We all know what the ‘internet’ is. It is where all the pictures and videos of cute cats are stored. Less importantly it is a method in which data can be transmitted in a massively interconnected world on pre-existing telecommunication infrastructure. We all know what ‘Things’ are. They appear regularly with the ‘Cat in the Hat’. And importantly they are clearly identifiable (Thing 1 and Thing 2).
Ok, on a serious note. The internet of things allows compatible devices (light switches for example) to be monitored and controlled over existing network infrastructure. Now, unless you have been living under a rock, IoT has been making waves with various big-name companies. Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Apple Siri can be used to control all kinds of devices in your home, from lights to thermostats to door locks. Either from your home or when you are out and about via your phone.
So in the above example -
Your phone communicates to your devices via the internet (using data from your data plan). The lights, thermostats, and locks are things (or devices). Now, you may be thinking, how is this any use to me? Well simply put, you can open your front door as you approach it, you no longer need to fumble around for a key. How is that for a simple productivity improvement.
If you look at this from an Industrial standpoint, can you imagine all your employees not having to fumble for their keys?
It is all of the above but based on the industrial scale. Business’ are now making it a priority to digitize their processes, their facilities, their vehicles and their people. But why do this? What is the benefit? Apart from not having to fumble for keys anymore, a completely connected facility can benefit from many small productivity improvements all of which add up to a very healthy sum. On a larger scale, all the collected information can lead to faster and better decisions and business outcomes.
Here are some examples -
Your number one issue in an assembly process is that the wrong batteries are often installed in your devices.
The engineer decides to create a pick to light system. Whichever light is on, the assembler takes a battery from that bucket. Great!
Now the engineer still gets reports of rejections, so he adds a sensor to each bucket. If a battery is pulled from a bucket without the light on, an alarm goes off.
Ok, so there are now no more quality issues!!
The engineer now sends the successful and unsuccessful data, including how many times each bucket is picked, to a data analysis tool.
He then maps the most used buckets and finds that the most used batteries are actually the furthest away from the assembler. He then redistributes the stock, putting the most used batteries closer to the assembler.
He has now just gained a very nice productivity improvement at the same time as pushing his quality to new levels of excellence!
Every assembly station gets the same treatment, across all the company’s workstations and facilities. That improvement now has a quantitative and qualitative impact on the profitability and reputation of the company, driving more sales and more success.
So you are the biggest battery-putting-into-devices company in the world. What are the other ways you can benefit from all the data?
All your assembly stations are delivering real-time data from all your connected devices. All that data is being rolled up to overall performance data across the globe. The data now tells you really useful information about each of your facilities.
Facility A on average installs batteries of Type Z 10% more efficiently with fewer errors than any other facility. How do they do it? A continuous improvement team is sent in to observe the differences. They come away and implement facility A’s practices across all facilities. Now all your facilities are performing 10% better on type Z batteries installations.
Facility B always performs better than any other facility when the batteries weigh over 10Ibs. A continuous improvement team is sent in to observe the differences. They come away slightly amazed, the facility and surrounding area are all occupied by people who are on average x2 stronger than anywhere else in the world. Now all the heavy battery installs are performed in Facility B. (Of course suitable backup processes are implemented in every other facility, just in case.)
Industry 4.0, refers to the fourth industrial revolution. Here is some history…
All of these revolutions stemmed from maximizing processes from a manufacturing standpoint. How to make things faster, more efficiently, and at reduced costs. How to collect the raw materials and distribute products faster, more efficiently, and at reduced costs.
The 4th Industrial revolution is about interconnecting everything, your sensors, your software, and your data analytics. Now you can make decisions based on live data from your entire factory network. Just like our second IIoT example, this is where your IoT makes the difference and gives you the edge over your competitors.
Of course, this will further improve manufacturing efficiencies and maximize profits, but this time, it wasn’t driven by manufacturing needs.
Google - Founded in 1998 - Internet related services, for example: ‘Google search’.
LinkedIn - Founded in 2002 - Business and employment social networking service.
Facebook - Founded in 2004 - A social networking service.
Twitter - Founded in 2006 - An online news and social networking service.
Whether you use these applications or not, they are the beginning of the interconnected world. I would hazard a guess that everyone has googled ‘How do I …’!.
The Industrial revolutions, from a social point of view, alway holds a scary outlook. Instability, unemployment, transfer of skills to autonomous machines, etc. But in the long run, they have lead to a massively improved standard of living, a dramatic drop in mortality rates, a substantial increases in life expectancy, and the further evolution of human rights for greater equality.
Industry 4.0 will empower the employee to be at the hub of progress. Not just the CEO monitoring the results and making long-term plans, but also for the worker on the shop floor.
Below are a few different use cases depicting Industry 4.0 applications within diverse manufacturing and fabrication environments:
Assembling products require a high level of manual intervention. Due to this, it tends to be an area that struggles in terms of productivity and quality. It is for this reason that detailed work instructions are critical for operators to achieve success. As per VKS (Visual Knowledge Share Ltd.) customer Scott Electronics inc, VKS reminds them of the transition from the map to the GPS. “In the past when you wanted to drive somewhere you had to pull out this big clunky map. You didn’t know if it was outdated, it was hard to read, and you couldn't use it easily while driving. Then the GPS came out and guaranteed information in real-time, that was always up-to-date, and easy to understand. That's what VKS does for manufacturing. Everyone used to use paper (the map), and now they have the option to use tools like VKS (the GPS) where operators can see information in real-time while they are working, in a visual, intuitive way. The impact and benefit that derive from this will help lead manufacturers into a new era of operational excellence.”
Paper everywhere and none of it is up to date! Many companies suffer from not having the latest and greatest information at hand. The problem leads to incorrect set-ups, bad parts, costly rework, and annoyed Customers. Industry 4.0 solves this problem perfectly; paper becomes a thing of past. Each and every work order can be linked to your latest revisions documentation. Whether that may be drawings, CAD models, machine set-up sheets or customer specifications, the exact documentation required for that job is only a fingertip away, and available to operators as they need it on digital devices.
You're a company that needs to ensure a safety-critical factor is 100% matching customer requirements. Guaranteeing that requirement is labor-intensive, with checks, double checks, and triple checks. It needs to be correct or the liability of failure is horrendous. Again, Industry 4.0 is here to solve that problem as well. Companies invest thousands of dollars in tools and equipment that can measure and validate every step of your operations. Now those tools can connect directly with your work instructions and halt the progression of activities until the exact expected result is achieved. Industry 4.0 can now not only enforce these ‘Do it right the first time’ practices, it also comes with the added bonus that each and every action is recorded and can be produced as evidence of adherence to processes.
Your shop floor will be full of A players, each one will be connected by Industry 4.0. They will have access to the latest best practices in the form of pictures and video for each and every job they carry out. Every time they spot an opportunity, it can be communicated across the facility or the globe instantly. Instead of having a second pair of eye’s validating activities, your tools and equipment will instantly relay the feedback of problems or non-conformances. Your employee will know they have done a good job. Equally, they will also know when something has gone wrong and will have the ability to fix it immediately.
Industry 4.0 will augment each and every human being with the knowledge and capability to do things right and to make improvements… The ability to rapidly share visual knowledge is the new key to success.