4IR: How to Get Started – Lean Smart Manufacturing

If you had not noticed the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) is advancing fast and the benefits across all organizations are already being seen.

Cost savings, new revenue models, increased productivity and efficiencies are significant.

Amid the hype, how do you get started? How do you navigate the road ahead to realize the returns from the latest technologies?

We are believers that it is “different strokes for different folks”.

Be you a Large Enterprise, then the ultimate must be the realization of the AI-driven Virtual Twin / Digital Twin with real-time simulation models running. It is the true digital mirror of the physical world and allows you to Fail-Fast, Learn-Quicker, and adapt your business to fast-moving market conditions, such as those we have been experiencing over the last few months.

Be you, a Large Enterprise or SME, and stuck in the 3IR or even the 2IR, the easiest entry is the care of the Internet of Things attached to your Manufacturing lines.

Let us look at a step-by-step approach……

What is a Smart Factory?

The Smart Factory is one of the delivery mechanisms to achieve success in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Industry 4.0 Technologies work with large amounts of data collected and deciphered through machines and production systems such as MES and ERP systems with the use of cyber-physical systems.

Manufacturers with the ability to get information quicker, closer to real-time have been successful in optimizing the processes and develop the agility to respond to ever-changing demands with efficient costs.

The Smart Factory or the Factory of the Future integrates many modern concepts to provide a more streamlined manufacturing process. These factories require IoT devices to transmit large amounts of data, which enterprise systems will decipher, and analysts will use to reduce waste and inefficiencies, proactively maintain equipment and facilities, and optimize operations and manufacturing processes.

The final goal is to attain the “lights-out” factory, which would be fully automated with manufacturing robots powered with artificial intelligence.

This is not a reality for most manufacturers today.

Companies need a well-defined path for their digital transformation journey with a full understanding of the scope they currently require and the transformation they want to achieve soon.

To answer this question, one must understand what Smart Manufacturing entails.

Smart Factory

What are the major technologies of a Smart Factory?

As you will have read there are several technologies that make up Industry4.0 for Manufacturing that can provide the technology in a Smart Factory:

The Platform: The Cloud | Interoperability | Cyber Security

These components are part of the transformation, but not the starting point.

  • The Cloud: with great production-related undertakings requiring increased data sharing and the cloud responsive coming down to milliseconds will be the standard across geographies.
  • Inter-operability: capabilities will become more cohesive vertically and horizontally.
  • Cyber-security: care “Security by Design” along with ever-advancing AI in the security space and increasing threats and exposure, is a fundamental part of the 4IR.

The Platform

The Shop Floor / The Field: Cobots | AR | IoT | Digital Twin | Additive Manufacturing

Enter the world of enhanced Field and Shop Floor operations

  • Cobots: Yes, amid the drama surrounding robots, the reality is robots and now aptly named Cobots (collaborative robots), will interact with one another and work safely side by side with humans and learn from them.
  • Augmented Reality: AR-based systems support a variety of services, such as selecting parts in a warehouse and sending repair instructions over mobile devices. As the systems mature, they will support workers by providing real-time information to improve decision-making & procedures.
  • IoT: Attached and embedded to components and equipment, these new smart devices will allow field/factory devices to communicate/interact both with one another and with centralized controllers in real-time.
  • Digital Twin / Simulation: used to model and leverage real-time data, mirroring the physical world care of the digitization of machines, conditions, products, and humans.
  • Additive Manufacturing: while with limited materials today to longer-term potential is exciting for the build, maintenance cost, and speed.

The Shop Floor

The Intelligence: BIG DATA | ANALYTICS

In the data economy, the various technologies are there to extract, communicate and use data for enhanced Customer Experiences, Manufacturing and Supply Chain efficiencies.

  • Big Data: In the modern age, data is much, much bigger. This means that traditional methods for acquiring, storing, and analyzing the data are no longer sufficient. Smart Factories use systems such as Manufacturing Execution Systems to accumulate vast amounts of data in real-time, allowing for quicker, more well-informed decision making.
  • IIoT: The Industrial Internet of Things connects everything on the shop floor to the internet. This is crucial in creating the “digital twin.” Data is no longer siloed and there is interoperability and increased chances of seamless exchange of information between enterprise systems such as MES and ERP. With a single source of truth, systems can communicate quicker and more efficiently than with traditional infrastructure.
  • Advanced Robotics/ AI: Smart machines can communicate directly with manufacturing systems while working autonomously with the least human intervention, thereby reducing the chances of variability in output. By evaluating sensory input, these machines can solve problems and make decisions independent of people.
  • Digital manufacturing: Digital manufacturing systems are used to reduce time, cost, and improve the efficiency of production processes. These systems can optimize floor schedules, production planning, material management, and decision-making.

The Intelligence

How can Smart Manufacturing be enhanced with Lean/ Six Sigma principles?

1. Plan Do Check Act Cycle

Smart manufacturing allows companies to gain a deeper level of insight into the data. With faster information, Lean/Six Sigma practitioners can develop and simulate the impact of process changes and act accordingly.

2. Identify failures earlier and faster

With the amounts of data available through big data, process engineers can predict failures faster and transition from the reactive mode of solutioning. Big data combined with IIOT enables process engineers to assess and track process capabilities remotely from around the globe leading to minimized downtime.

3. Improve collaboration between plant floor employees and decision-makers

With IIoT and other collaboration tools, plant floor workers, managers, supervisors, quality inspectors, etc. can provide their input immediately and accurately. Shortcomings in any process changes and attempts at improvement are immediately realized and addressed.

