Kicking off the Industry 4.0 journey can be daunting. Antony Bourne, Industries President at software company IFS, believes the best strategy for adoption is to start small, identify what works, and build from there. Here, he gives his top tips on taking the first steps towards Industrial IoT.
Walk before you can run
Evidentially, Industry 4.0 and IoT are great for introducing new and innovative methods into the manufacturing process. However, it’s important not to run before you can walk. It can be easy to be drawn into the IoT hype and spend money on sensors that aren’t 100 per cent necessary and waste resources that could be better spent elsewhere.
Don’t over commit
The IoT market is ever-changing, with new companies bringing new products to the market space almost constantly. You don’t want to install sensors throughout your factory just for something bigger and better to come out a few months later. Anyone embarking on an IoT journey to increase productivity needs to start small.
Prioritise your needs
Don’t try to measure everything at once or you’ll end up with more data than you can handle. Take a step back and determine what’s important to you – perhaps there’s a particular supply chain that’s running slowly and you want to get an accurate reading, or you need to monitor a remote site instead of spending money by sending personnel.
‘New’ may not be ‘useful’
Manufacturing analytics is a key part of Industry 4.0 and is something that the industry is rapidly embracing. When I speak to colleagues in the industry, it’s clear that we’re embracing digitisation and everything it has to offer. However, it’s important to keep a balance between embracing innovation and being able to distinguish between ‘new’ and ‘useful’.
AI doesn’t have to be scary
For many companies, 2019 will be the year when they realise that actually, they don’t need to ‘climb an AI mountain’. They just have to keep taking the right, small steps. Do that, and they will still be able to reach new heights.
When thinking of AI, we need to remember that you can’t “implement AI” any more than you can “implement the internet”. Before you initiate any project, you must figure out your ‘why’. What exact business goal and target are you aiming at? What exactly do you want to improve and enhance? The more targeted your objectives, the more competitive and transformative your results.
Automation will pave the way for lights-out
Full lights-out manufacturing may be some years away. But it has begun. At IFS we’re already seeing innovative partner companies beginning work with automated warehouses: Heavy parts that may once have required a team of workers can now be plucked off the shelf by one robot with no wasted effort, no wasted time and no additional costs.
Robots on the production line have been essential for decades. But what kind of savings and competitive edge will AI-enabled robots in the warehouse deliver? With no eyes or flesh, robots do not need lighting or heating, so energy costs plummet. There are no time or weight limits on breaks, shifts or loads. And the flexibility, fluency, reach and economy of robot-driven picking and placing means no wasted time or effort—and far better utilisation of space. 24-hour, black-box warehouses will be able to store and do more, without having to get bigger.
Antony Bourne is Industries President at software company IFS.