Production benefits from a digital future

In the age of internet shopping, and due to the amount of information currently available to the consumer - partially thanks to price comparison portals - customer expectations are growing exponentially. The production industry in particular is really feeling these growing requirements in their processes. Faster production processes, process optimisation, smaller orders and growing competition mean that the industry is facing huge challenges. The digitisation of processes in general, and especially the Internet of Things, are the right drivers to set the right course.

We live in a connected world. And this is also impacting industry: it is becoming increasing difficult to keep production economically viable without connecting various components. On one hand, batch sizes are reducing. On the other, the complexity of requests is increasing. But the Internet of Things (IoT) gives you the perfect way to master this challenge. Thanks to IoT technology, everything communicates with everything. For example, production at a smart factory is intelligently linked, drastically optimising processes. For you, this means more freedom. But above all, you know more and get the maximum out of your production. The use of IoT solutions opens up a world of modular solutions for the specific implementation of industry 4.0 - and gets your production ready for new market challenges.

Because the market is changing - and it’s doing so more and more quickly. You can see this from looking at the industrialisation process in your industry: at the end of the 18th century, the industrial age began with the introduction of mechanical production equipment run off water and steam power. With electrification, mass production began at the end of the 19th century. In the 1970s, the first digital processes were introduced to support automation. Broadly speaking, the current phase of industry 4.0 covers digital networking: the computerisation of production technology and the development of digital business platforms is in full swing. And the Internet of Things is a significant component of this.

No longer science fiction

We are therefore witnessing a digital (r)evolution that is merging the digital and physical worlds. You don’t have to watch a science fiction film to realise that virtual reality has begun to resemble reality. Whether it’s a PlayStation VR from Sony, the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift by Facebook (to name but a few systems), intelligent glasses that use games consoles or smartphones to project digital worlds before your very eyes have now become staple goods. Devices such as these are digitised in the Internet of Things through the integration of sensors and interfaces. Increasingly smaller, more powerful processors and faster connections are having increasingly profound neuronal digital impacts in the physical world. VR glasses mean that training sessions on complicated production processes or the maintenance of remote systems can be safely carried out in a secure environment. Transferred to the production of goods, the IoT becomes the IIoT, the Industrial Internet of Things. In industry 4.0, artificial intelligence already manages a number of processes. At these new levels of automation, machines communicate with one another independently - and learn by the hour. Increasingly complex processes are now possible under the best price conditions. Completely new business cases can now be economically viable. Of course, these are exciting prospects - especially for those in high-wage countries such as Germany. Thanks to Manufacturing 4.0, German companies can bring production back from low-wage countries in future.

 

Four factors play a major role in digitisation in the production industry:

Always on, always connected

In each of your company’s production steps, data is accumulated. Use this by continually evaluating sensors in production, local data and traditional databases. Furthermore, collaboration with suppliers and customers will be significantly improved with data streams. Thanks to intelligent production assets, decentralised decision-making and workflow synchronisation, the skills in your company will be used much more efficiently. The benefits extend to support: the IoT provides new access.

Information is key

No more trusting your gut: with data links to the customer, you have a powerful tool that you can use at any time to update demand prognoses and make suitable changes or plans. Up-to-date data in real time speeds up decision making. The use of technology such as GPS and RFID offers additional benefits: tracking in the flow of goods and of resources optimises your logistics processes and supplier relationships.

Act with one eye on the future

With the Internet of Things, matters of safety can be monitored in real time. One of the biggest benefits gained by companies through the use of sensors, algorithms and artificial intelligence is predictive maintenance. This entails the automated monitoring of wear and tear, which predicts anomalies in the processes - and initiates suitable solutions in advance. In addition, the independent, contractually sound ordering of raw materials or other capacities leads to perfect supply management. Possible problems in supplier quality can also be recognised early on.

Stay agile

One of the magic words in our current time is agile. Agile working can allow the consequences of production changes to be monitored in real time. Production is flexible thanks to configurable Industrial IoT equipment and adjustable layouts.

An example from the automobile industry shows how digitisation and the handling of data is changing business models and even allowing new models to arise. Tesla has set new benchmarks in the role of data in business models, whether it’s update services over the air or the use of travel and weather data for new revenue models. In the development of the autopilot system, machine learning methods were used to process data from the roads. At Tesla, the future revolves around the “Internet of Cars” - and not simply manufacturing a vehicle. The car manufacturer is mutating into a digital mobility service provider, as it becomes a data business.

The example of Tesla can be transferred to almost all industrial products: only with real-time data can you improve your own business, and only digitisation will provide your processes with this data. In these perhaps unchartered waters, the IoT is the boat that will take you safely to your destination. Take the helm!