Simple Ideas for Industry 4.0 Pilot Projects

Executive Summary

  • Industry 4.0 can be for everyone, and getting started with projects can be easier than you might think. 

  • Energy monitoring and Environment monitoring can be a simple entry into smart factory practices. 

  • Industry 4.0 relies on breaking down departmental data silos. 


Industry 4.0/4IR is everywhere at the moment. Across manufacturing, processing, logistics, agriculture, shipping and more, 4IR is transforming the way many think about how their operations can and should be run. Advancements in sensor technology, along with the significant growth of the Industrial Internet of Things is allowing many industries to connect machinery in ways never seen before and create vast cost savings thanks to the efficiency this brings.

But there’s a great big elephant in the Industry 4.0 room.

As much as the industry press and solution providers are heralding Industry 4.0 as the all great answer to all problems, few are providing honest and achievable strategies for introducing Industry 4.0 technologies into industrial environments. The Industry 4.0 projects that are publicised and we read about all come with significant investment and overhaul of current operations, which for most is an insurmountable challenge.

We know Industry 4.0 can be and is for everyone, so we want to solve this problem. How can those across the industrial spectrum get started with Industry 4.0 projects that come with real, tangible outcomes and benefits? Well, we’ve pulled together a couple of ideas that you can use in your production and processing facilities to start getting involved with the new manufacturing revolution.


The Important First Step – Always Start with A Theory, Hypothesis and Purpose

There’s never any point in just running into an Industry 4.0 project without any hypothesis of what you think is going wrong and what could be fixed. Simply hitting and hoping can be a monumental waste of resources and effort, as well as a deterrent for legitimate project ideas in the future. A purpose for what you’re going to do with all your new data is imperative, whether that’s reducing a cost or increasing a revenue.

When looking for a place to start, listen to what your gut is telling you. Whether it’s “I think there is too much vibration here”, or “I’m pretty sure this extruder is running too hot” - if there’s an area you’re pretty sure isn’t running as smoothly as it could but you lack the data to back up your claims, this could be the perfect place for you to get going with your Industry 4.0 journey. Listen to the user stories and start from there.

Remember – Rome wasn’t built in a day! Start small, and keep your projects manageable with a clear goal in sight.


If It’s Not Automated, It’s Never Going to Be Industry 4.0

Automated data collection is one of the pillars at the heart of Industry 4.0. If your data collection is coming off a clipboard on the factory floor, there are big steps and gains to be made before moving onto more intelligent decision making involving AI and Machine Learning.

The great news is that data collection has never been easier. Thanks to incredible advancements and cost savings of IoT devices, as well as communication protocols such as WiFi, Bluetooth, Sigfox, LoRaWAN and others, getting going is far less of a challenge than it has been in recent years.

Once you’ve got the technology to gather the data, you’ll need a platform to collect, monitor and analyse the stuff you’re collecting so you can start turning that data into valuable insights. For this, you should check out our RMM platform, SentiLAN™. This system agnostic technology is designed around your production and comes with our expert Managed Service. Click here to learn more about our remote monitoring platform designed with industry in mind.


Energy Monitoring

First, let’s look at energy.

There are plenty of financial and resource incentives to use less energy, so it comes as no real surprise that monitoring energy is a perfect project for those venturing into Industry 4.0. Reading back to our criteria for initial project ideas, it ticks all the boxes by being a simple project idea with clear outcomes and benefits for what you’d use the data for. In a factory environment, however, energy monitoring can become complicated; especially with large and complex machinery. This project is all about providing increased visibility of exactly what’s going on in your facility in real-time, not guessing; but make sure not to bite off more than you can chew at first.

Smart energy monitoring is, of course, becoming commonplace in our homes as well as on the factory floor, but to start building your smart factory it’s time to get smart with your data. Intelligent energy monitoring can lead to automated data-driven decision making, such as powering on/off, modifying speed and much more- all by understanding what’s going on in different areas of the production facility.

Now, this isn’t exactly the same sort of IoT tech you use for your household electrical meter. But, thanks to the growth of IIoT, the devices needed to set this Industry 4.0 project up are getting increasingly affordable. These inexpensive devices can be retrofitted to old machinery as well as new, and using the same monitoring platform means you can pull all your data into one unified analytics program.

Save money and energy. What are you waiting for to get this one going? Get in touch.


Environment Monitoring

Next, let’s look at intelligently monitoring your production environment.

In large facilities, environment values can vary greatly. What’s optimal at one end of the warehouse might not be for the machinery at the other end. Environmental monitoring can help maintenance managers understand why some components are failing faster than others – or even better, stop it from happening. Environmental monitoring can aid your organisation's efforts into predictive maintenance, saving time and money preventing machinery breakdowns and downtime.

Environment monitoring can cover a wide umbrella of topics. Temperature is the obvious metric to keep a track of (which of course, if colluded with energy monitoring can be used to power intelligent facility automation), but there’s also merit in collecting humidity and oxygen counts, depending on the nature of your production. It about understanding what’s right for you and your facilities; remember, what works for someone else might not be the exact solution to your problems.


Breaking Down Silos

Doing these things by themselves may bring cost savings, but the real driving point of Industry 4.0 is really bringing everything together to drive intelligent automated data-driven decision making. To make this happen, you need to break down your silos.

Siloed data- that is, data that is kept under the control of a single department and isolated from the rest of the business- is a major roadblock to embracing Industry 4.0, and likely requires a change of mindset and culture to progress. Data needs to be available to all people and systems who may need it, in real time with a single point of truth, rather than data that is outdated or manipulated.

Take, for example, one department collects data in a certain way, uploads this to their locked drive, and other departments have to frequently come and ask for the data they need to be cherry picked from the data that has already been collected. Clearly, this is a significant barrier to progress that slows down anything trying to be achieved. But having the data available to all who need it in a centralised location brings efficiency gains across the board, helping everyone collaborate and get the best from your data.

The future of your Industry 4.0 progress rests on breaking down these silos. Get in touch if you’re looking at pulling all your data together.


Don’t Try to Do Everything at Once

This new revolution we’re facing is exciting but trying to run before you can walk can be extremely demotivating and detrimental to your progress.

As getting those around you on board is likely going to be one of the biggest challenges you face, making sure to pick a project you know is going to win and not alienate your teams is essential. Just imagine spending a significant amount of time and resources on a “smart factory project”, only to discover your results are inconclusive and has generally been a waste of everyone’s time and energy. Keep things simple, don’t try to do everything at once, and make sure to back a horse you know is going to be a winner.

We firmly believe Industry 4.0 is for everyone, and it doesn’t need to mean starting from scratch. With these simple ideas, you can get 4IR well and truly on the way in your organisation. It’s time to get going!

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