The first decade of the 2000s is often referred to as the "Lost Decade" for the manufacturing sector in the United States as the country experienced a loss of 5.8 million jobs, a rate of decline that outpaced that of the Great Depression. The lost decade not only resulted in a tremendous loss of manufacturing jobs, it also left mid-sized manufacturers behind larger counterparts in technological innovations. If mid-sized manufacturers haven't heard of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Industry 4.0, they are already significantly behind technology sophisticated manufacturers when it comes to smart factory status. While the technology and its jargon can seem like a barrier to even beginning the journey to digitization, practical and achievable cost-savings and business benefits can be obtained by embracing Industry 4.0. With Industry 4.0 technologies, organizations can fully integrate business processes with a centralized, advanced platform without the need to rip and replace existing systems like ERP, CRM, PLM, MES, WMS, and SCMs.
Industry 4.0 technologies are at the forefront of digital transformation initiatives and help manufacturers reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and better prepare for the future. Converting traditionally analogue manufacturing businesses into modern, digital organizations is necessary to compete in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Essentially, in addition to providing real-time access to the industrial internet, the IIoT uses connected machine-to-machine (M2M) sensors and smart devices on the factory floor that collects data. Industry 4.0 then delivers real-time data providing organizations with actionable business intelligence. With continued uncertainties surrounding the global supply chain, transforming manufacturing operations to be as lean as possible is the key to prolonged success.
Investing in digitization
The World Economic Forum identified three key barriers that traditionally have prevented mid-sized manufacturers from investing in digitization technologies such as or including a shortage of skilled labor, a lack of access to capital, and unclear returns on investments. Larger businesses with more access to skilled labor and capital are already embracing digitization advancements, but mid-sized manufacturers have a highly concentrated concern, and rightfully so, on the payback of investing in digitization. However, there are four major areas where mid-sized manufacturers will see ROI: product quality, machine availability, operations efficiencies, and energy consumption. Setting up key performance indicators (KPIs) in each category before, during, and after any IIoT trial or deployment on the factory floor helps demonstrate ROI and display the benefits of continuous improvement.
A roadmap for lost time
While it is impossible to go back in time and regain the lost decade, it is possible to close the education and technology gap that was neglected over the period. By proving strategic to directors, investors, and other stakeholders and key decision-makers, the numerous benefits of Industry 4.0 for mid-sized manufacturers becomes clear. ROI demonstration enables organizational decision-makers to lay out a clear roadmap that is understandable, affordable, and in-step with the company's overall long- and short-term business objectives.
Mid-sized manufacturers like to see results in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) from new technology investments within weeks. This is why the first step of a digitization roadmap should include helping decision-makers connect and visualize legacy manufacturing equipment on the factory floor.
Mid-sized manufacturers must always be focused on continuous improvement of the skills, technologies, and infrastructure that is already on the factory floor and give less attention to the wholesale replacement of machines, technologies, and processes. When organization decision-makers obtain a comprehensive and holistic understanding, they are positioning themselves to join their more advanced counterparts in making the most out of the IIoT and Industry 4.0, effectively closing efficiency and education gaps lost in the 10-year void.
Actionable business intelligence
Using IIoT and connecting various legacy manufacturing processes, devices, and systems that have historically developed over time (like MES, PLM, QM, MM, ERP, and CRM) enables creation of value. Organizations can boost their efficiency, productivity, and safety. However, transforming oceans of data produced from IIoT sensors and devices into real-world business benefits is no easy task to undertake alone. Decision-makers need clear, actionable business intelligence from data generated by any new IIoT implementations on the factory floor.
The first step in any IIoT strategy should be to connect and obtain real-time data from legacy systems and machines, though it should be noted that IIoT adoption doesn't need to be a wholesale transformation. When contemplating the adoption of new technologies, many decision-makers become overwhelmed believing that every aspect of the manufacturing process should be accounted for right away, and this doesn't need to be the case. Digitization adoption can be deployed incrementally. To minimize disruption of day-to-day operations, technology rollouts must be carefully planned based on an organization's unique requirements and goals. Though a gradual process, Industry 4.0 adoption from the factory floor to the C-Suite is obtainable for mid-sized manufacturers who want to follow a rationalized roadmap. Mid-sized manufacturers can witness the real value of IIoT by eliminating data silos. Consolidating data from previously siloed sources into a single closed feedback loop allows for employees on the factory floor to make smarter and faster decisions.
IIoT for smart factory success
Ultimately, 4.0 technologies are worthless unless they deliver actionable intelligence from the factory floor to the top floor, this requires that mid-sized manufacturers unify, integrate, and analyze disparate data collected from all internal systems including newly connected legacy systems. This interconnectivity of legacy systems through Industry 4.0 presents analytics in a simple and easily understood visual dashboards that enable immediate results and continuous improvement across the entire manufacturing process.
FactoryEye offers mid-sized manufacturers with a dynamic and comprehensive smart factory solution, supporting continuous improvement and helping organizations improve factory performance through complete visibility and real-time insights into operational processes and KPIs. FactoryEye's Industry 4.0 solution is designed to help mid-sized manufacturers improve business performance by connecting, analyzing, and delivering necessary information that’s needed for accurate, informed decisions in real-time, anytime, and anywhere. Luckily, Industry 4.0 doesn't have to be a financial burden, and the technology will help American manufacturing close the gap of the lost decade.
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