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03/11/2021 - 04/11/2021

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Industry 4.0 doesn’t have to be difficult

Industry 4.0 doesn’t have to be difficult

The potential of digitalised manufacturing could mean stronger links between design and production, interconnected machines, factories and supply chains, transparency into supplier factories, and improved efficiency and productivity. But many companies are fearful of even setting out on an Industry 4.0 journey.

End users and machine builders alike are being alienated from Industry 4.0 by the bandying around of terms such as digital twins and cyber physical systems. So says Brendan Sheppard, CEO of IoT specialist SmartFactory in Ireland, adding: “Instead of getting people on the Industry 4.0 journey, we’re making the whole thing so incredible that they end up doing nothing,” he adds. “In short, the message about Industry 4.0 isn’t getting across.”

In 2016, Gartner famously produced the ‘hype cycle’ for emerging technologies, mapping the technology trends that were poised to be the highest priority for organisations facing rapidly accelerating digital business innovation. At the time, the Internet of Things was an innovation trigger, with expectations high. By now, it should be riding the ‘plateau of productivity’ but instead it is languishing in the ‘trough of disillusionment.’

“When we go around and see companies, we find the same things time and again: they are really good at innovating with new products, but their production processes haven’t changed in years,” says Sheppard. “When it comes to the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0, lots of companies are doing nothing, because doing nothing is better than spending a lot of money doing something and getting it wrong.”

So if we’ve been talking about the Internet of Things for years, what are the perceived barriers to implementation? In a survey of businesses, 76% of respondents cited the large amount of effort and money required to access the most important data. 70% said there was not enough knowhow in their business for conceptual planning or implementation. 60% said they were unclear of the benefits. And 58% expressed a fear of data theft.

“But implementing and Industry 4.0 solution doesn’t have to be complicated,” says Sheppard. “At its heart, it’s about getting people away from paper and spreadsheets, and giving them the tools they need to capture and analyse data, and visualise KPIs.” The SmartFactory Solution is a non-invasive retrofit system that captures process data in real-time, giving actionable intelligence to optimise operational performance. The SmartFactory team has developed a robust and well-engineered solution that combines Industry 4.0 and lean digitalisation, driving efficiency through innovation and bridging the IT/OT convergence in manufacturing. Even at this early stage, this new technology has seen a very positive market response, capturing, analysing and visualising key performance indicators from the manufacturing, logistics and utility sectors, using smart Industry 4.0 technology.

To implement the SmartFactory Solution, Sheppard works with partner companies for control and sensing devices such as sensors, with one being Turck Banner. For example, making use of industry proven Banner wireless sensing technology, SmartFactory can add sensing without recertification, using secure, proprietary 2.4GHz wireless technology. Pre-configured off-site, these can be installed in minutes. The technology makes it possible to easily add a scalable wireless sensor network to improve efficiency by monitoring and analysing multiple workstations and processes, without pulling cables.

SmartFactory has only been offering its solution for two years, but even at this early stage it has seen a very positive market response, capturing, analysing and visual key performance indicators from the manufacturing, logistics and utility sectors, using smart Industry 4.0 technology.

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