Industry 4.0, the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, is gaining momentum across industries, and the changes it promises are profound. This includes the emergence of the highly integrated, leaner, and more flexible ‘smart factory’, enabled by connectivity, data, automation, and a skilled workforce, which will be able to deliver high-quality, affordable products to a constantly changing marketplace.
For manufacturers to achieve success in Industry 4.0, they need a technology partner like SYSPRO who not only concentrates on building leading-edge software solutions to help with the transition to the smart factory of the future but has in-depth knowledge of the industry. More than just offering an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution, SYSPRO provides a comprehensive set of tools to assist in running a smart factory.
On the shop floor of the future, IoT-connected sensors and software will operate continuously, predicting and preventing equipment failures, optimising processes and maximising productivity. A continuous, real-time flow of data will provide information and actionable insights that make production processes increasingly visible, predictable, and controllable.
To leverage the power of industrial IoT, SYSPRO’s partner ecosystem can provide businesses with end-to-end visibility, real-time status information, traceability, and more sophisticated control of processes and quality as a result. Factories and supply chains of the future will extend beyond traditional ‘stages’, creating conduits of information that foster transparency and collaboration among suppliers, retailers, customers, industry groups, government bodies, and educational institutions.
Big data, driven by IoT, has become the whetstone of choice for honing a competitive edge. SYSPRO ERP technologies manage, analyse and process big data, providing access to relevant and critical information from anywhere at any time and on any device. In factories of the future, leveraging real-time data and sophisticated analytics will enable deeper insights and better decision-making to be agile in a competitive market.
Of course, turning all that captured data into actionable information requires a scalable infrastructure that allows one to store, organize, integrate, and analyse that data while keeping it private and secure. Cloud managed services, like that of SYSPRO, provide an affordable, highly scalable architecture, which will allow smaller companies to take advantage of the entire software-suite of Industry 4.0. On the Cloud, small- to medium-sized enterprises can enjoy the processing power, storage, and security that once required large IT expenditures.
Automation will continue apace but augmented by intelligence and data. In the future, material-handling systems will be routinely automated. On the shop floor, overhead gantry robots will perform welding tasks or pick-and-place work-in-process inventory. Autonomous intelligent vehicles will no longer be rigidly programmed for predefined paths but will maneuver adroitly, intelligence on board, around boxes, pallets, and anklebones.
One of the most visible changes to come with Industry 4.0 will be the education level of the factory’s human capital. The replacement of human labour by machine has been a feature of every industrial revolution, but the economic growth created by manufacturing has created far more jobs than were taken away.
Besides, production floors of the future will need skilled personnel to work alongside machines. Enter the collaborative robot (cobot), smaller, less expensive robots that work with humans. Cobots are already employed at many factories, doing pick and place, loading pallets, packaging, and taking the weight and risk off the backs and shoulders of valuable employees.
No more data logs – no more manuals. Smart tools, such as drills, wrenches, and measuring devices, automatically adjust to the appropriate settings, then check and report on the tasks that workers perform. This leaves operators free to focus on their tasks. Adding intelligence and connectivity to tools through an ERP system provides quality assurance, speed, and improved efficiency.
Given the pace of innovation and the fierceness of competition, it’s probably wise for manufacturers to assume that the future is already here. For ERP customers, this next phase of business evolution will be a catalyst for innovation, competitiveness, and productivity, contributing to employment and improving efficiency.
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