The 4th industrial revolution is referred to as Industry 4.0. A German working group reviewed current trends in automation and data exchange in manufacturing. The baseline idea is applicable to all production and business environments around the globe. The concepts are absolute knowledge, automating everything, and interconnecting with everything. At first glance 4.0 may seem overwhelming, but, the initial steps are quite simple and extremely impactful.
Financial, sales, ERP systems and automated production environments are generating massive amounts of data. This data provides the foundation for all Industry 4.0 capabilities. The new catch term “Internet of Things” is simply data, a huge amount of seemingly unrelated data which allows businesses to answer virtually any question.
That’s enough of the high level stuff. How does this help a small to mid-size processing facility in Canada? Let’s start with the basics: Every time a switch opens, a motor starts, a sensor senses; data points are generated. Automating, sensing and recording are comparatively low-cost investments in most production and processing environments, but they empower us with the baseline data to realize massive benefits. When a production line can sense upstream and downstream conditions, then react to maintain optimum operation automatically, production is as good as it can be. With the right automation system in place, this consistently strong production can occur without major capital upgrades, and without overstressing equipment or workforce.
So, now we’ve automated the production environment and optimized throughput, but we’ve only just begun to realize the benefits of controlling the data. The ability to capture, translate and control information flow allows us to seamlessly communicate with commercial business systems. We can schedule and manage production, track and trace product or components through the process from receiving to shipping and beyond. Inter-connectivity with customers and suppliers can take us down a long road of global strategic advantages.
Basically, starting the process leads to benefits that fund the progression. Or, realize the benefits and decide against connecting with the world for now. But, be ready if necessary.