Manufacturing companies have traditionally been slow to react to the advent of digital technologies like intelligent robots, drones, sensor technology, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and 3D printing.
Industry 4.0 has changed manufacturing. At a high level, Industry 4.0 represents the vision of the interconnected factory where all equipment is online, and in some way is also intelligent and capable of making its own decisions.
The explosion in connected devices and platforms, combined with the abundance of data from field devices and the rapidly changing technology landscape, has made it imperative for companies to quickly adapt their products and services and move from the physical world to a digital one.
Today, manufacturing is transforming from mass production to an industry characterized by mass customization. Not only must the right products be delivered to the right person for the right price, the process of how products are designed and delivered must be at a new level of sophistication.
The first step in digitization is to analyze the current state of all systems, from R&D, procurement, production, warehousing, logistics, and marketing to sales and service.
The digitization of manufacturing impacts every aspect of operations and the supply chain. It starts with equipment design and continues through product design, production process improvement, and ultimately, monitoring and improving the end user experience.
Digital transformation revolutionizes the way manufacturers share and manage product and engineering design specs on the cloud by collaborating across geographies.
Downtime and reliability are critical when it comes to the operation of equipment on a shop floor. Big Data analytics offers quick and easy access to operation, production, inventory, and other quality data, which enables managers and operators to adjust machines as needed across the enterprise.
Quality and yield are directly related to manufacturing processes, as the way that raw materials are used, inspected, manufactured, and integrated really determines product quality. Cognitive computing helps manufacturers identify quality issues more efficiently, increases production yield, and reduces problems that lead to service and warranty costs.
Implementing smarter resource and supply chain optimization strategies improves the cost efficiency of resources like energy consumption, worker safety, and employee resource efficiency.
Service excellence is also an important element of a manufacturing company’s digital transformation strategy. Connected devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) are changing how after-sales service is delivered. Here are a few examples from industries such as industrial equipment, power generation and HVAC providers:
- Push service notifications
- How is your asset health?
- How is your asset usage?
- Predictive/preventive maintenance
- Breakdown assistance
- Usage-based billing
- Spare parts fulfillment
General Electric’s jet engines combine cloud-based services, analytics, and online sensors to report usage and status and help predict potential failures. The result is improved uptime and lower cost of ownership.
Additive manufacturing (3D printers) for prototyping help shorten the iteration cycles in the design process and help turn innovation into value. 3D printing is also quickly gaining ground in low-volume commercial manufacturing of customized products.
Smart machines integrated with forklifts, storage shelves, and production equipment are able to take autonomous decisions and communicate with each other to drive material replenishment, trigger manufacturing, and much more.
Industry 4.0 allows manufacturers to have more flexible manufacturing processes that can better react to customer demands.
For more on the impact of digital transformation in manufacturing and other industries, see Live Product Innovation, Part 3: Process Industries, IoT, And A Recipe For Instant Change.