From Scalability to Customisation: Why Industry 4.0 is Helping Manufacturers Grow.

Author:Hiskey, Terri
Position::DATABASE AND NETWORK INTELLIGENCE: OPINION
 
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Manufacturers must do things differently to win market share in today's environment. To survive and thrive, manufacturers must focus on growth, and one of the ways manufacturers can achieve this is to leverage Industry 4.0 technologies.

Industry 4.0 is all about doing things differently--introducing automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things, and cloud computing. The goal is the "smart factory", with cyber-physical systems capable of autonomously exchanging information, triggering actions, and controlling each other independently. This facilitates fundamental improvements to the industrial processes involved in manufacturing, engineering, material usage, asset performance and management, and supply chain and lifecycle management.

While there is a great deal of discussion about the various technology enablers of Industry 4.0, it's more crucial to reframe the discussion around the business benefits. Industry 4.0 isn't a technology initiative. It's the future of manufacturing as we know it. It's not just about improved performance and efficiency--investments into new manufacturing technologies enhance agility, flexibility, and speed-to-market when designing and launching new products and services.

Adopting an Industry 4.0 approach also provides the means to navigate change. Manufacturers are reinventing their business models to focus on value-added services, and/or entering new geographic markets or adjacent market segments. Today's Industry 4.0-outfitted factories are empowered to drive productivity, and this keeps costs down while ensuring quality and consistency across manufacturing processes globally.

From a business perspective, Industry 4.0 supports four major tenets of operational execution:

* Interoperability

* Information transparency

* Actionable insights

* Automation

These tenets in turn, support several business imperatives. These include the following.

Scalability

Automation in the factory gives manufacturers the ability to transition personnel to more value-added activities, and provides the foundation to extend and expand product and service offerings. As they look to expand globally, automation maintains process consistency across locations.

This also allows manufacturers to focus on what they do best to find and refine their sweet spot. This moves manufacturers into a more advantageous position from taking on every job to taking on those jobs the...

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