Digital Manufacturing

The True Meaning of Industry 4.0 And How it Benefits Manufacturing Companies of All Sizes (Not Just Large Ones)

MTD MFG visited the Marches centre, a training centre for manufacturing and technology to discuss the importance of training young people to be digitally innovative on the shop floor with industry analyst Will Stirling, as well as the universal necessity of “Industry 4.0” within manufacturing for businesses of all sizes.

Will told us that that it was pivotal to clear up some businesses misconceptions on “Industry 4”, who believe it is something costly which only benefits industry giants such as Rolls Royce and Jaguar Land Rover, and that it is also affordable for small to medium sized businesses such as precision engineers. One of the ways he believes this can be achieved is through utilising and getting the most out of what businesses have, such as retro fitting sensors and dashboards onto old machines to help with cycle time monitoring and fitting new software onto old machines as well as purchasing new machine tools.

He also explained that the term “Industry 4.0” is a misname label to give to the industry as a whole, as one companies definition of “Industry 4.0” is completely different to another company.

The term is a bit misleading isn’t it? It’s a catchall term used to describe loads of stuff, so digitalisation or “Industry 4.0” for one company could be installing a new ERP system, or a CRM system for sales; it’s I.T really isn’t it, for some companies. For others it will be the Wizz bang, lights out, autonomous vehicles in the factory, no human beings. And that’s at the prime contractor level.

Regarding the benefits and definition of the term for small to medium sized businesses he continued:

Think about for example, A.R or V.R, Virtual Reality. We have been seeing these goggles and glasses for quite some time now, but there’s a company called Seeable, Nick Blenkarn, and he was showing how this visualisation technology can be used without the glasses. On a tablet, using the camera on the tablet to super impose an engine block over a table for training purposes but also really important for sales. So, if your sales engineer is doing castings, you can’t take a huge 20kg casting with you, but you can take a visual rendering of it, which is a lot better than a CAD drawing; it’s a fully immiscible rendering that you can actually show and tip up and show from many different angles. So that’s a good example of Industry 4.0 for a simple application for small companies.

It is a great way of incorporating I.T and software into the manufacturing industry, and Industry 4 is pulling all of these existing technologies into the public eye and making people realise that with a little bit of learning and investment, you can fully utilise the software and machinery in your workshop. Industry 4.0 doesn’t necessarily mean £100,000’s in investments, it means finding ways to educate yourself and fully utilise the tools you have in your arsenal to grow your business.

MTD MFG and Will agreed that there are still many small to medium sized businesses who should educate themselves on achieving the most with what they have, rather than investing money without needing to. One example of this is installing software into their machines so that they know when it is time for the machine to retire, therefore getting the most out of it rather than replacing it prematurely.

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