Five Strategies for a Smoother Industry 4.0 Journey
Nancy Sarpolis - April 12, 2022
Sometimes, the hardest part of a journey is getting started. That certainly seems to be the case for most manufacturers when it comes to adopting Industry 4.0 digital technologies. According to a recent study, while most manufacturers are implementing data analytics, ERP software and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, only 2% of manufacturers have full information transparency across the entire business ecosystem.
Certainly, digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight. But quick wins and rapid adoption of technologies that solve operational pain points can pave the way for future successes that can ultimately optimize business operations and drive efficiencies.
No matter where your company is in its Industry 4.0 journey, these five strategies can help smooth the path:
Digitize your data. Every day, your manufacturing facility churns out thousands of data points: Production metrics, inventory, new orders, performance KPIs, equipment uptime and quality measures, to name a few. But are you putting it to work to improve your operations? Digitization is the process of transforming all of that information into a digital format: Spreadsheets, maintenance logs, equipment downtime, inventory levels and more. As manufacturing organizations become more complex, optimizing production from a tangle of legacy systems, siloed data, spreadsheets, workers’ institutional knowledge and other factors becomes nearly impossible for an individual—or group of individuals—to manage. Only once your whole network has been effectively digitized can you begin to consider using advanced analytics and other technologies to optimize production planning.
Break down silos. Just as a judge wouldn’t decide a case with only one side of the story, production planners need to see the entire supply chain landscape to make effective decisions. A significant reason silo occur is that companies fail to manage a shared network in which they can seamlessly communicate across departments. Without a cohesive shared data network, departments are at risk of making contradictory decisions, and data can be wasted and neglected. Integrationsolutions connect data from disparate sources and centralize it in one place so it can be understood, analyzed, and acted upon. By significantly reducing or even eliminating planning silos, organizations can enhance visibility, increase their agility and improve transparency.
Harness the power of advanced analytics. Digitization of data enables the adoption of advanced data analytics across supply chain management and can lead to improved predictive and prescriptive insights. Through automated intelligent planning with smart Advanced Planning & Scheduling solutions, manufacturers will be able to take better decisions on how to best sequence their orders into production lines. Real-time monitoring makes it possible to immediately detect any downtimes or deviations from the plan, thus permitting early intervention or changing of plans if required. As a result, no materials or labor are wasted, substantially lowering costs and maximizing value.
Reach for the clouds. Cloud-based solutions not only help reduce operating costs by streamlining automated processes, information, and data storage, they can also help break down functional silos and barriers to communication and collaboration. The ability to access data remotely is one of the basic facts of the cloud. Users in any location will gain the data visibility they need to make informed decisions up and down the chain. Another benefit of cloud applications is adaptability. Cloud applications are maintained by the solution provider with an eye toward effectively future-proofing software. As new features and applications are introduced, systems can be automatically upgraded without disrupting current operations. This means you never have to worry about your software going out-of-date or being misconfigured.
Look to the future. As you begin to implement Industry 4.0 solutions, be mindful of choosing technologies that can adapt as your company grows. Organizations are beginning to think more broadly about their supply chains and are integrating with other functions and even expanding beyond the enterprise’s walls to include contract manufacturers, third-party logistics providers and even customers. These dynamic, collaborative relationships can be a powerful driving force behind today’s modern supply chain. By choosing scalable technologies that provide real-time, end-to-end visibility, your organization will be on its way toward achieving the optimization needed for successful collaboration across—and outside—the enterprise.
To be sure, manufacturers that recognize Industry 4.0 is about continuous improvement will be most successful in the long run. Those that adopt smart strategies as part of their journey will be more efficient and productive than ever, and ready for whatever the future brings.