are clear: fewer machine failures, reduced scrap and downtime issues, and improved throughputóto name a few. However, there are additional, less quantifiable, benefits of implementing this technology.
One trend that Iíve started seeing among manufacturers is the use of Industry 4.0 to create a positive, cultural shift across an organization. Think about how lean manufacturing and Six Sigma revolutionized the plant floor by turning production workers into problem solvers striving for continuous improvement. Similarly, Industry 4.0 is transforming how factory employees work, collaborate, and serve their customers.
The best-in-class Industry 4.0 solutions aggregate data not only from machines but from existing third-party systemsóMES, ERP, maintenance, SCADA. The Industry 4.0 platform becomes a single source of truth for all manufacturing operations. Decision makers across the entire organization gain access to the same unified data set, rather than relying on disparate systems or manual data-collection.
Effectively, Industry 4.0 eliminates the silos that create frustration and disagreements between employees about the source of production issues. The availability of open, connected data means that plant managers, engineers, and management can now work together to objectively solve production problems. It also results in improved customer satisfaction, increased supply chain transparency, and enhanced employee engagement.
IIoT strengthens customer relationships
More than one-third of manufacturing executives say improved customer engagement and satisfaction are among the top benefits of IIoT. Since IIoT combines detailed process data with other production data sets (work orders, QA data), it enables higher levels of traceability. Manufacturers can quickly resolve warranty claims or address quality issues related to their manufacturing process. These faster response times demonstrate a level of production transparency that increases customer confidence in their supplierís capabilities.
Additionally, Industry 4.0 allows manufacturers to bring new products to market faster by reducing production lead times. Letís take Faurecia SA for an example, the France-based car seat manufacturer invested in IIoT to increase transparency into the production of their parts. The resulting traceability throughout Faureciaís production process increased their product quality and reduced the time it took to move from the development stages to full production.
In an IIoT-enabled factory, production data will also help manufacturers gain a better understanding of customer demand. Advanced systems with Machine Learning allow manufacturers to use real-time analytics from the plant floor to predict buying behaviors of their clients. In turn, manufacturers can ensure they have the right components on hand when they need it, optimizing inventory levels and reducing the potential for production delays.
High-tech solutions for a tech-savvy workforce
With manufacturer struggling to hire talent, high-tech, data-driven environments help manufacturers attract and retain workers. Iíll focus on engineering: younger engineers are accustomed to using technology in their personal lives, while the top engineering talent have worked for companies that were early adopters of advanced technology. Both expect to have access to similar technology in the workplace, tools that provides fast, reliable information. Without this, they will likely avoid or leave an organization where disagreements are frequent and decision-making is slow due to outdated, legacy data-collection methods.
Industry 4.0 unlocks these data barriers and positions manufacturers as forward-thinking technology leaders. It fosters a data-driven culture where employees feel empowered to make intelligent decisions. As more manufacturers adopt Industry 4.0 technologies, companies will realize these additional benefits that may not have an easily calculable dollar-value, but are equally critical to their strategic goals.
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