We are in the middle of a substantial transformation regarding the way we produce products and maintain our assets. This transformation is commonly referred to as the fourth industrial revolution – or Industry 4.0. For some, the implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies is well underway. Others find it more challenging to embrace this more connected way of working.
This blog post will examine some of the common myths that for some might act as barriers to the implementation of Industry 4.0.
Myth 1: Forget the future – we must focus on the present
‘Factory of the future’. A term which has become synonymous with the wave of automation and digitization labelled as ‘Industry 4.0’. Although ‘factory of the future’ implies an attitude which is more concerned with the future than with the present. This is, however, not the case.
Despite what some might think, it is not a future-gazing concept which focuses on what happens in ten years’ time. ‘Factory of the future’ refers to the changes that the industry needs to embrace – now, next and beyond. In order to keep up with increasing demands, organizations must become more competitive and more agile. Those who are not embracing technology now will soon be struggling to keep up.
Myth 2: Implementing IoT is a massive investment
Economic uncertainty takes some of the blame as to why some organizations are reluctant to invest in technology. With Brexit, Trump and general political disputes, there is a level of uncertainty when it comes to investing in IoT. You just never know what is around the corner. As a result, organizations have become unsure about the impact on their supply chains and future export opportunities. When faced with these challenges on a day-to-day basis, making a business case for investment is seldom at the top of the list of priorities.
There also appears to be a general misconception that you, upfront, must invest in completely new production lines and fancy robotic machinery in order to harvest the benefits from Industry 4.0. There are many ways to go about implementing Industry 4.0 technologies to your organization. An upfront investment in shiny new machinery sits at one end of the scale. At the other end of the scale you will find a much slower and more steady approach. Taking this approach enables you to simply add sensors to your already existing equipment. Sensors are financially accessible, and they can provide a controlled first taste of a connected environment. Most sensors available today give you access to real-time data. This enables production quality checks and facilitates accurate machine and system health checks and continuous monitoring.
Myth 3: IoT is impractical – requires too much downtime to implement
In the past few years, the affordability and accessibility of IoT technologies such as sensors have improved. The investment in the technology is therefore not as ‘extreme’ as it once was. It is common that the installation is planned to be completed within one day and implementing it, therefore, no longer requires much downtime.
It is also worth mentioning that by implementing sensors to real-time monitor your assets, you minimize the risk of severe downtime situations. The implementation time greatly outweigh the time it would take fix a malfunctioning machine.
Myth 4: There is no use for all that data
Not many organizations would decline the opportunity to know exactly what was happening with their assets now, in the past, and in the future. Working with Industryl 4.0 technologies can lead to a mountain load of information that you may not need now. But you will need it in the future, and you may ask yourself why. The answer is quite simply: because your competitors have it and you do not.
Which of these two options do you prefer:
- To be in a position where you are measuring but not using the data?
- To be in a position where you have the need, but not the technology to measure?
According to a survey conducted by Forbes in 2016, 69 percent of decision-makers believe analytics will be crucial for business success in 2020.
Myth 5: Investing in Industry 4.0 will put jobs at risk
Data is only as good as the people who interpret it. Industry 4.0 depends largely on the people, rather than the technology.
It is key for organizations to make the investments to educate their current workforce. It is critical that they learn how to discern the useful data from the useless. Otherwise, there is no chance to harvest the benefits of a connected organization. Equally, connected technology can be used to enhance manual processes. It can reduce the risk of human error by supporting workers and intelligently guiding them through assembly processes.
Myth 6: It’s OK to wait – the technology is still maturing
It is true that Industry 4.0 is still maturing, but the technologies have been in use for quite some time now. Now is the ideal time for your organization to implement them. Since the world first was introduced to Industry 4.0, the learning curve has been navigated by the giants of most industries. This means that you can benefit from the collective wisdom and implement the technologies at a much lower cost.
Increased efficiency with Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 allows organizations to optimize workflows faster than before. In fact, McKinsey has estimated that switching to automated production can boost productivity by 45%-55%.
Furthermore, technologies such as IoT enable organizations to conduct predictive maintenance. Deloitte estimated that predictive maintenance can:
- Reduce the maintenance planning time by 20-50%
- Diminish total maintenance costs by 5–10%
- Increase equipment uptime and availability by 10–20%