Posted on 9/12/2018

How Industry 4.0 Can Benefit Your Business

Simon Weallans

If the mere term “Industry 4.0” still comes off as a bit of a head-scratcher, you’re not alone.  In fact, according to Automation Alley’s 2017 Technology Industry Report, 77% of American manufacturing executives reported that Industry 4.0 is not an initiative within their organization. This low number is not only shocking, it’s bad for business. That’s because Industry 4.0 is not just another buzz term but a boon to business. Businesses that embrace Industry 4.0 consistently see significant improvements in productivity, quality, product purchasing costs and manufacturing costs. To put it simply, companies both big and small, especially those in manufacturing, cannot afford to ignore it. Thankfully, all of this is a lot less complex than it sounds, and it doesn’t take much to get up and running. Let’s take a closer look at how Industry 4.0 can help your business thrive. 

Improved Maintenance Requirements 
Standard practices for predicting optimal scheduling times for maintenance can be a downright nightmare. Typically, maintenance activities are performed more often than needed and, somehow, this isn’t even as effective as it should be. This frequency is meant to prevent things from going haywire down the line, but it also quickly cuts into costs, burns through resources, and results in sluggish operations. With Industry 4.0, these problems are quickly resolved through continuous monitoring that analyzes behavior data. This data provides far greater insight and allows manufacturers to better predict product failure, increase uptime, and improve efficiency for machine operators. 

Market Trends and Inventory Optimization 
The ability to quickly analyze Big Data means that companies can more readily review market trends associated with commodity. Artificial intelligence (AI) can then assist with inventory review and also track market pricing. These combined capabilities paint a far more accurate picture of demand prediction, along with the ability to buy at market lows, meaning even more money saved. Additionally, real-time inventory management is available with scanners connected to inventory management systems, and augmented reality (AR) devices can assist with picking/kitting instructions to increase productivity. The benefits of AR are also far-reaching. When combined with virtual reality (VR), these tools are completely changing the landscape of product design by streamlining processes and increasing efficiency, allowing products to be tested before hitting the assembly line.

Increased Productivity and Better Training 
Many companies utilizing AR as part of their Industry 4.0 strategy have reported an increase in productivity on certain operations by more than 30 percent. Companies using this technology have also seen improved quality with digital versus paper instructions for complex tasks. On top of that, the speed and accuracy of training sessions has also seen a boost by taking full advantage of VR and AR. These capabilities allow a worker to simply put on a pair of glasses and instantly get guidance on new regulations and techniques. Since these training sessions function as interactive, hands-on activities, workers are able to easily retain the information, resulting in reduced training time. Even better, once the training application has been produced the trainer no longer has to spend additional time teaching the same class or session more than once.

Smarter Machines 
For a long time it was standard practice to keep all robots caged, preventing them from contacting a shop floor worker. With the advancement in sensor technology, robotics can now be used in an open environment, working safely alongside humans. The combination of AI and smart robots results in machines that can understand and learn from behaviors, and ultimately adapt to challenges in their environment to make the best choices when accomplishing tasks. Improved AI also means that workers can be freed up to handle other tasks, improving resourcing and reducing spending where it’s no longer needed. 

Perhaps one of the greatest things about the latest industrial revolution is that it’s approachable for businesses of all sizes. Companies both big and small have begun adopting these technologies without going for broke. For starters, businesses should take an assessment of the machines they’re currently using; some of these may already be compatible with Industry 4.0 options. Ultimately, the costs will depend on each situation and facility, but some companies have gotten started for as little as $20,000. This customized approach allows almost anyone to begin reaping the benefits of Industry 4.0 while still being mindful of their bottom line. 

As America pushes to remain competitive with manufacturing throughout the rest of the world, it is imperative that all businesses investigate and embrace Industry 4.0. In most cases, the technologies outlined here will provide such enhancements across the board that the investment will pay for itself within just a year or two.

About the Author

Simon Weallans | Brightly

Simon Weallans is Brightly’s vice president of sales and marketing. With over two decades of experience in international sales and program management, he is a master problem-solver and understands what it takes to meet the customer’s needs. Born in England and having lived in the United States for over half his life, Simon’s international sales experience is also a nod to his personal background. His previous experience in the auto industry and advanced technologies like augmented reality, coupled with his knowledge of manufacturing, provides a unique insight into how systems can be applied effectively for process optimization.


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