Four things small/midsize manufacturers need to know for Industry 4.0

Authored by Erich Bergen

To compete in the digital economy, midsize manufacturing companies can’t afford to take a backseat to wait and mimic what leaders in the industry are doing. By then, it will be too late.

It’s easy to dismiss Industry 4.0 as hype, but midsize manufacturers who choose to ignore this sweeping change do so at their own risk. Industrial companies are swiftly becoming digital enterprises: Companies are turning to digital technology to drive down cost or increase top-line growth, according to the World Economic Forum.1 The most widely cited benefits are predictive maintenance and remote asset management, with companies using sensors, analytics and real-time data to anticipate equipment failures and respond quickly to critical situations.

Many of the key innovations are already in place—and the transformation of the factory floor is happening at a quicker pace than ever expected. At the center of Industry 4.0 (or the fourth industrial revolution) is the smart factory, a factory floor made up of several key pillars: cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud-based services, robotics, 3D printing and predictive analytics.

Manufacturing technology: 4 top trends

Four manufacturing technology trends lead the list of developments that are predicted to transform small and midsize manufacturing in the next five years: the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, 3D printing and predictive analytics. These trends are critical for the small to midsize manufacturer, enabling you to:

  • Predict and prevent equipment failures via sensors, thus maximizing the uptime and extending the life of your manufacturing assets
  • Improve productivity and quality through systems that pinpoint improvements to reduce waste and tweak quality
  • Prevent supply-chain disruptions by better visibility into suppliers and partners

When you set out on any journey, it’s not only important to know where it is you’re headed to, but also where you started from.  As the larger manufacturers move more and more towards Industry 4.0, those smaller manufacturers that are early adapters will differentiate themselves from their competition by creating more seamless integration into the upstream manufacturing process.  Here are four things every manufacturer needs to know in setting out on the path to Industry 4.0:

Data-driven operational efficiencies: To what extent is data driving your operations: Do you take a proactive approach, using sensors and AI to support the plant in real time—or is most of your data collected manually and at specified times?

Quality assurance tracking: Do you use real-time feeds to check the impact of critical variables on product quality and process flow, or do you rely on benchmarks dependent on workers identifying and reporting quality issues?

Internal and external feedback loops: Does feedback flow back and forth within the organization and is the data shared with suppliers, customers and partners for constant communication—or is information siloed?

Industry 4.0 business case: Are you developing a 4.0 framework that can be shared with partners and suppliers or do you need to learn more in order to build a business case for leadership?

For more information on this topic, or to learn how Baker Tilly specialists can help, contact our team.