4. Continuous Improvement

With real-time data acquisition, manufacturers can continuously improve their operational processes. Synchronized data allows for easier collaboration and more time spent on strategy and less on the show and tell.

5. Minimize variations and reduce waste

With digitized factories and advanced robotics, manufacturers can minimize the variations and optimize processes with minimal human intervention. At the same time, it provides flexibility to react to market demands faster with the introduction of principles like single-minute exchange die (SMED).

Sigma Principles

Why is MES one of the most important aspects of Smart Manufacturing?

MES tracks data of actual products on the plant floor from receiving to shipping. The data in Big Data analytics is primarily from manufacturing and MES helps collect this data in real-time. One of the most important parts of digital transformation is manufacturing execution. Raw data collected at the plant level can be transformed into relevant, usable information, and statistics can give visibility for decision-makers into specific regions, plants, machines, etc.

MES-Smart Manufacturing

What is the future of Smart Manufacturing for the next 10-20 years?

With the increased demand from customers for high-quality products delivered faster at the lowest cost possible, there is an increased requirement to optimize the manufacturing process from raw material to the realization of the final product. This will only increase the need for Smart manufacturing and early steps towards it will ensure market domination in the future. A joint study by the Manufacturer’s Alliance for Productivity and Innovation and Deloitte published in September 2019 found that more than 85% of industrial manufacturers believe that smart factory initiatives will be the main driver of manufacturing competitiveness in the future.

future of Smart Manufacturing

What are the major barriers for companies to implement Smart Manufacturing?

1. Price

Implementation of Smart Manufacturing techniques is a long-term investment at the price tags available. Smart manufacturing is a heavy investment that engineers and manufacturing departments must convince their business counterparts of the value. Especially given the current times, companies are risk-averse, but they still need to compete and provide a customer-centric experience. This can lead to Smart Manufacturing and a digital transformation being on a wish list for many.

2. An Undefined Path

Smart manufacturing is a broad topic, and many organizations are unsure of where and how to begin a digital transformation journey. They are hesitant to decide whether to discard or upgrade their existing systems. They are unsure about their commitment to the implementation journey and the scope of the implementation in the future.

Undefined Path

What are good first steps in the digital transformation journey?

While each organization has a tailored made solution, few important common steps apply to any:

1. Know What Industry 4.0 is & what it could do for you

Understanding Industry 4.0 and the functions and capabilities of digitization is the first step. Truly appreciating the advantages of connectivity across the supply chain, man, and machine along with the various disruptive technologies are essential.

Research, attend events and go see a factory to see it in action. If you are struggling for impartial intelligence, drop me a line and I will be delighted to help.

2. Assess the current digital state and existing gaps of the organization

Every organization needs to understand its current core strengths and gaps exists before investing in new products. An understanding of the existing technology being used and its limitations restricting the organization from achieving future goals is a key step.

3. What is relevant to your business right now?

Having grasped ‘I’ above, you move to looking at your business and looking at the most practical introduction of disruptive technology for your specific business readiness and industry sector.

4. Best Practice

With so many firms around the world now moving into i4.0, best practices are forming each day. Exploring those and relating some of the good and bad experiences to your business, helps identify the best fit for the here & now. But, as I heard many times over, learn to fail fast & small, but learn quickly and scale.

5. Define your digital transformation objective

Working backward from the customer needs, long-term business goals, and current demand need to be defined to build the apt digital transformation journey. A robust strategy clarifies the exact digital needs and the cost justifying by pinpointing the areas of business processes requiring the change.

6. The Focus Group

Having decided to move ahead into the i4.0 world, a dedicated and focused team is required. They will form the nucleus of your future digital strategy and culture. Prepared to innovate in respect of smarter products, smarter factories, and smarter supply chains. The team includes intelligent, credible, and passionate representation from across the organization. Each week they will be responsible for new ideas and ready to fail with 80% of those, in the end agreeing and proving new innovative ways of working.

Any change reaps the benefits of success when employees are on board with it. Employee inputs along with customer needs and business goals are critical while assessing and deploying any change. Employees need to adapt to the change to maximize the benefits and only possible when their pain points are addressed. In addition, training employees is a key to fully utilize the technology deployed.

7. Build a robust roadmap

With clear business needs and goals, building a digital transformation roadmap is the next critical step. The roadmap should prioritize the critical areas for improvement based on the voice of the customer to maximize the benefits.

8. Set realistic budget targets

Smart manufacturing or digital transformation is expensive and a long-term investment. The right investment is critical for the business. Basis the current gaps identified and the identification of priority business processes, the next critical step is identifying the right technology to minimize any costly failures.

9. Getting Started

All roads led to connectivity and data. That data once collected can be measured and the business improved in multiple ways.

“What gets measured, gets improved?”

  • Step-1: take your existing production lines and even with its old machines, look at ways as a team to speed up the manufacturing process. Be aware, many can be through re-engineering, not just through the machines.
  • Step-2: introduce IoT sensors/actuators and connect them to your MOM/MES systems.
  • Step-3: look at how you can improve the lives of your operators.
  • Step-4: monitor, extract data, analyze and start to locate efficiencies on the line, be it faster, better, or more effective.
  • Step-5: develop the business case, prove the ROI, and scale it.

Getting Started

It is hard to locate anything more exciting and all-encompassing than that of Product Lifecycle Management in the 4IR. Product Innovation is the critical success factor.