Automation, sensors and RFID-based monitoring have long been used in manufacturing, but today, advanced networking, real-time controls and machine intelligence are creating dramatically new, more efficient and more innovative – that is, hyperconnected – models of industry.
New Intelligent sensor-based software solutions are key elements of the growing reach of Industry 4.0, the latest of several generations of technological change that have come to the manufacturing sector. For instance, long before the arrival of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), manufacturers, utilities and similar companies were using automation in the form of SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems or Barcode tags for tracking goods and equipment.
Compared to earlier generations of automated technologies for manufacturing, however, Industry 4.0 is more than just another incremental step forward. Instead, it embodies the digital transformation journey that can rapidly and radically reshape industrial operations, processes and value chains for increased competitiveness and cost-effectiveness.
This approach stands to bring the production cost for an individual order very close to that for the same item when mass produced
It’s about much more than automation. Rather, Industry 4.0 stands to reinvent manufacturing in entirely new ways. Through a variety of hyperconnected technologies, industrial companies can better understand operations in real time to optimize and transform how they work with suppliers, partners and customers.
These initiatives have the same goal everywhere: to not only make manufacturing smarter and more autonomous, but also to decentralize and hyperconnect industrial processes for more flexible, sustainable and personalized production in real time. With an ideal deployment, this approach stands to bring the production cost for an individual order very close to that for the same item when mass produced. Such an outcome can help industrialized regions such as Europe and North America practically eliminate their labour cost disadvantages compared to countries like China or India.
Consider the many thousands of small companies that make components for larger original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). To maintain such business relationships in an increasingly competitive global market, these small suppliers need to automate as much as possible. One of our industrial clients – Meggitt Composites – was able to do just this. By applying GlobeRanger’s RFID system to every part used and assembled in its factory, the company has gained instant visibility of its entire manufacturing process. Measurements and fault corrections can be made in real time with the help of a graphical dashboard, providing the company with full electronic accountability.
Analytics, pattern recognition and other data-driven processes let industrial users put information from machines, remote sensors and other devices to effective, productive use.
Baker Hill Industries, which makes precision-machined components for the aerospace industry and other markets, uses our technology to monitor operations for issues in real time. Continuous status updates alert the company to any process that’s not performing to expectations, enabling it to respond immediately with fixes and preventing lost production time.
Industry 4.0 in action
While available technologies are continually evolving, the primary goals for such projects typically fall into several areas of innovation:
• More intelligently automated production processes to increase efficiencies and reduce costs,
• Optimized integration of value chains for improved labour and asset productivity,
• Introduction of smarter, value-adding services such as predictive maintenance to reduce industry downtime and other inefficiencies that can lead to lost revenues.
GlobeRanger, a Fujitsu Company, is helping to bring about such benefits through digital solutions that let manufacturers, partners and customers better collect, share, understand and put to use a wide variety of data. For example, by using hyperconnected systems to gather performance data and apply advanced analytics and artificial intelligence to that data to gain insights into factors or conditions that could cause less-than-ideal performance.
Beyond the beginning
Eventually, IIoT technologies could help manufacturers create hyperconnected systems that allow them to interact with customers, suppliers, logistics companies and other partners in entirely new ways.
Industry 4.0 technologies and the digital transformation journey make it possible to gain greater visibility, real-time traceability and improved accountability across the operational performance of manufacturing processes.
Rex Porter, is Regional Vice President and Senior Strategist for GlobeRanger, a Fujitsu technology company, that helps industrial companies blend the physical and digital worlds.
GlobeRanger is a key Partner at Manucore’s Manufacturing Leadership Forum USA, in Atlanta, GA, May 15-16.