Industry 4.0 (I4.0) has been a hot topic for a while now. Everyone is anticipating it, and there are mixed reactions. There is a concern that everything that comes with the 4th Industrial Revolution like automation, robotics and machine learning will take away jobs from hardworking people. Change is scary, but one thing we need to remember is that this is the 4th time this has happened…hence the name. Each and every time, jobs were in fact created, not demolished.
With that in mind, if a company is considering upgrading to make their factory or operations more I4.0 friendly, considerations must be made to assure it is worth it. The first question always needs to be, ‘what’s in it for me?’, but how can that be quantified?
Determining if Industry 4.0 is a Good Fit.
At the end of the day, you are spending money to make money. Start by looking at what makes the money…your goods. If you upgrade towards Industry 4.0, what will happen to yield and throughput?
Automation offers huge benefits when it comes to increasing production volume. By minimizing operator intervention, factories can run 24/7 and assembly is executed quickly. Including automated testers and inspection systems within an assembly line ensures customers will only get good products.
Alternatively, if volume isn’t a concern but precision is, automation and machine vision are certain to increase yield by manipulating tiny components with exact movements. Human error is then eliminated. It may not be quantity that is produced, but quality is assured in a lot less time.
Increasing quantity and quality are huge benefits of Industry 4.0. If neither of these are a production priority, meaning low volume/low complexity manufacturing, then the amount of the investment should be considered.
Will Industry 4.0 Reduce Spending?
Of course, the other way to make more money is by not spending it. Will costs go down after you ramp up…and by how much? The obvious cost savings in automation are labor costs, those would decrease significantly, but is that everything?
Not at all. By automating and connecting company-wide processes, visibility becomes crystal clear. Through smart assets, you will know what is working, what is not working and where it is all going. In return, it is easy to communicate right back to them, and make sure everything is up to date and ready to roll.
With all systems go, they are in constant communication with one another, objectively determining if things are working or not. The data that is shared between them is logged and saved, and with the right software, organized to tell a story. That story may involve flagging a bad batch of products or components, saving the time to track down why something isn’t working. The story may also include serial numbers that are prepared to go in the field and sorting it accordingly. Yet another story may involve a regular anomaly, and through machine learning, determine that an asset needs maintenance.
Having this knowledge and visibility has a major track and trace advantage (required for industries like food and beverage and more). If required, recalls are simplified with minimal time spent searching for information, as it is easily accessible. If it turns out a machine needs maintenance, being able to schedule preventative maintenance can save thousands or hundreds of thousands in factory shutdowns.
The Bottom-Line Towards Implementation.
The most important step to take is to calculate current costs and determine how much product can be sold. Between these 2 main considerations, take them to automation specialists and allow them to assess what it will take to be in your Industry 4.0 sweet spot. It may be full-on hands-free manufacturing, or it could be simple data organization to point your company in the right direction. Looking inward is the first step towards moving forward.
Thinking of stepping into Industry 4.0? We’re here to help, let us know how!
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