TEN THINGS TO THINK ABOUT WHEN YOU'RE CHOOSING AN INDUSTRY 4.0 SOLUTIONS PROVIDER
Industry 4.0, just like the three industrial revolutions that went before it, is completely changing the world we live and work in. The changes are so far reaching that ignoring Industry 4.0 can have dire consequences for businesses. To put it bluntly, for manufacturers, Industry 4.0 is not optional; it’s a case of adopt it or wave goodbye to success and prosperity.
Only by implementing the ideas and technologies of Industry 4.0 can manufacturers realise flexibly organised production systems with integrated networking at every stage of the value chain. And these are the essential foundations if companies are to respond effectively to the critical challenges of today’s business environment, which include tougher and tougher competition, mounting cost pressures, increasingly complex products, shorter innovation cycles and scarcity of resources.
Knowing what to look for when you’re choosing an Industry 4.0 partner can save you a lot of money and a lot of headaches. You’ll need to choose your solutions provider wisely if you’re to reap the full benefits of Industry 4.0, so to help you, we’ve compiled a list of ten things to keep in mind.
Industry 4.0 is all about digitalisation in manufacturing
Industry 4.0 was driven by the development of Internet of Things (IoT) and its older sibling, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). These developments made possible an unprecedented move away from paper drawings and documentation, to online storage of all essential data in the cloud. The result is seamless connectivity between designers, managers, workers and consumers, with instant access to key information. The resulting benefits are enormous for businesses and their customers.
Manufacturing on demand (MOD)
The advent of digitalisation has changed the way customers perceive the route to market. Traditionally, manufacturers produced large quantities of products, which were stored in a warehouse until they were ready for shipping. But today’s customers demand total flexibility and scalability from their suppliers and the only effective response is manufacturing on demand (MOD). Industry 4.0 makes it possible for manufacturers to respond immediately to their clients’ requirements, producing exactly what’s needed when it’s needed, while eliminating the need to tie up money in stock.
One platform to rule them all
Agility is one of the most important attributes for standing out from the competition, and this is nowhere more apparent than in the way successful Industry 4.0 companies communicate with their customers. Rather than spending hours on the phone or exchanging countless e-mails to update a design sheet, Industry 4.0 manufacturers use online platforms that take the project from inquiry to delivery. Customers simply submit a design request or upload a requirements file and the project is up and running.
With everything happening on a single online platform, Industry 4.0 suppliers have complete records and are able to deliver traceability at every stage. Updates, design changes, component lists and every other type of communication are done on the same platform so both the manufacturer and the customer have total visibility and ownership of the project. Even long after the order has been completed, it’s easy to recheck everything that happened along the way.
Everything in our lives happens in three dimensions so why settle for two-dimensional designs in a manufacturing environment? A 3D design model can be used to produce a virtual picture of the finished product, allowing designers, production staff and customers to check that everything is to specification and error-free. Spotting discrepancies and problems at an early stage makes them easier to correct, saving time and money. And 3D design also makes it easy to generate the data needed by automated production machinery.
The need for speed
Thanks to improved communication at every level and the reduction of errors, Industry 4.0 enables manufacturers to achieve turnaround times that would previously have been deemed impossible! Early adopters of Industry 4.0 methods and technologies are already offered lead times of three days for 3D printing, and just ten days for CNC machined components. This is giving them a big competitive advantage in today’s crowded marketplaces.
Traditionally, it has been impossible to combine low-volume production with competitive (and profitable) pricing. But this has changed with Industry 4.0. Excellent prices for even the smallest batches become possible thanks to partnership schemes among manufacturers. This means they no longer have to buy and maintain every item of production machinery they may need. Instead they pool their resources, with every company handling the tasks for which it is best equipped, which leads to lower production costs for everyone.
Industry 4.0 enables companies to keep a firm grip on quality. The online data shows exactly what has been changed as the design progresses, when it was changed and by whom. And when products go into production, equally detailed information is available about the raw materials and components, the machines used, and the processes followed. This total visibility makes it easy to maintain quality, and to discover possibilities for future improvements.
Industry 4.0 replaces old-style paper documentation with digital record-keeping, which helps companies drastically reduce their paper and ink usage. What’s more, eliminating errors, which removes the need to rework or scrap products, yields even more environmental benefits. In a world where every company wants and needs impeccable green credentials, Industry 4.0 provides the most convincing answer.
Industry 4.0 is still a novelty for many organisations. But if you’re in this category and you’re wondering where to start or how much it will cost, there’s an easy way forward; partner with a provider that is already aligned to Industry 4.0 and is ready to pass on its experience to your company. Do that and, with a surprisingly modest investment, you’ll very soon be using the latest and most powerful manufacturing technologies that are certain to help you stand out from your competitors.