The impact of technology’s influence, new devices and new forms of communication, has not only affected the private scenery; it is also revolutionising industry with each passing day. No one can escape the industry 4.0 concept – a term that references the application of digital technologies in the industrial production chain. And that is because nowadays, industrial processes demand a high connectivity between all of their processes. But are we prepared to keep up with this technological evolution? Where would we set the boundaries for SMEs? You will find this article interesting.
The road towards the fourth industrial revolution
Industry 4.0 appears as a new breakthrough of industrial development, making an extensive use of the Internet and other technologies. Each day we are witnesses to a constant evolution, which we could sum up in a single concept: “The fourth industrial revolution”.
In short, it involves the generalisation of certain technological resources in the industry which enable the interaction between two worlds: the physical and the digital ones. Specifically, it can be defined as the link between the physical and the virtual worlds in order to turn industry into a smart industry.
But what are the challenges of industry 4.0?
The challenges faced by industry 4.0 should not only focus on the application of new technologies through the improvement of mechanic and robotic processes; it should also optimise other areas: logistics, customer service, management, etc., through the use of analysis systems and software development.
What is the end goal?
- Implementing multi-sensor systems that enable the collection of data, learning systems and automatic decision making.
- Following Six Sigma processes, which eliminate variability with the goal of ensuring the reduction of product errors, defects and delivery failures.
- Ensuring the traceability of components along the entire value chain – an important aspect to gather all the necessary information for each unit produced.
In search of a better efficiency, accomplishing optimised, profitable processes will rely on the adoption and implementation of technological tools that facilitate maintenance management, being able to optimise and automate processes and improve the adequacy of a product.
1. The challenge of advanced manufacturing
Today we see a deep interest for innovation within productive processes. This “advanced manufacturing” seeks to have a firm grasp on factors such as measurement, operation planning and integration of other new systems and platforms into the productive system.
In relation to this concept, we could mention the following challenges for SMEs:
- Knowing how to manage the technological investment and adapt to new support tools. Innovation is a differentiating aspect for SMEs, and in this regard, investment in automation and the knowledge of new digitalised applications is key. Technological specialisation will become a differentiating aspect in any industry.
- A comprehensive understanding of the customer. Customers are increasingly demanding and have more information on their hands to make decisions. Knowing their needs through new marketing strategies and data analysis is another big challenge for any SME. Nowadays, no one can manufacture while turning their backs to their potential customers.
- Data mining: Data analysis for decision making. In relation to the previous item, the arrival of the digital revolution on industry elicits another major goal: being capable to obtain more and better data to support strategic decision making. Strategic coherence is only possible through the analysis of results and environments.
2. The challenge of sensor technology
Absolutely essential. In fact, industry 4.0 may be impossible without smart sensors.
Their operation focuses on providing machines with the ability to see, detect and communicate smartly. This aspect is characterised by the supervision of production systems, and allows for the detection of failures or errors, turning processes more efficient and profitable.
In this regard, implementing this technology and training for it involves one of the most difficult challenges for a smart factory.
3. The challenge of process digitalisation and automation
Thanks to IoT, processes will be able to be controlled from any type of mobile application, implying a competitive advantage in relation to manufacturers who apply more conventional methods. The concept of mobility is fundamental for improving times, reducing costs and fostering client-manufacturer communication at all times.
Overall, the concept of factory 4.0 is gaining importance across many sectors, including that of gear motor and speed reducer manufacturers. CLR has made great investments in this area, computerising its productive processes and implementing new software and disruptive technologies such as 3D printing of injection moulds.
Would you like to know how the manufacturing process of mechanical parts is evolving? Then you will find this eBook by CLR interesting: “Keys to manufacturing mechanical parts: from machining to 3D printing“