The inevitable rise of Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 has been creating a lot of excitement in the manufacturing industry for some time now. The concept of connected manufacturing first came into the industry around five years ago and is changing the very nature of manufacturing.
Companies are now feeling the pressure to update and transform their existing technologies to respond to these significant technological advancements in the industry.
Empowering Manufacturing Automation
Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution, smart factories are just some of the buzzwords associated with the innovative concept that is taking hold of the manufacturing industry. The fundamental notion is that we are all progressing towards a more connected world and therefore industry – using data to empower manufacturing automation. This means that factories will be able to respond to customer demands more quickly and efficiently.
Automated systems will ensure accuracy and efficiency throughout the whole manufacturing process. The integration of digitalisation and data exchange has led to the rapid growth of what are known as smart factories. These factories incorporate cyber-physical systems alongside human counterparts to create a collaborative effort to manufacture products.
The need to revolutionise
This radical development in the industry is not something that can simply be ignored. Companies must respond and revolutionise their offering in order to stay ahead of the competition. According to a survey by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 2016, there is a “gaping hole” in British manufacturers’ understanding of Industry 4.0. Manufacturers must adapt and proactively seek to improve their understanding of Industry 4.0 or risk being left behind.
The demands placed on manufacturers are becoming increasingly complex; the market is saturated with choice and customers are demanding better value for their products. Manufacturers must find new ways to add value for customers beyond the physical creation of the product itself. Much of this value can be supplied through data analysis of production lines and digitalisation of supply chains. More emphasis is being placed on information and sophisticated data gathering within the manufacturing industry, requiring manufacturers to equip themselves to supply it. As customers incorporate Industry 4.0 in to their own businesses, manufacturers must ensure their process is flexible and can adapt to align seamlessly with different customer supply chains.
Making the transition
Building a successful transition to Industry 4.0 is a lengthy process and one that must not be rushed. Essentra Components is just beginning its Industry 4.0 journey by introducing greater levels of digitisation and automation. For Essentra Components, this adaption has meant far higher levels of connectivity in our injection moulding machines. We have implemented an online customer order platform which means the customers can place orders on-demand 24 hours a day. This level of connectivity is already greatly benefiting both us and the customer as customers are now provided with high quality samples quickly.
This process of digitalisation not only benefits the manufacturers but it can also deepen customer’s understanding of the whole manufacturing process. We are now able to share production data via the cloud while also sharing stock and future planning information with our customers to ensure complete transparency across the entire supply chain. We have also recently launched the Industry 4.0 Hub on our UK Knowledge Centre on our website to help demystify Industry 4.0, inform and educate the industry and document our own journey.
We are currently in the process of moving towards complete digitisation of product data and key manufacturing processes, as well as process controls. As part of our long term planning strategy, we want IoT to be at the centre of our business. Through Essentra’s existing cloud, each physical system will register key information and then pass that data onto the next step in the process. This all forms part of Essentra Components long-term investment strategy and will eventually allow us to develop a complete end-to-end supply chain.
Time is of the essence
There was never going to be a quick fix in the transition to an Industry 4.0 model. These fundamental structural changes will take a significant amount of time to adapt. It is not a process that can be rushed but once effectively in place, the manufacturing process will be completely overhauled, and for the better. With multiple sites, hundreds of production lines and 30,000 products across the globe, Essentra Components are proactively responding to these technological demands to ensure we can continue to compete on a global scale. While the journey may be a long one, both manufacturers and customers will reap the rewards of this digitisation, automation and data collection for many years to come.
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Scott Fawcett, Managing Director, Essentra Components