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Five ways Industrie 4.0 can improve traditional manufacturing

Industrie 4.0 can improve the production line, the supply chain, asset monitoring, and many other traditional aspects of manufacturing by providing real-time interaction.

Pushpak Parmar, Riya Savjani
05/18/2017

Pushpak Parmar (left), IoT consultant, Softweb Solutions Inc.; Riya Savjani, IoT evangelist and content strategist, Softweb Solutions Inc. Courtesy: Softweb Solutions Inc.As digital manufacturing is taking over traditional manufacturing operations, industries have attained a technical benchmark that seemed unattainable before. With the introduction of Industrie 4.0, or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in the U.S., the manufacturing industry is moving towards the factory of the future to where all assets on the plant floor are providing the users with real-time information. The smart factory of the future is much closer than you realize.

Industrie 4.0 is a blend of computers, cyber-physical systems, and automation working harmoniously to make the production line smarter and more independent. Industrie 4.0, in particular, can take traditional manufacturing and make it better and more efficient in five specific ways.

1. Production line monitoring

As the factory floor expands, it gets difficult to monitor multiple assembly lines, let alone multiple factories located at remote locations. Getting information on the productivity of a specific manufacturing plant would require you to get in touch with a list of people until you reach the right person who can give you the exact information you need. With the smart factory, the ability to remotely monitor multiple production lines that are located at different manufacturing plants and at different geographical locations becomes easier and more defined.

2. Smart supply chain

The processes linked with the entire supply chain are not only complicated but are also hard to keep track of. Watching over each and every step of the supply chain management is a tedious and time-consuming process. Industrie 4.0 is designed to provide an intelligent supply chain that is embedded with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and sensors to allow process automation, inventory tracking, and real-time monitoring.

3. Predictive analytics

Manufacturers that still rely on the legacy systems often stockpile replacement parts that are at higher risk of failure. This practice occupies a lot of factory space, which can be otherwise utilized to serve a better purpose. Predictive analytics can bring an end to stockpiling by allowing companies to monitor their equipment and their performance. The data visualization generated as an outcome of predictive analytics also specifies how many machines are functional at the moment, the efficiency of each active machine, as well as generates alerts for all the machines that are not functioning as expected and needs maintenance.

4. Asset monitoring

Assigning and monitoring assets can be a challenging task when done manually. Keeping a record of each manufacturing asset and identifying who is using any particular asset at a given point of time is not possible with manual processes. With the help of the IIoT, factory managers effortlessly can monitor every asset that is connected with the system, measure its efficiency, know about its availability and active time, and decide or identify who is using or will need the asset at a particular time.

5. Personalized products

There was a time when a product would be mass-produced with same design and features, maybe in a few different colors. Now, as the communication between a manufacturer and consumers got easier, there's more room for personalization and co-creation of the exact product that is preferred. As automation enters the production line, meeting the demand of customizing a product according to customer needs is quite possible. The combination of IIoT and just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing allows companies to consider customer preferences and meet the demands accordingly.

The bigger picture

Industrie 4.0 is about to bring a technological wave that will be considered as the fourth industrial revolution. This wave seems all set to disrupt the legacy systems and establish a new foundation for better manufacturing processes. As happens with all the major technologies, Industrie 4.0 will surely reward its early adopters, and those who are too scared to change will soon become technically irrelevant.

Pushpak Parmar, IoT consultant, Softweb Solutions Inc.; Riya Savjani, IoT evangelist and content strategist, Softweb Solutions Inc. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, cvavra(at)cfemedia.com.

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