Is information-driven manufacturing (iDM) the stepping-stone to Industry 4.0? Collecting, visualising and analysing machine, process and sensor data promises to open a whole new world of opportunities for manufacturers. Here, we look at exactly what iDM is and how it could help manufacturers realise the potential of Industry 4.0. (Here’s some good background information on Industry 4.0.)
What is information-driven manufacturing or iDM?
iDM is all about getting more out of your existing assets by making them smarter. All current manual processes have already been either automated or optimised, and any equipment that can be networked and integrated has been. Legacy equipment that cannot be networked can often be made smarter by using sensors.
With the production line fully connected, information can be used to make intelligent, real-time decisions. Every machine and system in your production line generates and holds a wealth of data – iDM is about connecting with your machines to get to that information and then using it to unleash more productivity and efficiency across your business.
The ultimate goal is to create a closed-loop network, where the production line is connected to the business systems. That way, manufacturers can become better informed and more agile in decision-making, especially when it comes to capital investments, quality control, supplier management and raw material management.
In other words, the information drives the manufacturing.
Many manufacturers say this is already what they are doing, but a pulse of the industry survey Matthews conducted recently reveals that less than 20% actually use the data they collect to identify areas of improvement and almost one in two (47%) use the data only to monitor performance against planned production.
Manufacturers need to rethink how they are using the information they have at their fingertips. Because iDM isn’t about gathering masses of data; it’s about how you analyse and use the information to improve your process and systems that really matters. (You may find this brochure on integration software interesting too. See here for all brochures.)
iDM isn’t just for large manufacturers
Many companies are realising that iDM is a competitive advantage necessary to stay head and thrive in our technology-driven world. However, despite what many manufacturers might believe, iDM isn’t just for large manufacturers – it’s for any business that wants to become more competitive and agile.
The best way to think about iDM is as Industry 3.5. That’s because it is the stepping-stone to realising the gaps while working towards Industry 4.0. By taking steps towards information-driven manufacturing, manufacturers can identify where opportunity to optimise, change and improve truly lies.
How to approach iDM
There are many challenges stopping manufacturers from realising iDM. Often there isn’t one reason alone; instead, the problem lies in the sum of individual factors.
One of the biggest factors is the mindset: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But the fact is that disruptive technologies are changing business models, creating new opportunities and creating new competitors at a pace faster than ever before. No business can afford to sit still. Forward-thinking companies are already adopting emerging technologies to do rapid prototyping and thinking of new ways to add value to their product or service. Standing still only means you’ll get left behind. (See how 3D printing will impact manufacturers and how some food & beverage companies have been experimenting with “printing” food.)
If we’re preaching to the converted, you may still need to convince your sceptical colleagues or managers of the benefits of information-driven manufacturing. To convince the sceptic requires evidence of the benefits that data analytics will deliver, focusing on output, quality, and costs.
Other challenges facing manufacturers include:
- Legacy equipment and processes that are hard to network or integrate
- Finding time to think beyond the day-today operations
- Implementing changes without operational disruption
If you can devote the necessary time and attention to the preparation and planning phases, you will start on the road to success. While you need to think about disruptive technologies and future innovation, look at improving what you are currently doing by asking the right questions:
- How can efficiency and productivity be improved?
- What information is needed to take better decisions in real time?
- How can this information be captured automatically?
- Can any manual processes be automated?
- Which automated processes can be networked for real-time visibility and control?
Automated and connected solutions are great, but make sure you deploy them in your process where it makes sense to do so and where they will be of the greatest benefit.
In this short video, Lindy Hughson from PKN and I talk a bit more about iDM.
You’re not alone
There are innovation labs, conferences, workshops and information sessions that can help manufacturers in making the first steps towards iDM. You can also work in close partnership with solution providers, who can help you find the right solutions. Speak to Matthews Australasia about how to automate your labelling, coding, inspection processes, and integrate your coding and inspection equipment within your packaging line.
Check out Matthews’ vast resource library. It has a host of detailed information that’s all free to download! There are whitepapers, presentations we’ve done to industry bodies, infographics for manufacturing, case studies, articles from our thought leaders, vids showing solutions in action and more!
Image credit / Mike_Kiev