4IR in manufacturing means intelligent factories, or “smart” factories if you prefer clichés. This not only promises us benefits, but also you as the customer and as a member of the public. Real benefits of 4IR will be felt by society as well as the factories themselves:
B2B has turned digital. Increasingly customers are completing more of their buying cycle online (up to 70% [CEB]) before meeting suppliers in person.
Industry 4.0 offers manufacturers the ability to respond to this and drive better engagement and interaction with customers throughout the product life cycle. Manufacturers can customise their clients experience and allow direct integration into manufacturing cycles to match the customer’s needs. This could mean giving the latest information on deliveries, or allowing autonomous access to product data to help drive their own sales cycles.
Efficiency & Sustainability
With more detailed data, factories can better plan and fine tune production. High levels of automisation, autonomy and development of AI technologies can even allow machines to think for themselves. Factories will be able to leverage better efficiency, optimise their capacity and better predict their material and energy usage. This translates to environmental benefits and reduced stress on public infrastructure.
Big data will give manufacturers a complete digital picture of their manufacturing processes. Automation will further reduce human error and also allow for self-optimising machines. This will deliver opportunities to further improve product quality and have a higher percentage of usable product leaving the factory. This translates to environmental benefits and reduced costs to the consumer.
Safety & Job Satisfaction
4IR also delivers real benefits to the workforce and a factory’s environmental footprint. Greater autonomy from the machines will reduce opportunities for accidents and injury. Moving workers away from mundane and repetitive jobs to managerial and judgement based roles will lead to greater job satisfaction.
More productive and profitability factories will deliver an economic boost and more money in the public purse to reinvest in public services. Most crucially, if we don’t push our factories into the 4IR our economy will stagnate and we will get left behind.
If you want to get involved or learn more about 4IR, get in touch. We’re happy and keen to talk to anyone exploring this space or making a similar journey.
Disclaimer: Each manufacturer faces a different challenge. The way we at Flowflex interpret 4IR will not necessarily apply to other applications. This is a narrative derived from our experience in our sector.