Where is Communication in Your Digital Transformation Plan?

Posted on 11 Sep 2017 by The Manufacturer

As we stand on the cusp of what is being dubbed ‘Industrial Revolution 4.0’, a new value stream is swiftly rising to the top in all forms of manufacturing planning and organisation - data.

Efficient use of communication equipment can bring significant benefits to manufacturers. Image courtesy of Flickr - Amos Bühler
Efficient use of communication equipment can bring significant benefits to manufacturers. Image courtesy of Flickr – Amos Bühler

The emergence of the ‘smart’ factory, harnessing the predictive potential of IoT network monitoring and Big Data analytics, promises to change the logic of how manufacturing currently operates. We have seen glimpses already, with the rise of automation and the responsive planning methodologies of lean.

But the so-called industrial internet will take things to a new level. Planning around inventory, demand and maintenance will no longer be a matter of forecasting and educated guesswork. It will be based on hard data, gleaned from thousands of input points from loading bay to point of sale, and churned through the mill of powerful data processing software. And because all systems are networked, everything will act on this data automatically – ordering, processing, logistics, the whole value chain.

The human component

It is tempting to ask whether people are even needed in such a model – if the technology is that powerful, does everything not just run on autopilot? We are not quite there yet. Which begs an important question – for all the talk of smart automation, IoT and Big Data, what role does another critical component of tech infrastructure play in this system – communications?

The fact is, modern factories and processing plants are becoming increasingly dynamic, flexible places. The smart revolution is replacing fixed processes and rigid supervisor, control and field hierarchies with adaptive approaches which can fluidly shift as and when required – if an order changes, if a design flaw needs to be ironed out, if a component goes offline and capacity needs to shift elsewhere.

The people working in these high speed, dynamic environments need to remain ahead of the game. Communication is key. And while the latest tech might take care of machine to machine communication, what about human to human, or human to machine?

New radio, new role

Two way radio has a long history of assisting in the coordination of manufacturing operations. On the production lines of the past, they provided the control and supervisory link from one process to the next over distance. Right up to the present day, they provide critical mobile support for maintenance, health and safety supervision and logistics. Two way radio is robust and reliable in tough environments, providing clear audio links when it is needed most.

But where does this decades-old technology fit in the smart factories and plants of the future?

Modern digital two way radios are evolving to provide the critical communication link between people and IoT-enabled system infrastructures. By integrating voice with data connections, high-powered products like the Motorola DP4000 series are no longer the straightforward walkie talkies of old.

With WiFi connectivity and advanced software capabilities, digital handsets have evolved to become a portable data hub that can process inputs from all points – calls from other radios, communications from laptops, smartphones and tablet, and data from IoT systems. An alert from a sensor might trigger a call to maintenance or inventory, to agree a plan of action and respond in the moment. Everything and everyone can work together as one, human and machine.

Technology is driving great changes in industry. But people are as essential in this process as they have ever been. Keeping them connected through your digital transformation will be key to its success.

To find out more about the very latest in two way radio technology, please visit the Brentwood Communications website, or why not give us a call on 0808 271 3606 to talk to one of our friendly consultants.