Many manufacturing companies have probably asked themselves these questions in the wake of Industry 4.0. Industry 4.0 is the general term used for the fourth industrial revolution. The first three eras included the transition from mechanization to mass production and automization. The fourth industrial revolution involves cyber-physical systems making it possible to collect large amounts of data across software systems and physical manufacturing lines.

 

Big data as an industrial business model
Many companies already base their business model on big data. Social media companies have paved the way and shown us the almost unlimited potential connected with collecting and utilizing the data generated i.e. through our use of the internet. For industrial manufacturing companies, it is the vast amount of data already available as a result of a high degree of automation that we need to collect and utilize. But for what specific purposes will we be able to use the large amounts of data?

 

Increased knowledge converted into concrete actions
Monitoring manufacturing equipment 24/7 and collecting the data already flowing through production sites will provide us with a knowledge that we can use for better utilization of resources, preventive maintenance and increased product quality.

The data provide us with valuable insights into the current state of a specific machine. This means that we are able to react immediately in case of irregularities and to make sure that downtime is reduced to an absolute minimum. This lets us utilize both our human and machine resources more effectively.

By analyzing the collected data, we can compare results and gain knowledge of when a component or a machine is at risk of breaking down or performing less efficiently. This lets us avoid non-planned downtime and perform repairs and maintenance at times when the production is least affected.

Reduced downtime and increased performance will improve product quality. The risk of errors will be reduced when machines and equipment are performing at a higher level. Moreover, the collected data will provide us with knowledge about rejected items and, thus, let us change the product or production in a way that will improve product quality.

Looking ahead, we will be able to use collection and analysis of data for predictive maintenance where we perform maintenance based on knowledge of a specific machine instead of general maintenance intervals. By letting production equipment exchange data and information, self-learning machines and systems will be able to self-adjust to achieve the most optimal performance and production output.

 

Start by picking the low-hanging fruit
High expectations are being placed on the technologies of Industry 4.0. Only time will show exactly how and to what extent we will take advantage of them. What we do know, however, is that there are obvious advantages associated with collecting and using production data. I therefore invite you to pick the low-hanging fruit and start your Industry 4.0 process by collecting and utilizing the data that already exist in your production. The efforts will quickly be reflected on the bottom line.

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