Don’t put IIoT on the back-burner

The past year has seen manufacturing companies places less emphasis in Industry 4.0, but it could be helping them get through the current crisis 

Like many sectors, the current pandemic has had a huge impact on the manufacturing industry. Cuts in demand and a reduction in raw materials have meant that many manufacturing firms are looking for ways to find efficiencies within current processes. 

One key trend that has seemingly been impacted by this is the technologies surrounding Industry 4.0. Pre-pandemic this was certainly the buzzword on everyone’s lips with all the advantages of implementing the associated technology clear to everyone. Many manufacturers were weighing up what technology to bring on board and in what time scale and it was gaining real momentum, unlike many tech buzzwords, and was starting to make a real difference to companies. Indeed, research by Capgemini found that 76% of manufacturers either have a digital factory initiative that is ongoing or are working towards formulating one.  

However, during the first few months of 2020, everything was turned upside down. Suddenly, understandably there were new priorities in terms of budgets and technology. Implementing technology that allowed the business to continue running when workforces were split between home and the office/warehouse became the priority. It is therefore unsurprising that Industry 4.0 got left behind and put on the back-burner by many firms. 

With many firms now seeing Industry 4.0 as an expense rather than a benefit this marks a significant step back from where we were at the beginning of the year. Indeed, far from placing it on the back-burner, manufacturers should be looking to implement Industry 4.0 technology to help them through this period, helping with efficiencies, new working conditions and coping with the new COVID world we live in. 

Undoubtedly, things have changed significantly for all of us over the past few months, but the manufacturing sector shouldn’t be throwing away the opportunity that Industry 4.0 can provide. 

The very nature of the solutions associated with Industry 4.0 are a perfect fit for the challenges currently facing the sector. Connectivity, advanced engineering, data, analytics and intelligence and human-machine interaction, can all help manufacturing firms find real efficiencies, discover vulnerabilities in their processes and supply chain and provide customers with an all-round better service. 

The key issues facing the manufacturing sector have essentially not changed. They still need:  

– Cost efficiency – this perhaps is even more important than ever before and reducing downtime of equipment and IT systems and maximising profit  

– Customer focus – with customer expectations across the board having risen substantially, even during the pandemic. Indeed, the increase in digital interaction during the lockdown has meant that this has become the norm and expected, rather than a ‘nice to have’. Manufacturers now have to become increasingly responsive and agile in how the produce products and services for their customers. Industry 4.0 is crucial in allowing manufacturers to do this effectively and within a short time period

– Agility – being agile is now a huge priority for manufacturers. The need to have technology in place that can free up ‘humans’ from repetitive tasks and allowing them to focus on other key areas of the business is crucial. Making the very most of your assets, both technological and human is now so important in the pandemic world we live in 

Manufacturers therefore should be looking at Industry 4.0 solutions as a key aspect of their pandemic recovery, not as a ‘nice to have’ bonus that is disposal in a cost saving exercise. Indeed, the implementation of such technology is crucial for survival now, and coming out of the other side stronger, more efficient and more competitive. 

About the Author

Tom Moore is Director at Acronyms. Acronyms are committed to providing businesses with exceptional, tailored IT & unified comms that are fit for purpose and exceed our clients’ expectations. Built on a simple ethos to sell the correct solution, we have combined quality of service with a passion for technology, to become a trusted provider in our field.