If you are like me and have done anything in the engineering or design to manufacturing process in the last few years, you have run into new manufacturing terms being used, like Industry 4.0. Also, like me, you might wonder what happened to 2.0 and 3.0.
All kidding aside, Industry 4.0 is a term associated with a manufacturing company’s digital transformation journey. It promises to tie together the physical production of parts, manufacturing automation, and real-time data to drive change and efficiencies that ultimately impact the bottom line. The promise of interconnectivity across all aspects of the organization, connecting both the physical and virtual sides, sounds very tantalizing.
What I see in practice is that every company has a different road map to follow to get to this promised land. Many factors impact this plan, from the size of your company, industry, current manufacturing processes and bottlenecks, size of the investment, and people. Most companies are tackling these challenges in more manageable bite-size chunks.
When working with customers, I always ask myself what technologies are needed to fully realize the vision of Industry 4.0? It starts on the shop floor. The manufacturing automation equipment needs to have the ability to digitally connect and transfer information to other systems. An example is an injection molding machine that can send real-time data, error codes, part quantities, etc., to other systems. If you have older, non-digital equipment, this is not a deal breaker, so don’t let this be a barrier in your journey.
You will need a smart Enterprise level system that can take this data and make it instantaneously available to anyone that needs it. Systems like DELMIAWorks Manufacturing ERP do this by connecting the shop floor data in real-time to inventory, warehouse, front office, and the management level. Imagine running a company where you can access data that shows you exactly what’s happening on the shop floor from anywhere on any device – what machines are producing, the quality of that production, and if any work centers are down, need some attention, or are scheduled for maintenance.
Creating a Digital Thread To Enable Collaboration and Innovation from Design to Manufacturing
Next, and probably the most challenging, is connecting all the people and processes together. This includes the design and engineering teams. There are systems that build workflow processes that help coordinate the hand-off of files from one person to the next but imagine taking it to the next level. You would need a single, central system that connects the ideas and thoughts that bring together the collaboration of manufacturing, engineering, sales, and marketing into a single environment. This same platform can extend departments’ visibility outside their virtual walls, bringing in expertise from the entire organization.
To accomplish this, you will need something bigger than just software; you will need a full platform. This is where DASSAULT SYSTEMES’s investment in the 3DEXPERIENCE Works portfolio comes in. It allows groups to collaborate digitally today, sharing files, data, and ideas both in and out of departments. Raising the visibility of issues, ideas, tasks, and projects to the entire organization and truly connecting everyone together with a single source of truth.
One example of how this platform can impact a manufacturing company is the design to manufacturing process. Imagine not waiting until one of the final steps to have manufacturing present ideas that make a part faster to produce, shave time off production steps, and impact the overall production quality. This critical feedback loop can be as real-time as the shop floor data collection is today.
A highly respected CEO of a company where I used to work once told me that people don’t inherently make bad decisions. It’s having bad data or no data that is the culprit. Interconnecting all the processes, from the shop floor to the top floor, with Manufacturing ERP and breaking down the virtual department walls with the 3DEXPERIENCE Works portfolio will provide the right data at the right time. Ultimately I think the promise of Industry 4.0 is to streamline the visibility and collaboration and help your people make better decisions.