But as with any transformative revolution, there’s opposition. 4IR isn’t cheap, and decision makers are looking for clear benefits before they invest. But why should manufacturers invest?
Well, in short, if they don’t, they’ll be in trouble pretty soon. One study estimates there’s a £74 billion opportunity in digitising just the automotive industry in the next two decades (The Manufacturer). If certain manufacturers don’t evolve, others will, and they’ll be able to produce more, at a lower cost, with more personalisation for the customer, and with less downtime.
The immense amount of data that can be gathered and analysed with modern Cloud connected systems allows systems to accurately identify bottlenecks in the manufacturing process. In more detail than ever before, the smallest of tweaks can end up increasing a factory’s production output several percentage points. In factories, this could equate to millions in saved production time.
And naturally, because the manufacturing process has been made faster, this leads to a lower cost price. But that’s not all; intelligent data collection and analysis can interpret material usage, for example, to maximise yield. So faster, cheaper, and more efficient, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
As it stands, many if not most manufacturing machinery is capable of producing reports designed to be read and acted upon by those working on the factory floor. But with so many different types of machines in even your most basic factory, complicated, confusing and contradicting reports from different machines make it difficult for factory workers make real use of the data. By connecting all elements of machines, devices and sensors to the Internet of Things and the Cloud, reporting can be centralised, which means understanding what’s really going on much simpler to understand. Better informed decision making can only be a good thing.
And of course, this uber-high level of automation will allow manufacturers to make significant savings. Some early indications of the savings that Industry 4.0 will bring are colossal; one gold mine managed to capture more sensor data during a key process, tweak it, and improve yield by 3.7%, which equalled $20 million p/a.
All of this is only the beginning.
As with all revolutions, there are of course challenges to be faced along the way. The spotlight in a way is now shifting away from industry and towards folks like us in the technology industry, and how security issues need to be addressed. Somehow connecting every aspect of a factory floor to the internet isn’t as straightforward as it sounds…
But we are ready, and so should you be if you’re looking to excel. There are many threats to manufacturing today, making grasping onto the opportunities even more crucial.
It’s not called a revolution for nothing, and it’s as painful as it is exciting. What’s happening to industry is highly disruptive and a technological minefield. Manufacturers are looking to work with experts like us to ensure that bringing the Internet to every aspect of the factory floor is a secure and positive leap forward.
We’re ready – how about you?
Posted by Jordan Maciver on Monday, December 19, 2016
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