Supply chain integration, automation, and analytics are among the top action items for 2017 identified by manufacturers. The focus in 2017 will be helping its customers to address these priorities through the practical application of Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing concepts, which have established new benchmarks for manufacturers.
With a mission to keep traditional manufacturing countries competitive in a low-cost global manufacturing environment, Industry 4.0 fundamentally addresses automation and data exchange in manufacturing plants. Core tools of Industry 4.0 include work center automation, production monitoring, and predictive analytics, which increasingly rely on the Internet of things (IoT) and cloud computing to serve as their infrastructural backbone. Despite the availability of proven manufacturing solutions in these areas, to date there remains a gap in adoption at many mid-tier companies.
Supply chain integration
Today, few businesses stand alone. Instead, upstream suppliers and downstream customers are interdependent. For manufacturers, this is bringing increased pressure to streamline these interdependencies with business-to-business electronic communications that not only exchange purchase order and shipping data, but also forecasts, change orders, production specifications, labels and production data. More companies are turning to the cloud to facilitate this exchange, since it lowers the technical barriers to bringing more participants into the supply chain. At the same time, many communications that previously relied on the involvement of several people have been replaced by machine-to-machine interactions in lights-out environments.
Automation for today’s skilled workforce
Interest in automating the manufacturing shop floor is at an all-time high as companies seek cost savings, along with solutions to the dual workforce challenges they face: a continuing shortage of skilled labor and the impact of millennial employees.
Analytics for actionable insights
Analytics is moving to the forefront as mid-market manufacturers recognize the value that can be mined from the data that is a natural byproduct of automation and supply chain integration. Information from electronic orders, digital records of material consumption and production data, and even shipping data can help increase the accuracy of sales forecasts, delivery date promises, and material and labor planning. Increasingly, in combination with the use of IoT sensors to monitor manufacturing equipment and processes, analytics also are providing predictive data on machine performance and product quality.