Industry 4.0 relies on the sensing and exchange of data to allow a factory to be quantified, adaptive and responsive. The aim is to maximise asset use, maintain quality, reduce costs and improve safety as well as sustainability.
A more efficient factory avoids downtime and provides the ability to classify situations and predict required dynamic process changes. In practical terms this means measuring physical, operational, and human assets to drive changes in the manufacturing processes, maintenance and inventory tracking. In technology terms this implies the requirement for better connectivity in the factory using wired and wireless technologies. Ultimately, most data ends up travelling on the company network to software where analysis can cause suppliers and customers to be made aware of aspects that affect them. As well as data capacity, there’s the software needs to analyse the data in near real time so that analysis can be fed back into the factory production, assembly and logistics processes.
“Advances in operational technology create a ‘sensornet of things’ in which operational decisions can be made independently of humans”
Mike Stone, KPMG
The Deloitte paper The smart factory Responsive, adaptive, connected manufacturing has a useful table showing possible processes within a smart factory:
SMEs are at an advantage compared to large companies. Production lines are smaller, there are fewer machines, fewer assets and fewer people so changes for Industry 4.0 are more managable. Costs are also less challenging. Starting small might be all you need and you should have fewer problems scaling. As there’s less at stake than in a large organisation, SMEs can also sometimes make pragmatic implementation decisions that might not be be made by large company, for example using consumer grade components devices and software systems. Interestingly, further scaling an SME factory has the capability to allow it to compete with large competitors who haven’t implemented Industry 4.0.
A downside to being an SME is that it’s less easy to involve suppliers and customers in your data transformation. Large companies can usually force suppliers and customers to go digital. The opposite isn’t true.