When WIRE-Net began planning for 2020 and beyond and investigated the emerging technology trends that would affect the future of manufacturing, it didn’t take long to encounter the confusing terminology that’s used to describe these new technologies and their application.
Industry 4.0; Smart Manufacturing; Manufacturing 4.0; Industrial Internet of Things…etcetera. Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, sometimes they distinguish between different things.
For WIRE-Net, when we talk about Manufacturing 4.0 we aim to help manufacturing leaders across greater Cleveland learn about the advanced technologies, materials and processes that are disrupting the manufacturing sector. This includes the application of low-cost sensors, wi-fi, cloud and internet enabled communications and data analytics, automation and robotics, new materials (many used in new processes), and new processes like additive manufacturing…so the learning agenda is broad and can be both complicated and complex. Personally, I like the framework that states the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), plus Smart Manufacturing results in Manufacturing 4.0.
- Internet of Things
- Industrial sensors, controllers, etc., connected over the internet
+ Smart Manufacturing
- Making manufacturing processes smarter thru data, analytics, machine learning, etc.
= Manufacturing 4.0
There is talk in some circles about a three or four horizon approach to thinking about the evolving Internet of Things. One way to translate this idea is to think about investments and their value-added like this:
First IIoT/Mfg 4.0 Horizon: Investments in Operational Efficiency
Second Horizon: New Products and Services
Third Horizon: Outcome-based Economy
Fourth Horizon: Autonomous Pull Economy
First horizon investments should yield pretty good short-term returns (e.g., if you invested a few thousand in sensors and data analytics to improve up-time and prevent unplanned failures that could make your operation more profitable and competitive in a matter of months or a year, wouldn’t that be a worthwhile project?). Several WIRE-Net member firms are already moving down this path by installing $500 sensors on key equipment, and then subscribing to a data analytics service to help them interpret and respond to the data coming off their machines. After just a short amount of time, many of the firms are already reporting improvements in efficiency and cost savings. (This also points to another challenge: ensuring you have the skills available to glean value from your IIoT/Mfg 4.0 investments.)
The advice WIRE-Net is hearing as companies start to explore this brave new world is to start small, build the internal partnerships (e.g., between your IT lead and your operations lead) to support one or more pilot projects and keep both security concerns and your data analytics approach in mind as you move through the pilot. Some of our members are keeping their pilots off the internet to finesse security concerns. Others are outsourcing the initial data analytics to 3rd party providers. However, ultimately, to wring the most value from these pilots, it will be members of your team who must be trained to interpret the data (likely using dashboards) and to act on it. This means the data collection, analysis/visualization/interpretation, and response should all be kept relatively close to the operations being monitored (following the Toyota Production System principal of keeping decisions close to the operators who are engaged in the work every day).
For 30 years WIRE-Net has been a leading force to strengthen manufacturing in Greater Cleveland. We provide leading edge expertise and resources that proactively assist manufacturers in understanding and adapting to fast changing trends technology, talent, and organizational leadership. WIRE-Net connects leaders to each other and engages them in their communities. We lead, we connect, we partner.