I have become increasingly fascinated with the hype of digital revolution; the idea of an “internet of everything” is simply amazing. Our cities will be smart cities, cars will be autonomous, and we (the humans) may get connected to the internet with microchip implants in our brains. The future is so exciting, not only for us but also for the machines. Yes, the robots are coming but not for our jobs. The manufacturing industry is gearing up to embrace this change. Today, the digital manufacturing or Industry 4.0 is being discussed in every boardroom and companies are chalking out their strategies to capitalize on this promising opportunity.
“Are you game for digital manufacturing?” It is a simple question I ask and the answer is undoubtedly a “yes”. But the next question is where many companies and business executives stumble. What is the first step of your journey? In reply, I mostly hear questions like “where should we start?” I recall a recent conversation wherein an industrial manufacturing conglomerate started a digital journey and was seeking our help to build their IoT roadmap. The discussion was more of, “a company of such size and stature should be thinking of building their own IIoT platform” and “not merely look at this as just another nice to have things.” That got me thinking: Is IOT the correct starting point?
In my view, Industry 4.0 is all about “cyber physical systems” – smart factories building intelligent products with the use of connected machines. The essence of this is not just the implementation of new emerging technologies just for kicks. It is about leveraging new tools and techniques to improve operational efficiencies, make better decisions, and build innovative business models. Data is at the heart of this system. Data, data, and only data is fueling this fire. Companies need to think about how they can exploit data and use it to gain a competitive advantage.
“As data piles up, we have ourselves a genuine gold rush. But data isn’t the gold. I repeat, data in its raw form is boring crud. The gold is what’s discovered therein.” ― Eric Siegel
The advent of IoT and Big Data makes data capturing and analysis a simple task, but the core lies in generating meaningful and actionable insights. In my opinion, predictive analytics is a good starting point for digital manufacturing. The technology has existed for more than a decade, it’s been tested, and it offers tremendous benefits if used correctly. Predicting is always better than pure guesswork; there is not much value in looking backwards. Traditional analytics offers a rear-view of plant or machine performance whereas predictive analytics helps in optimizing asset performance. This helps to avoid major breakdowns and production loss. In this new era, companies need to be proactive rather than reactive. Today, maintenance professional are good at using predictive analysis. It’s time for predictive analytics to become a mainstream technology.
Digital manufacturing is a journey that demands organizational maturity to adapt and embrace this revolution. There is a learning curve to follow: one cannot start at level five when they are actually at the level one.
Check out our whitepaper on “Using Predictive Maintenance of Industrial Assets: Your Starting Point to the Digital Manufacturing Journey.”