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Industry 4.0 – Digital Transformation in the Manufacturing Sector

This is an extract from a booklet by Technology Supply Chain member- Syscomm.  Syscomm offers a comprehensive range of IT Services designed to deliver tangible business performance, enabling you to do more, faster, better.  You can download the full booklet here.

The manufacturing industry is evolving. New business models and massive digital transformation efforts are putting the former on the verge of an innovative phase that promises greater productivity, efficiency and lower costs. Unsurprisingly, the vast benefits that these digital innovations deliver make it crucial for manufacturers today to adopt emerging technologies in order to thrive in the disruptive future.

Manufacturing has always been a process driven sector, with continuous improvements to help companies work more efficiently and reduce costs. From the Industrial Revolution in the 1800’s on through to today, change has always been a constant in the manufacturing process.

Manufacturing has always relied on processes that are underpinned by strong technology in order to operate at peak efficiency. From automatic pattern cutters in the clothing industry, a robotic arm in the automotive sector or state-of-the- art printing presses, technology has always been at the heart of manufacturing success in keeping costs down while simultaneously speeding up production.

Today, technologies such as IoT, big data and analytics and SD-WAN are advancing manufacturing toward a digital economy, resulting in a more efficient workforce and streamlined operations, while all the time maintaining high standards in production quality. Industry 4.0 means that manufacturers need to embrace the challenges and opportunities that come with it, transforming the manufacturing industry into a digital model. Moreover, it’s important to keep in mind that the starting point for the path to Industry 4.0 will need to be the deployment of a next-generation network infrastructure that can support the business on its digital transformation journey.

Key Challenges for Manufacturers

  • IT infrastructure that has been designed for a physical world, not a digital world
  • Increasing risks of cyberattacks. It’s no longer simply an IT problem– every part of today’s networked organisation needs to become involved
  • Lack of knowledge about technologies, vendors and IT Outsourcing partners that can help execute the digital transformation journey

Opportunities

  • Scalability and agility by adopting a modern IT network and related- technologies, such as the Cloud
  • Higher business continuity and better quality products: real-time monitoring, IoT-enabled quality control and improvement
  • Optimisation of processes and productivity to save costs, increase profitability, reduce waste, prevent errors and delays, speed up production, etc.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The power of IoT in the manufacturing space is enormous. The manufacturing industry has been receptive to adopting technology to capture data that can be fed into existing ERP and cloud platforms to perform data analysis, helping make data-driven decisions that streamline their operations.

Connected devices can, for example, streamline and simplify processes in the development cycle by alerting procurement when specialist inventory runs low. Or by alerting engineers when quality control and safety tests fail, through a series of strategically placed sensors.

Indeed, as the number of use cases continues to increase for IoT devices, an enormous strain will be put on the network as the number of connected devices grows exponentially.

Industry 4.0’s inherent future-forward benefits are driving innovation across the industry and disrupting outdated processes across value chains. With every new Industry 4.0 technology that emerges – from IoT analytics to artificial intelligence and AR – it becomes ever clearer that Industry 4.0 is more than an opportunity; it’s also an imperative.

Accelerated Growth and Agility

Moreover, with advances in digital technology, every manufacturing business now has the capability of being a global organisation and transcend local geographical boundaries on a scale that was once unimaginable.

Organisations are able to (and indeed, must be able to) enter new markets with minor or no modifications to their digital business platforms. Taking Uber as an example, in just five years, they’ve expanded into more than 50 countries and over 300 cities – a rate of expansion of a new city every six days. Can your network infrastructure cope with that kind of strain?

Most manufacturing businesses today were conceived in a very different world than today’s digital era – there was no pervasive connectivity, mobility, Cloud, wireless, social media, etc. Indeed, most businesses today have been designed for a physical, rather than a digital world. The IT infrastructure needed to support Industry 3.0 is no longer adequate to support Industry 4.0.

You can download the rest of the booklet here.

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