IT in Manufacturing: Industry 4.0

Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology have grown up side by side. Modern manufacturing equipment has been on a collision course with standard IT for decades as more computerization is added to the machine tools used in manufacturing. With the emergence of convergence between the technologies, the manufacturing sector is beginning to become more reliant on the same skills that have traditionally been used in IT. Along with the skill set of hardware technological support and programming support, IT leaders going forward will need to understand the operational mindset of the managers they interact with.

Metrics

Industry 4.0, an initiative that began in Germany in 2011, sometimes called Manufacturing 4.0, represents the convergence of activities. Manufacturing activities have always been metric centric. How many widgets can be made by a piece of equipment in a given time with what rate for rejected pieces is used to calculate the effective throughput of a given device. This calculation is added to the BOM (Bill of Material) and employed in planning calculations within MRP.

In the past, this information was manually determined and entered into the BOM. The Internet of Things (IOT) has created the means to provide this information electronically, allowing for better measurements and quicker reactions to variations than ever before.

Quality metrics based on the throughput and yield are also impacted by the ability to communicate this data in real-time. Sensors being built into systems that perform the SPC (Statistical Process Control) activity provide up to the minute data for analysis.

Production Line

Reporting

Still, this is only the beginning of the ways in which the data can be used. Data from these two areas can be used to create analytical studies for finance departments to better understand the depreciation and efficient use of capital investments. Engineers can design better more efficient processes and sales, forecasting and customer service departments can get more insightful information to provide customers better delivery dates, and inventory level information.

Operational leaders who are looking into or actively implementing robotic manufacturing depend heavily on interconnected systems with automated reporting to reduce cost and improve throughput in the manufacturing environment. Smart factories that practice Lean Manufacturing take advantage of the analytical reporting generated by the interconnected operations technology to shift labor and operational staff to areas to maximize their production staff and increase capacity.

Security

The adoption of IOT has resulted in more wired and wireless factory shopfloor connected devices, remote access, programming, and set-up operations. Manufacturing machines with embedded operating systems, usually have a “lite” version of the operating system with a limited capacity to configure and execute sophisticated commands. This lower technological threshold has resulted in security breaches which, if part of a fully connected network, lead major systems to be compromised. While it is IT Security’s responsibility to address these vulnerabilities, IT must also ensure that manufacturing can still continue to run on a 24X7 basis. This applies in particular as robotic devices replace manually administered equipment.

Production Support

As the manufacturing moves into the digital world, IT will increasingly be called upon to support production equipment at the same level that it supports end users. The data from this equipment will make its way to senior managers who make decisions on customer pricing, continuing existing relationships with suppliers and customers, the fate of manufacturing facilities and product lines. Our service delivery for software and infrastructure support as well as user education and assistance will need to encompass all levels within the organization from shop floor and assembly line staff to the C-suite.

IT in Manufacturing: Are You Making Good Use of Your Data?

Recently, The Manufacturer came out with an article on what it means for the manufacturing industry to embrace the digital revolution.

One of the key points is that success depends in large part on how you make use of the data you collect. The article mentions a report showing that roughly 99% of business data gets disregarded or tossed out before any analysis can be performed.

IT in manufacturing should involve helping your company make optimal use of data.

The following are some of the benefits:

  • Important feedback on how your machinery and computer systems are operating – whether or not they’re:
    • Efficient and productive
    • Performing consistently within desired parameters
    • Free from signs of impending malfunctions or unauthorized activity
  • Insights into how you can streamline various operations and processes:
    • Saving you money
    • Connecting different parts of your company seamlessly
    • Reaching your customers in a timely and effective way
  • A stronger basis on which to plan for the future, including:
    • Anticipating what you’ll need down the road
    • Embracing new developments in technology

When it comes to making good use of your data, consider the following:

  • The data you need to collect vs. what you can allow yourself to discard
  • How to collect the data accurately
  • Where to store the data securely and how to keep it organized and well-managed
  • The programs to use for analyzing the data, presenting it comprehensibly, and extracting important insights from it

Data is the foundation on which your manufacturing enterprise rests. Letting it slip by without any meaningful analyses puts you at a disadvantage relative to competitors and causes you to miss out on opportunities to refine your operations and further your business objectives.

Manufacturing