An I4.0 Path Forward for Small and Midsized Manufacturers

September 12, 2023
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Learn about the challenges facing small and medium-sized manufacturers face when deploying industry 4.0 technologies and how to overcome them with organized data.

The manufacturing industry is in a state of rapid transformation, as technology is increasingly being used to automate production and improve efficiency. In 2011, the concept of “Industry 4.0” or “i4.0” emerged, which combines digital and physical technologies for advanced automation in manufacturing. This new technology relies on connectivity and automation across the entire supply chain—from the design and development of products to the final delivery of finished goods. It also creates a connected system that helps manufacturers improve efficiency, increase profitability and improve the overall production of products.

To take full advantage of i4.0, small and medium-sized manufacturers face the task of upgrading their operations to include data-driven decision-making, predictive maintenance, and other automated solutions. While large-scale manufacturers have been able to quickly invest in these upgrades, smaller companies often lack the money and resources to do so, leaving them at a competitive disadvantage. In this blog post, we highlight the benefits of using i4.0 technology, the challenges, and offer a platform solution for small and medium-sized manufacturers to implement these tools quickly and easily into their operation.

The challenges

Industry 4.0 has the potential to revolutionize the manufacturing industry, but it brings its own set of challenges. For small and midsized manufacturers, these can often times be daunting. One of the major challenges is that setting up and implementing an i4.0 system can take extra time and resources, which some small manufacturers may not have. Additionally, there are data security concerns when using a connected system that relies fully on the cloud. Lastly, a lack of skills or talent to manage complex i4.0 structures could hinder some operations.

The benefits of i4.0 technology

Though there are challenges that come with i.40 technology, as with any new technology, the benefits far outweigh the risks. Some of which include:

  • Reduced Operational Costs- Thanks to digitization, industrial SMEs can optimize the production of high-quality products and reduce production costs of labor and materials. This is made possible by adopting the cornerstones of i4.0 technology: cloud computing; Internet of Things (IoT) technology; Big Data and analytics; 3D printing; and autonomous robotics.
  • Automated Machine Monitoring– Industry 4.0 technology provides the foundation for capturing data from the source, organizing it, and analyzing it in ways that lead to more informed decisions. In turn, these decisions create a positive impact on efficiency and output, resulting in an overall increase in productivity.
  • Immediate Visibility– Industry 4.0 gives manufacturers better insight into their production processes, allowing them to identify potential areas of improvement or optimize existing operations. This gives small and medium-sized manufacturers a chance to stay ahead of the competition and remain up to date with the latest developments in production technology.
  • Quality Control– Digitalization allows for automatic data analysis and the use of artificial intelligence for better quality control and customization. In this way, SMEs can introduce more efficient processes to mass produce higher-quality products at lower costs.
  • Increased Revenue- By integrating digital technologies into production, companies can reduce operational costs while creating additional sources of income. From increased efficiency in the production and delivery of goods to improved product traceability and customer satisfaction, the use of digital technology can take SMEs to the next level.
  • Connectivity– Data and analytic platforms, like Bearex Shop Pulse, generate insights in real-time, allowing all levels of an organization to immediately act upon them. These platforms allow manufacturers to take data straight from the source – the machine – and remove as much manual data entry as possible. It also helps manufacturers to better manage their production processes, increase efficiency and produce higher quality products for customers.

The Solution

The solution for small and midsize manufacturers is to harness the power of accurate, real-time manufacturing data. One way to do this is to implement a unified platform that connects all manufacturing assets and offers actionable insights in the production process. This platform should be equipped with machine data, which is the most important source of information for manufacturers.

Bearex Shop Pulse is an example of such a platform. It provides real-time visibility and data usage across multiple machines, allowing manufacturers to gain new insights into their operation. Additionally, the Shop Pulse offers several features that can help manufacturers drive value beyond monitoring, such as labor productivity increases, machine downtime reduction, throughput increases and cost of quality improvement.

All of this data—combined in one powerful platform, helps manufacturers better understand their machines’ performance and make informed decisions to optimize their operation. It’s also user friendly and requires minimal training, allowing manufacturers to focus on what they do best; produce products.

A path forward

The growth path for small to midsize manufacturers is clear: embrace i4.0 technology to maximize productivity, streamline operations and increase profitability. By leveraging the power of automated intelligence and data-driven insights, manufacturers can create a culture of productivity and up-time that is predictive and proactive, rather than reactive. With this technology, and platforms like Shop Pulse, the playing field is no longer lopsided in favor of large companies—small, tech-savvy manufacturers with the right investments can now compete for dominance!

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