The global impact of Industry 4.0 and what it means to you
4 minutes | 17 Dec 2020
Industry 4.0 has been a major trend in the global manufacturing industry since the early 2000s. The coronavirus crisis has also had a similar level of impact on manufacturers across the world.
Considering how these two factors will influence the future of production lines worldwide is just as important for design engineers and procurement managers as it is for business owners and directors.
So, what are the current Industry 4.0 trends in global manufacturing and what impact has coronavirus had on the progress of the fourth industrial revolution?
What are the current Industry 4.0 global trends?
A recent McKinsey & Company study on manufacturing and Industry 4.0 has examined the impacts of coronavirus on the progress of digital transformation and smart manufacturing. As well as noting that early adopters of Industry 4.0 are better placed to face the challenges of coronavirus, the study gives four key areas they predict will be a focus for manufacturing businesses in the years to come.
Specific challenges brought by coronavirus, such as worker shortages and the transparency of the supply chain, have led to rapid digitisation by industry leaders. The study notes that 39% of these businesses have built a control centre to increase their end-to-end supply chain visibility. It also reports that around 25% are now focusing on increased automation on the production line to help fill the gaps left by absent workers.
The ability of digital manufacturing technologies to shore up the production line and supply chain has led most businesses to recognise their value. 93% are now planning to bring Internet of Things (IoT) technologies into their supply chain and 90% are looking to invest in digital talent.
Many global businesses had started to introduce some Industry 4.0 technologies into their production lines and processes prior to coronavirus. Yet the McKinsey study says that ‘acceleration’ will be the new buzzword within the global manufacturing market in the years to come.
Prior to the outbreak, it was estimated that engineering 4.0 technologies would create up to $3.7 trillion in value by 2025. Now, as 62% of manufacturers look to invest in making their operations more efficient and secure, this figure has the potential to grow.
Creating a resilient supply chain
A report by the MPI Group said that half of the manufacturers surveyed are seeing the most financial value in supply chain activities. Increasing the level of analytics and intelligence within operations will enable manufacturers to improve their business planning and scheduling capabilities.
Better data management and the availability of real-time data will give end-to-end visibility of the supply chain to businesses and their customers, as well as enabling robust scenario planning. This means that a manufacturing company can make data-based decisions and enjoy continuous improvement.
Quick wins over big investments
Although coronavirus has made the need to invest in digital technologies clear, a reduction in cashflow means they need to focus on making quick wins over big investments.
The study also reported a drop in the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies, with robot sales falling by 20% in China compared with last year. Now, rather than focusing on big capital investments in technologies such as blockchain or advanced automation, manufacturers will be looking to make quick improvements to their critical operations, such as data infrastructures.
What does this mean for design engineers?
Industry 4.0 technologies have already had an impact on design engineers within leading manufacturing businesses. For example, the introduction of additive manufacturing has enabled them to increase the efficiency of the prototyping process.
However, the increase in digital data collection and advanced analytics will not just increase efficiency, but enable design engineers to make informed decisions about product development too.
As well as enabling better test and quality capabilities in the lab with advanced analytics, increased visibility in the supply chain will enable manufacturers to predict their customers’ demand more accurately. This means that engineers will be able to start the development process earlier, informed by the data that’s collected from customers at the other end of the supply chain.
To some design engineers, these changes to processes will mean a shift in their job role to be more data-focused. As such, manufacturers will have to invest in greater training for design engineers so they can make the most of these new technologies and capabilities.
What does this mean for procurement managers?
The main benefit of these advancements for procurement managers is the increase in end-to-end visibility of the supply chain. As manufacturers integrate ‘control towers’ to monitor their processes and improve their cyber security, procurement managers will be able to have almost complete transparency over how their products are created.
This means that manufacturers can share their product quality data with procurement managers, so they can be assured that the items they’re buying are accurate. Plus, procurement managers can share their own production schedules with original equipment manufacturers so they can plan and schedule demand.
For procurement managers, this means not having to worry about ordering in advance, as manufacturers will be able to produce and deliver products according to the shared schedule. In addition, smart warehouses and logistics systems will provide live data at every stage of the process. From the moment a product arrives in the warehouse, to when it’s delivered to the customer, both procurement managers and manufacturers will be able to keep track of its progress.
Introducing greater technologies and analytics into logistics systems will also help to strengthen the supply chain so procurement managers can be reassured that their products will always be delivered on time.
Staying on top of Industry 4.0 at Essentra Components
Prior to the arrival of coronavirus, Essentra Components had built a long-term Industry 4.0 strategy that aimed to make our operations fully-equipped and resilient.
As well as harnessing additive manufacturing within our design and prototyping process, we’ve developed a legacy machine replacement strategy that is gradually introducing Industry 4.0 ready equipment into the production line. We’re also working to increase our analytics and information technologies so we can link up the supply chain between our manufacturing and distribution processes seamlessly.
By collecting, analysing and using this information, we’re not only increasing the efficiency of our production and distribution, but are able to make continuous improvements. Focusing on the data and the insights we can gain, we can address specific challenges and adapt our business planning to meet market demands.
By developing our Industry 4.0 strategy, we aim to future-proof our business and continue to deliver a hassle-free service to our customers.