Before you can determine a route, you need to know your starting point. A good first step is to audit and analyse existing processes, assets, and business systems. This will tell you where you are, help establish priorities, and even identify quick wins. Industry 4.0 solutions will result in significant benefit and impact across every area of your business. It is more than just an IT upgrade, so you should also ensure that you have executive buy-in and engagement.
The simple answer is yes. IoT gateway devices can often be retrofitted to older machinery. These devices empower IoT sensors to transmit performance data. In some cases, video cameras and heat sensors can be also be fitted and connected to provide a more robust picture. The age and function of the machinery will determine the best solution – and an audit and analysis can help determine the long-term value of retrofitting versus replacing legacy assets.
A robust ERP system is the “brains” behind an Industry 4.0 technology stack. The ERP of the past largely ran office-based processes whereas today an intelligent ERP system is the hub for connected processes across manufacturing, logistics, engineering, and many other areas of the business. Part of your digital transformation will be to determine if your existing ERP system is equal to the task.
Legacy ERP systems running on outdated, disk-based databases are being pushed to the limits of what they can do. The ability to leverage the data you receive from connected factories, assets, products, and people will be dependent upon the capabilities of your ERP. Is it intelligent? Does it offer embedded technologies like AI, machine learning, and analytics? How fast is its database? If you are running an older system, it might be time to upgrade in order to take advantage of Industry 4.0.
Which technologies you start with will depend on which processes are the most critical to your core business model – and which areas of your company stand to benefit the most from transformation. When getting started, companies often focus on one core technology at a time. By their design, Industry 4.0 solutions deliver a lot of robust Big Data and insights that can help you accurately assess their ROI and benefits. This makes it increasingly smooth to integrate subsequent areas of the business.
Change is hard. We get that. When companies switched to computers from typewriters, it was met with resistance by a workforce that felt overwhelmed by their complexity. But unlike those early technological transformations, Industry 4.0 solutions actually reduce complexity for the user, rather than add to it. Workflows are streamlined, manual and repetitive tasks are automated, and the interfaces are more intuitive. Furthermore, many 4.0 technologies facilitate training, such as AR wearables and mobile-optimised experiences.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t always see what’s coming. And while we can’t predict the future, we can take steps to ensure that we’re more resilient and better prepared for it. The best in-memory ERP systems are scalable and support unlimited workloads, and Industry 4.0 technologies are developed specifically to ramp up to support future growth and adapt to unexpected change.
Some of the most fundamental elements of Industry 4.0 software solutions are built-in scalability and the capacity for agility and resilience. If your business or production model has to radically change to meet market demands, your Industry 4.0 systems will give you the insights and confidence you need to adapt and implement change quickly across.
There is no question that the fourth industrial revolution will change the workforce. But it’s not repetitive labour that leads to innovation – it’s ideas and creative thinking. A digitally augmented workforce is freed up to use their heads instead of just their muscles. In 1980, there were only a few thousand computer programmers in the whole world. Today there are over 20 million. While many physical tasks will be taken over by robots, many more tasks will be created to run a digitally enhanced business.