There's never been a better time for manufacturers to adopt Industry 4.0. However, there are often many obstacles standing in their way. Do any of these statements sound familiar to you?
- We’re just too busy to think about making changes right now.
- Sales are too volatile—it’s not a good time.
- We don’t have the manpower to implement anything new.
If your factory has yet to embrace Industry 4.0—to become part of the smart factory revolution—there’s a good chance that you say things like this whenever the subject comes up. Which, if you’re like many other manufacturers right now, is pretty often.
The reality is, Industry 4.0 is here to stay. Chances are, some of your competitors are up to speed. That means the longer you put it off, the further you’ll fall behind.
There’s no question that change is hard. And come with a price tag. And that all those industry buzzwords—IIoT, AI, digital twin—can be massively off-putting. But the reality is, adopting elements of Industry 4.0 will fix the problems plaguing your shop right now, while positioning you for a more successful future.
So, if you’re an Industry 4.0 holdout, this is for you. No buzzwords. No sales pitch. Just a down-to-earth explanation of how Industry 4.0 will help your factory—and why you need it ASAP.
The term Industry 4.0 has been bouncing around the manufacturing world for a while. Of course, it’s an updated reference to prior industrial revolutions. While those were centered around steam power, electricity, and early computer technology, this fourth revolution involves utilizing 21st century technologies to create a so-called smart factory.
Simply put, a smart factory is one that uses a specialized operating system to work more efficiently, proactively and profitably. The system automatically measures and tracks all machine activity, uploading the collected data to the cloud. There, the data is collated and analyzed, revealing actionable insights that operators and managers couldn’t detect on their own.
In addition, the system issues alerts when problems arise, oversees routine maintenance tasks, and provides real-time visibility into shop floor activities—making it an invaluable asset.
These factory operating systems leverage Industry 4.0 technologies, including the Internet of Things, cloud computing and AI. However, they’re also grounded in basic machine monitoring principles that you’ve known about for years, even if you aren’t using them yet.
When your shop becomes a smart factory, you not only improve your real-time productivity, but your overall agility, which allows you to respond more quickly to ever-evolving market conditions like the ones we’ve been seeing. Specifically, you’ll be able to:
-Track and trace products across your entire manufacturing process
-Increase throughput, thanks to your optimized production lines
-Better cater to customer demand, due to enhanced flexibility
-Empower employees at every level to troubleshoot more efficiently and problem-solve more proactively
-Reduce supply chain costs, while improving delivery times and service levels
-Identify new opportunities
There are many advantages and few disadvantages, once you overcome your resistance to change.
The best time to become a smart factory is now and here’s why you should—as quickly as possible.
Manufacturers continue to deal with a host of post-pandemic issues. Supply chains have yet to bounce back and may only be getting worse. Demand remains volatile. The labor shortage continues. Smart factories are in a better position to make changes quickly as situations come up—and then measure the impact of those changes in real time, creating a continuum of ongoing improvement.
According to a recent industry survey by consulting giant BDO, 87% of manufacturers have adopted some Industry 4.0 technologies or expect to within the next year. Wouldn’t you rather jump ahead of your competitors, rather than fall behind? The longer you put it off, the harder it will be to catch up later.
The labor shortage has plagued manufacturers for years, and it’s not expected to disappear any time soon. Fortunately, smart factories need fewer people on the shop floor. That’s because the workforce is empowered with the intelligence and tools it needs to be more productive and make better decisions. It takes fewer people to get more done—and you’re in a better position to attract smart, tech-savvy young employees when you’re running a tech-savvy shop.
The reality is, manufacturers will always face business challenges that inhibit their success—but that's never a valid reason to maintain the status quo. Rather, it’s the reason why factories need to make continual improvements, leveraging new technologies to protect and grow the business.
So, if you’ve been keeping your distance from Industry 4.0, it’s time to get your business up to speed. Because if you’re not willing to run a smart factory, what kind of factory will you run?