At the foundation of Industry 4.0 (I4.0) – or the Fourth Industrial Revolution – is data and connectivity. I4.0 is not a technology, but rather a concept of how automation can be better utilised to help companies achieve operational goals that are aligned with business strategies. SICK outlines the three simple steps needed to bring your manufacturing processes in line with Industry 4.0.
Step 1: review business strategies
The I4.0 discussion within an enterprise should begin with the business strategy. Where is the company headed? Is top-line growth the priority, and is increased capacity to meet demand the focus for operations? Is the business focused on reducing costs to remain competitive in a market with tightening margins? And what about manufacturing flexibility?
How is the company addressing new market pressures, such as the ability to meet customisation demands? Understanding these strategic objectives is vital to ensure that subsequent discussions of “how” to achieve these goals are smart.
Aligning your business goals with production activities and areas that need support is what helps bring your enterprise straight into I4.0 territory.
Step 2: finding and collecting your data
Once you’ve reviewed your business strategies, it’s time to find the data to support these goals. Collecting, connecting and leveraging data helps you make intelligent and proactive decisions.
SICK can help harness the value of all that data with superior sensing solutions that improve efficiency to reduce costs whilst increasing revenue for competitive advantages.
SICK recently worked with a customer where the plant managers didn’t know if machines were running, what temperatures the overs were at, or even how many parts were made that day.
After an introduction to sensor capabilities for data collection, the customer determined what they needed was a partner who was hardware agnostic and could take data from all PLCs and sensors to move it to where they needed it.
In some cases, sensors were installed on equipment to begin data collection. In other instances, the SICK team worked to provide the data they needed from all sensors and PLCs installed at the plant, regardless of the hardware brand.
After all, I4.0 is about connectivity of technology and the generation of good data to improve operations. Not all data needs to be processed through the PLC for it to be properly harvested. This creates more flexibility in the creation of an I4.0 production line.
Step 3: implementing i4.0 solutions
There is little doubt about the benefits of digital transformation – efficiencies that reduce manufacturing costs and downtime while preparing companies to be more agile and responsive to customer demands.
The million dollar question remains: why are so many companies still hesitant to initiate I4.0 projects? Many large corporations have assembled internal enterprise-wide digital transformation teams, with a subcommittee focused on smart manufacturing.
Value streams are identified and projects planned, but road bumps like identifying specific solutions or providing ROI justification cause delays. In some cases, the team lacks the specific expertise to complete the analysis for specific solutions.
Likewise, mid-size and smaller companies often lack the resources to allocate staff to a dedicated I4.0 team. Therefore, many of these companies – large or small – are interested in finding a partner that can help guide them toward appropriate solutions, prepare a roadmap and support implementation.
Salim Dabbous, Director of Sensor and Safety Integration at SICK, explained, “The team at SICK is agile and agnostic enough to consult with customers on their challenges and potential needs. This helps determine the ideal infrastructure to develop the most suitable enterprise solutions that can adapt to disruptive industry needs.”
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