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Manufacturing to meet Industry 4.0

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It’s common knowledge that we find ourselves in the thick of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0), but we’re still trying to determine what that means for traditional industries.

Industry 4.0 sees automation, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT) proving invaluable for industries where the advanced use of data and technology improves processes and stimulates efficiency.

Simply digitalising internal processes is not sufficient to realise the benefits. Only 30% of international manufacturers that are investing in transforming their digital operations will reach their full potential, according to global market intelligence firm, IDC. The majority of the remaining 70% will be constrained by legacy business models and outdated technology.

Manufacturers will need to implement new ways of working to own the market and attain the level of optimisation that Industry 4.0 allows. To reach the pinnacle of manufacturing development, financial experts, factory managers, and executives must join forces in using cutting-edge technology to understand production data.

If business leaders can push their strategies towards smarter analytics and building the organisational structure required to enhance efficiency, they can leverage Industry 4.0 to create more competitive advantages to improve product offerings, ensuring customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Currently we are seeing the emergence of ‘smart factories’ that harvest data from connected operations and production systems to learn and adapt to new demands – and it’s as transformative as it sounds.

Forward-thinking manufacturers can reach this stage by developing an Industry 4.0 strategy that focuses on four pillars.

  1. People

The first pillar is investing in people. Industry 4.0 demands a considerable skill shift to explore the full potential of new technologies, which in turn affects recruitment and training. Business leaders will need to consolidate traditional manufacturing expertise with new skills and capabilities, such as knowledge of automation, data, analytics, programming, and software.

  1. Software

Connecting with the right software partners to supply and support integrated systems that link the core functions of the company – inventory, production, sales, accounting, and finance – is the second strategic pillar. This pillar is essential as the system only works if everyone is using the same database of real-time information.

  1. Hardware

Hardware will always play a vital role in the future of manufacturing. Even with the most advanced technology used in shaping a smart factory, products still need to be physically made, and this cannot happen without hardware. Therefore, the third pillar is about humans and machines working together.

  1. Connectivity

Finally, connectivity is the cornerstone of any Industry 4.0 strategy. Without it, the Internet of Things wouldn’t exist, and automation and AI would be seriously curtailed. A great analogy to understand the potential of connected data is to compare it to a power source that drives innovation in the same way that electricity did centuries ago.