Industry 4.0 makes manufacturing light-footed

3 min read

Fifty years ago cars were built with two options. There was a black model and there was a grey model. Period. That was the only choice the customer had to make. And these models were on the market for 10 years. Today the odds of two cars with the exact same options being on the road is as small as a winning lottery ticket.

This week BMW announced that their model 5 gets a facelift after being on the market for only 3 years. This means that a lot of suppliers have to reshape their production very often to remain competitive. Times are changing and so are the factories. Industry 4.0 and an ERP with real-time connections to every aspect of the supply chain and shop floor are key to make manufacturing companies light-footed to anticipate the fast changing market.

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” (Muhammad Ali)

Industry 4.0 is the key to make manufacturing companies light-footed to anticipate the fast changing industry.

Market with increasing customisation and shorter lifecycles

Factories are forced to produce smarter and more complex products in volatile markets. Customers demand highly customized products, in some industries down to a lot size of one. This while expecting the same or even better quality. Lifecycles of the products are getting shorter. To stay competitive, it is critical to bring products fast to the market. Business models are changing. Instead of selling products, the focus shifts to delivering solutions. This will put the manufacturing and supply chain at the center not only of business success but also of a company’s differentiation success.

Industry 4.0 for flexible manufacturing

Industry 4.0 digitally transforms the industry by gathering and analysing data across equipment and business systems. It enables faster, more flexible production of higher quality goods. This transformation improves resource efficiency, responsiveness, time to market, and enables customization.

To achieve this flexible production, your workforce has to be flexible. An operator making the same product everyday is a thing of the past. Operators need training and digital tools to make them multifunctional. If a new product is launched, operators must be able to produce the new products without compromising the quality or output of products. If an operator is sick, a colleague must be able to take over his work without compromising the quality or output of products. The COVID situation is a perfect example of extreme volatilities in demand, supply and working circumstances. Most companies are not nearly ready for a situation like this.

ERP and the forgotten operator

A light-footed industry 4.0 solution can only be realized with a robust ERP solution designed for the manufacturing industry, like Infor LN that has real-time connections to every aspect of the supply chain and shop floor. One thing that is often forgotten are the people. Manual operations are often blind spots in the shop floor. Operators’ work is registered sporadically (at the end of the shift or lot) and the communication of production changes (often with paper sheets) is slow and prone to confusion. Smart technologies like the Human Interface Mate fill these blind spots by giving real-time instructions straight from the ERP and monitoring completed actions back to the ERP. These are one of the digital tools that make your workforce, and thus production, flexible.

Operator guidance technology ‘Human Interface Mate’

It’s very difficult to predict the future customer demands. The only thing we know is that customization increases and life cycles shorten so in order to follow the trends factories need to be flexible and agile. An ERP system with real-time connections to every aspect of the supply chain and shop floor is key to make manufacturing companies light-footed to anticipate the fast changing market.

Business consultant in Industry 4.0 technology Human Interface Mate (HIM)

My mission is to improve quality in manufacturing by digitally transforming work places and building the smart factory of the future.