The fourth Industrial Revolution is here, bringing many uncertainties in its wake. Are you ready for its impact on manufacturing?
Industry 4.0’s predecessor introduced computers and the start of automation on assembly lines, but the next phase (or 4.0) is innovatively bringing computers and automation together.
“The evolution of a range of new technologies has blurred the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds,” explains Aidan Quilligan, managing director of Accenture Industrial Software Solutions. “Nowhere is this truer than with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – the network of interconnected devices and systems that makes physical objects ‘intelligent’ – which is supporting an increasing amount of business.”
Related: 4 Reasons why you should have already shifted your transport business to 4.0
Although still in its infancy the world over, there are African industries better suited to manufacturing to take advantage of the IoT revolution? “Companies with a limited range of products and who have already gone down a road of Lean, could take advantage of IoT,” says Deon Fourie, managing director of Shopware.
Welcome to the future – where robots run things (with very little human intervention), creating a ‘smart factory’ and ultimately a ‘smart future’:
Enter the smart factory
The digital factory is reinforced by a range of rapidly-developing technologies, besides the devices themselves: The cloud, which enables flexibility, responsiveness and new levels of scalability; analytics and big data which enables real-time insights from massive volumes of data. When combined, these three technologies allow your business to collect, store and interpret a large amount of data simultaneously. This enhances your processes and creates a fully digital value chain.
“Take an industry example like SA Breweries,” says Fourie. “SAB has a very simple operation on a filling line. The process is already highly automated and the lines are run by graduates. SAB has also embarked on a Lean journey so they can benefit from some of Industry 4.0’s concepts.”
The advent of a ‘smart future’
Industry 4.0 has already begun to transform products and how companies operate and manage production in this unique environment. Smart devices control machines on the shop floor and communicate autonomously ‘device-to-device’ to manage manufacturing operations and distribution.
“Through the monitoring of productivity and efficiency of employees, machinery and business processes, a company’s management is now able to access important information in real-time. The entire manufacturing value chain can be monitored, from concept to completion and beyond.”
Despite the South African challenge of connectivity and accessibility, companies that have embraced IIoT are already becoming more globally competitive thanks to Lean business processes – streamlining their operations, increasing productivity, and reducing costly wastage.
Related: This factory will inspire you to re-think your facility and its environmental impact
Build your ‘smart business’
Be prepared to translate your knowledge and awareness of Industry 4.0 into solid investments and tangible projects. Are you confident that Industry 4.0 will make a significant difference to your business and deliver a return on their investment?
For manufacturers that are still struggling with how to unlock value from Industry 4.0, here are five rational steps to consider, suggested by McKinsey:
- Focus on a limited number of Industry 4.0 concepts, rather than trying to cover all levels at once.
- Build a portfolio of third-party technology providers, as Industry 4.0 is causing a shift from the single-provider model to one that hinges on a set of integrated technology providers.
- To capture value from Industry 4.0, establish a dedicated cross-functional team that drives innovation based on a renewed business culture open to change and experimentation.
- If you want to not only reap the immediate rewards of Industry 4.0, but also prepare yourself for future market disruptions, start experimenting with new business models. Most Industry 4.0 quick-wins will be found in improving operational effectiveness.
- Don’t be afraid to use technology. Begin implementing Industry 4.0.
Industry 4.0 is transforming how products are designed and produced. The smart factory will soon be commonplace as the Industrial Internet of Things advances the world over. Are you ready to embrace smart technology in the era of 4.0?