Embracing Industry 4.0 and Zero-Downtime, Zero-Defects Manufacturing

Embracing Industry 4.0 and Zero-Downtime, Zero-Defects Manufacturing

Read time: 5 minutes

The Industrial Revolution of the late eighteenth century was a great leap forward in the history of human life. But we’ve come a long way since what we can now see as the first industrial revolution and its steam-powered mechanization of factories. The second industrial revolution occurred close to the end of the nineteenth century, spurred by electrical power and the invention of the assembly line. The third industrial revolution occurred in the twentieth century as computers began to drive automation. Each of these stages saw a corresponding jump in productivity even while easing the burden on human beings, making labor safer and more efficient.

Now, in the early twenty-first century, we are in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution, which is driven by digital connectivity, the Internet of Things (IoT), sensors, and other technologies designed to acquire and share data. In this brave new world, traditional manufacturing practices combine with the technological world that frames a zero downtime and a zero-defect manufacturing mindset. Call it Industry 4.0.

In order to compete in today’s marketplace, companies must successfully embrace Industry 4.0.

Think Big, Start Small, and Act Now.

To begin, review the return on investment (ROI) on what you want to achieve and the areas that deliver the quickest and biggest wins. Think about connectivity and the analytics that will provide the most meaningful metrics and predictions to your operational team. Then, look at the interoperability of the technology and how it connects to your machines, data acquisition layers, and business systems.

Ask yourself:

  • How can you use artificial intelligence (AI), as a standalone or with your maintenance system, with predictive analytics to interoperate with those layers within your organization? 
  • How can you take this cyber-physical system (CPS), where the cyber world mirrors physical assets, to enable more intelligent and real-time decision making?

By detecting and predicting machine failures and part defects before they occur, you can reduce unplanned downtime and mitigate and automate the cost of inferior quality. The key is to start small, learn from past failures, and prove value through an Industry 4.0 assessment.

Assess Your Systems and Make Them Operational with a Proof of Value.

An Industry 4.0 assessment focuses on where you are in terms of the people, process, and technological maturity in your operation. There are several crucial things you’ll need to do at the outset:

  • Create a manufacturing strategy where you discuss critical analysis and ROI. Once you are connected and can collect data, you can understand performance. But you can’t ignore the operator experience. Who’s the person running the machine? How do you use them in the right way?
  • Identify the assets and components that are most critical to monitor for errors or downtime. They’ll also be the ones for which downtime can be predicted and averted. Review how the machines connect with your plant network. How can you connect these assets so that your team — from the person running the machines on the plant floor all the way up to your senior executive levels — can understand performance analytics?
  • Visualize and contextualize that data for visibility, transparency, real-time performance analytics, and measuring overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).
  • Look at your manufacturing operations management, using a manufacturing execution system (MES) or IoT platforms. Review production, quality, asset maintenance, and real-time traceability.
  • Decide on the predictive analytics you will use relative to data monitoring, maintenance, quality, and optimization.
  • Finally, analyze the main systems that support and drive the business. How can you take advantage of your current IT systems, ERP, maintenance systems, IoT platforms, and other MES systems?

Once you have this standardized data feeding multiple solutions, train all of your workforce levels on how to use it. Make your performance, predictive maintenance, and quality analytics simple to understand and easily accessible to the right people.

Now, you can implement the technology through small projects with specific plans and team members to show “proof of value.”

For example, you can use sensors to track data for your robotics like torque, current, speed, position, and temperature. The AI layer analyzes this and provides fast and accurate metrics about robotic health, diagnostics, and predictions. Then, your maintenance professionals can receive trustworthy, understandable notifications and act on them.

They know the specific area of the machine to fix before failure rather than changing all of the bearings and joints. Plus, they can create automated predictive work orders to replenish spare parts in their maintenance systems, optimize labor allocation, and improve metrics.

This is just one example, but no matter what Industry 4.0 pilot project you begin, monitor it for 90 days. If you do not see results within this time, review all of the elements to find weak links. Then, pivot accordingly. This way, you can prove value and avoid wasting resources on implementations that don’t work.

From here, it’s a matter of creating templates for your Industry 4.0 solutions that allow you to scale quickly and affordably, with ROI in mind.

Drive Toward a Smart Connected Factory

Is all of this time and effort worth it? Industry 4.0 involves implementing connectivity, metrics, and predictive analytics, or the “digital tools of the trade,” in a detailed, systematic process, but it can reveal hidden information that saves thousands of dollars.

Specifically, manufacturing data is the foundation to achieve ROI from the Industrial IoT and continuous improvement programs. However, machine data gaps create lag times to access, analyze, and act on core operations performance and business processes, and plant operators and management teams can’t determine where they can impact uptime and quality.

Industry 4.0 uses connectivity from the shop floor to the top layers of the business to replace this guesswork with accurate predictions and worry-free processes. Plus, the real-time performance and predictive metrics assess quality levels, asset health, diagnostics, and more.

Industry 4.0 Is a Necessity in Today’s Competitive World

Global companies are under pressure to embrace Industry 4.0 to improve their margins. The good news is that cost of sensors, hardware, and computing power continues to decrease so it’s possible to implement these solutions quickly and cost-effectively.

It’s a matter of starting as soon as possible with small assessments to find proof of value, and then scaling and applying smart connected products with analytics for new business models, all the while monitoring the data for the weakest links. This way, you’ll find the strongest combination of people, process, and technology to become successful as you move toward Industry 4.0.

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