How does Industry 4.0 open up new growth frontiers for your production lines?

Production line 4.0

Production Line - Multiple technologies are converging to usher in the fourth industrial revolution. One aspect of this trend, Industry 4.0, comes with the promise of improving manufacturing by increasing efficiency on multiple fronts.

While the benefits of Industry 4.0 are vast; it depends on manufacturers to make it a reality and implement it. This means using the right technology to create smart production line configurations. Studies have shown that more than 70% of manufacturers believe that smart technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT); megadata analytics; machine learning and augmented reality are integral to their future.

indeed, according to McKinsey, Industry 4.0 could yield $3.7 trillion in value for manufacturers and suppliers by 2025, but only 30% of companies are currently benefiting from Industry 4.0 solutions at scale.

As a result, companies that are already making the most of the initiative are adopting these technologies; adapting their working models and introducing interconnected machines to streamline their operations in a more beneficial way. Approximately 79% of manufacturers consider increasing profitability and margins as their top priority; which means it is reasonable to assume they are adopting smart systems; primarily to push their growth boundaries.

This article examines the ways in which Industry 4.0 can be used for industry growth.

What are the boundaries of growth with Industry 4.0 for each production line?

The majority of companies that leverage technology for growth aim to improve the following:

  • Agility: faster anticipation of changes within their facilities and in broader markets; also being able to react quickly to any changes.
  • Faster delivery: move products faster from ideation and modeling processes to market.
  • Productivity: an increase in the quality and quantity of products and services provided by each agent in the production line.
  • Mass customization: quickly deliver products specifically tailored to the needs of specific audiences, without compromising efficiency.

The ingredients of efficiency growth for a production line

The key ingredients for Industry 4.0 growth are the technologies that are now part of a smart factory setup.

So one of the most important tools in this process are sensors. This technology once considered futuristic has now become commonplace in many factories. They have revolutionized the operation of many machines by creating analytical data that can be monitored and reviewed. This is done by using sensors to transmit real-time information about current conditions to central databases; thus turning each machine into a functional data generating tool.

Cloud computing also plays an important role.

The data generated by each sensor-bearing production line is collected and processed in "the cloud"; which is represented by software installed in systems on the factory floor. With large amounts of storage and capacity, the applications present the processed data on the dashboards as easily digestible information. The advantage of this is that it turns sensor data into information that humans can act on.

Indeed, machines capable of using artificial intelligence (AI) can also act on the data they receive. AI works by "learning" from repetitive tasks and results; adapting to operate accordingly. Robots, or more specifically cobots (collaborative robots), rely on AI; however, they are not autonomous and work alongside humans in the factory.

So, this collaboration between robots and humans is related to a vital point... the growth of Industry 4.0 is not driven solely by automated machines. The emerging model of the factory of the future is, in fact, human-driven. Currently, the pioneering manufacturers in this area are sites that are creating forward-looking systems to complement their existing capabilities.

Use cases that could boost productivity growth in your production line

Using the previously mentioned technologies and Industry 4.0 will open up countless opportunities to drive performance growth in your production line. This manifests itself in several use cases, each combining multiple technologies to ensure process efficiency.

Predictive maintenance

Sensors collect data from each production line on which they are installed and transmit it via the Internet of Things (IoT) to the cloud. Machine learning algorithms sort and organize the data into information that an administrator can understand and use. As an example, this information can include details of a developing defect in a machine part that needs to be corrected.

This is because automated platforms can then schedule maintenance work. A maintenance engineer can also use a VR headset to preview and examine the space or object they will be working with; making the process simpler.

Thus, the most apparent benefits are the cost savings resulting from early detection of defects; as well as the elimination of delays that can result from plant machinery failure. With reduced maintenance expenses and more time available for actual production; growth opportunities are expanded.

Digitized standard operating procedures

Digital standard operating procedures (SOPs) replace the old notebooks in which factory procedures were once written.

Thus, SOP software provides users with a secure repository of documents; covering their company's standard operating procedures. Quick and easy access to guidelines reduces errors on the job and improves the quality of worker performance, another major benefit of implementing this process.

Digital Performance Management

In addition to helping with predictive maintenance, sensors can also raise the bar for performance management in plants. The data they transmit is fed into dashboards that relay it as key performance indicators (KPIs) for production. These KPIs give decision makers a clear view of the overall productivity of their manufacturing site.

Because dashboard information is generated in real time, it allows managers to make intelligent decisions more quickly and implement process changes as soon as the need arises. They can also identify patterns and improve performance by making adjustments to operations as needed.

Innovative work

There is concern that manufacturing automation will slowly reduce the number of humans, transferring industry to the machine. In reality, the factories of the future display varying degrees of collaboration between humans and robots.

Indeed, there are many innovations that simplify work tasks; such as AI-powered machines taking over processes that workers consider repetitive and monotonous. As the wave of automation sweeps across the industrial landscape, it leaves humans with more creative roles; those in which they still outperform robots. These roles are complex and engaging, which means people are more likely to find them satisfying or fulfilling.

It also means that factories will be more focused on leveraging innovative talent and there will be greater collaboration among employees who represent diverse areas of expertise.

so the combination of greater human innovation; real-time solutions; and broader collaboration could push manufacturing companies into new frontiers of growth. Instead of viewing the addition of AI-powered machines as a threat; they can truly improve the discrete manufacturing industry. This use of an innovative workforce will improve productivity while allowing humans to remain in control and focus on less repetitive, more creative and rewarding tasks.

Take advantage of growth opportunities

Companies must deliberately move into the fourth industrial revolution. If they intend to gain an early advantage in their market, they must take the following steps:

  • Have a clear idea of their objectives: they must clearly define the objectives they wish to pursue with the strategy they choose to adopt.
  • Review tools before you buy: More and more companies are offering industrial automation solutions. Manufacturers should review and test the suitability of these solutions before adopting them, avoiding costly additions that provide no benefit.
  • Follow customer needs: technologies should only be adopted if they help improve the quality of products offered to customers or increase the speed of delivery of those products. It is essential to stay focused on your own goals; based on demand, and not get distracted by sales techniques or what others are doing.
  • Improve information management: without a solid information management framework, plants may be unable to use the data generated

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Author: NAJI Faouzi