Today, most metalworking companies are engaged in activities that could be considered part of "Industry 4.0". But only 29% of those companies are implementing new technologies at scale, giving them opportunities to make game-changing impacts such as:
- Productivity and resource efficiency
- Agility and responsiveness
- Value-added services
- Business model innovation
- Speed to market
- Customization to customer needs.
So how do the other 71% of companies that are pursuing Industry 4.0 projects, but not scaling up their efforts, get off the ground and begin to realize some of the business advantages promised by these new technologies? Here, you'll find five principles you can use to embrace Industry 4.0, no matter the size of your business.
1- Set goals:
The simple acquisition of new technology will not positively affect your business. It has to be implemented intentionally, which means using it to achieve the desired result and addressing all of its implications, ranging from process modifications to changes in company culture.
The truth is that most Industry 4.0 technologies align with business goals that many manufacturers already have, such as:
- Optimizing processes
- Shortening cycle times
- Improving quality
- Reducing energy losses
- Shortening downtime
- Improving the overall effectiveness of the team
Understanding how advanced manufacturing technologies can support these goals is the first step in establishing a scalable Industry 4.0 strategy. The use of new technologies helps companies in the metalworking industry to achieve truly significant business results, such as:
- Increased labor productivity by 30% with flexible automation assembly lines
- Increased work efficiency by 25% with collaborative robotics
- Increase cycle time by 60% with additive manufacturing
- Deviations reduced by 80% with advanced analytics
- Reduction of customer complaints by almost 60% with artificial intelligence quality management systems.
- Savings of more than 40% of the energy used in lighting through the installation of intelligent lighting controls.
- Savings of up to 30% of energy consumption with a building energy management system.
2- Improve with information:
One of the great promises of Industry 4.0 is data-based decisions. Most companies already have a lot of data available; they just don't know how to extract meaningful insights from it. Artificial intelligence/machine learning can help you structure data so that it can become a strategic asset for your business, allowing you to improve efficiencies, products, and processes.
Consider the concrete example of existing machine performance. Aftermarket sensors can be added to monitor equipment and environmental conditions, providing reports indicating which machines need maintenance and which parts need replacement. Forget probabilistic schedules, maintenance issues, or unexpected failures – machine maintenance will be performed as needed to maximize uptime.
3- Adapt the existing equipment:
As mentioned above, older equipment can be enabled to integrate with an Industry 4.0 environment. For example, manufacturers using smart sensors don't need to replace old equipment to improve processes; instead, they can equip them with affordable, aftermarket smart sensors, allowing them to reap the benefits of technology 4.0 without buying entirely new systems.
4- Educate, not eliminate
As with the team, it makes sense to adapt existing human resources, rather than scheduling employees for termination if it comes to adopting Industry 4.0. New technologies are not ready to replace workers; instead, they promise to change the nature of work.
Additionally, giving workers opportunities to learn new skills will help them become more engaged, another major issue plaguing manufacturers today, with only 25% of manufacturing employees feeling engaged, the lowest figure for any important industry. Investing in your employees—that is, keeping your best people by developing a strong training program that builds their skills and loyalty rather than just replacing them—can set you up for success and save you money.
As manufacturers incorporate more technology into their operations, and as those systems become more connected, their cybersecurity risks will inevitably increase. This means that any Industry 4.0 project must be underpinned by a deliberate cybersecurity strategy.
Fortunately, addressing cybersecurity doesn't have to be an arduous and expensive endeavor.
Get ready to scale your industry 4.0 initiatives
Industry 4.0, or the "Fourth Industrial Revolution", is a radical series of changes that affect the metalworking sector as a whole. And, as noted above, the implications are multifaceted. This means that there are many ways to start accepting it. But taking it seriously requires a strategy and roadmap for your company.
To put together a solid plan to respond to this complex and evolving situation, it helps to have a partner and a guide to start a conversation and get a sense of how your business can embrace Industry 4.0.