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The Path Manufacturers Should Take Toward Industry 4.0

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
June 5, 2018

The benefits of Industry 4.0 are crystal-clear. So, why aren’t manufacturers making it their top priority to embrace everything this new approach entails? 

In other words, why has adoption been so slow? 

According to TechVentive, it’s because many companies still lack the basic technology infrastructure that must be in place before they can exploit Industry 4.0.

That’s one of the major findings TechVentive shared in a recent white paper, “The Curious Path to Industry 4.0.” TechVentive provides marketing and sales enablement services to technology and services companies. 

Says TechVentive: “Industry 4.0 may not be immediately possible in facilities that have been starved for capital, have antiquated or poor performing operations, paper-based systems, etc. The dysfunctionality has to be dealt with prior to achieving these aspirational goals.” 

The good news is that manufacturers are heeding this advice and investing in technology with an eye for establishing a connection between people, systems, and machines. But as TechVentive warns, “incremental change won’t win the race. It will take considered thought, vision and strategy.”

Here are some of the market forces that are compelling manufacturers to upgrade their infrastructure. Then keep reading for tips that help your company stay on a clear path to Industry 4.0—rather than settling for a series of random one-off enhancements. 

Why Manufacturers Are Focusing on Infrastructure Again

What’s driving the move toward Industry 4.0 among manufacturers? TechVentive cites several factors: 

  • Increased capital spending. Manufacturers are upgrading their capital equipment, repairing or rebuilding their physical plants, integrating machine tools to other machine tools, and more.  
  • Greater investments in plants, equipment, and equipment automation. Even aging, decrepit plants can become major moneymakers again with the right investment. 
  • Improved worker productivity. Manufacturers are finding that the more they use automation, the faster they can scale without adding a commensurate amount of headcount—and the greater output-per-worker they can generate. 
  • Cheap, powerful technology. Computing power and disk space are getting cheaper by the day, which means manufacturers no longer have to put their biggest plans on hold simply because of technology bottlenecks. Just as importantly, cloud computing and storage add new dimensions to manufacturers’ ability to scale.
  • Broadened options beyond ERP. For many years, implementing an ERP was a rite of passage for any growing manufacturer. Although ERP is still important, it’s now just the beginning of the growing-up process. Today’s forward-thinking manufacturers are embracing manufacturing execution systems (MES), robotics, and 3-D printing. 

Take These Six Steps Towards Industry 4.0

So, what can you do to ensure your company is making steady progress towards Industry 4.0? TechVentive makes a host of suggestions. Here are just a few: 

  • Stay informed. You may think you know Industry 4.0, and you may have read up extensively on what’s out there. But have you tried out the technology for yourself? Visited a plant where it has been implemented? Gone to trade shows and talked with tech vendors? Until you make time for these activities, Industry 4.0 will be just a fantasy. 
  • Get R&D involved. Your R&D team probably spends most of its time coming up with brilliant concepts for your customers. How about tapping into their creative genius to come up with brilliant concepts for your company? 
  • Build your skills. You no doubt have a talented workforce—but their talents aren’t necessarily in the right areas to keep you competitive in an Industry 4.0 world. How adept is your team at working with big data analytics? In-memory computing? Cloud technology? These are just a few of the skills they’ll need to support your company’s digital ventures. So, assess what your team can do now, and then make a plan for giving them the skills they’ll need later. 
  • Create sunset plans. Take stock of the facilities, tools, and machines you use across your organization. They may be meeting your needs now, but they won’t forever. Don't wait until your assets are outdated to start thinking about replacing them. Start making your plans now for transitioning to new technology. 
  • Think about ditching your data center. How much budget—and how many man-hours—are you spending every month just to maintain aging hardware and software? Couldn’t your IT team contribute much more strategic value to your organization by focusing on building and launching the next-generation systems that will extend your competitive advantage? Start making your plan to minimize your IT footprint and maximize your use of cloud solutions. 
  • Form strategic partnerships. Remember when your office automation suite provider was considered a strategic vendor simply because they made the software that virtually everyone in your organization used? Well, their software may still be on every desktop, laptop, and tablet across your organization, but that doesn’t mean your relationship with these vendors is strategic. Focus on building stronger relationships with the vendors that help you connect people to processes and machines.  

Download the Industry 4.0 White Paper Now

We’ve shared just a few of the most important tips from the TechVentive white paper. Don’t miss out on the rest. Get the full story by downloading “The Curious Path to Industry 4.0” now. 

About the Author

Plex Team

Plex Systems, Inc., a Rockwell Automation company, is the leader in cloud-delivered smart manufacturing solutions, empowering the world’s manufacturers to make awesome products. Our platform gives manufacturers the ability to connect, automate, track and analyze every aspect of their business to drive transformation. The Plex Smart Manufacturing Platform includes solutions for manufacturing execution (MES), ERP, quality, supply chain planning and management, Industrial IoT and analytics to connect people, systems, machines, and supply chains, enabling them to lead with precision, efficiency and agility.