Smart factories are no longer unknown. Quite a lot has happened in the past years during the discovery process. It is not only for the big but for the small producers as well. Basically, any producer who wants to secure a place on the market tomorrow should already look into implementing Industry 4.0 solutions and optimize production. At least on some level.
For Industry 4.0 solutions to be efficient they need to balance with the business side of production. Digital transformation in that sense can have several tiers of implementation. It wouldn’t be wise from the business perspective to make a big investment in the technology which business segment can’t follow and benefit from the level of efficiency achieved. Therefore one of the key characteristics of the smart factory is agility. Usually, this is mentioned in terms of technology. Smart factory, for example, should be able to have:
- Flexible and adaptable scheduling and changeovers
- Real-time impact of product changes
- Self-configuring equipment
So to achieve efficiency across all segments of business and production implementation of such solutions is a process. So how to tackle this challenge without completely disrupting current production and experience possible failures? Simple – Start small.
How can producers tackle transition to Industry 4.0?
So when producers make a transition to the smart factory there are several areas to consider. Main 5 areas are:
- Continuous collection of data
- Connected plant equipment
- Decision-making processes
- Human resources optimization and cross-functional roles
So one would say Industry 4.0 is a big and scary challenge. A lot of unknowns and potential configurations that need to be defined, planned and executed suitable for your production. If we take small steps and look for solution tiers risk reduces significantly. The best approach would be to solve one challenge at the time.
To be able to properly define, plan and execute implementation of the smart factory it would require us to understand the current state of production, equipment and business side as well. We would need to understand your current challenges in all relevant areas. But also what is important would be long term plan and vision of what you want to achieve. Based on these specific needs of the factory we take small steps like to start continuously collect data in production, whether it would be one or several machines. These data are the key to understand how to optimize all other areas and solve any forthcoming challenges. For example, at our last project in Frag key first step was continuous data collection. This now enables us to design further solutions and optimize the rest of production, warehouse or supply chain.
When taking small steps we can focus on success and then further build on what already works. On the production side, these small steps enable the adjustment period for each stakeholder within the factory. Especially business managers who can now plan and execute on a new, improved level. It also helps workers to adjust and follow the production increasing the level of productivity and satisfaction. These small incremental changes continuously create value. Most obvious would be cost reduction and increased production output. But there is also a lot of intangible value that is base for further advancement and the next level of the smart factory investment.
What is the most important agile approach keeps risk and investment range at minimal levels. Then from here, you can scale fast, step by step until the overall solution and full benefits are achieved.
For more details on first steps into Industry 4.0 you can take a look at Deloitte white paper The Smart Factory – Responsive, adaptive, connected manufacturing.