Digital transformation is the key to progress in the manufacturing industry. Approaching the process in a cohesive manner is the best way to implement new technology seamlessly, and without having an overwhelming impact on your business. From retrofitting a few key components to investing in a state-of-the-art factory overhaul, there are many different routes to digitalization to choose, depending on your budget, business model, and business needs.
The Benefits of Factory Digitalization
The benefits of factory digitalization, as an approach to streamline your manufacturing processes are many. These include both financial benefits and tangible benefits to employees. Some of the most important of these benefit include:
-Improved workplace safety
-Increased productivity and efficiency, leading to reduced waste
-Data-driven, evidence decision making to minimize business risk
-Increased innovation, and at a faster pace
-Reduced plant downtime and reduced maintenance costs
-The ability to be more flexible and more agile
Introduce Easy to Implement Digital Approaches
With these benefits in mind, it is clear that digitalization is the future of plant efficiency. From a purely pragmatic point of view, it is logical to dip your toes into the world of Industry 4.0 before investing heavily, both in terms of financial investment and staff and plant commitment, in the approach. For this reason, we will focus on two easy to implement and low risk aspects of digitalization first: retrofitting and obsolescence management.
Retrofit Key Pieces
The most cost-effective way to take your first steps into Industry 4.0 is to retrofit a few key pieces of equipment. This involves adding connectivity to existing machines, enabling them to be monitored (and often maintained) remotely and also allowing them to access the internet. This equipment can be installed in a relatively noninvasive way, and if you choose to retrofit just one machine at a time then the impact on your overall plant productivity will be minimal. There is no need to purchase new machines with this approach, which will help you to keep the costs down. Finding the right digital partners will make this process easier and even more efficient.
Manage Obsolete Equipment
Many plants keep equipment on site that is already obsolete: because plant equipment is so expensive, and so bulky, there is minimal choice in this matter. If this is the case in your situation, you can overcome the problem by making a list of this equipment and ranking it in order of importance. Any critical applications that your system relies on should be prioritized and ranked at the top of the list. You then have a tangible list of which equipment will benefit from new technology to work alongside legacy equipment. This approach also works well alongside retrofitting, as this obsolete equipment can be retrofitted to limit the impact of any break downs of maintenance issue. As Industry 4.0 and digitalization are fast moving environments, obsolescence will never be eliminated, but continually updating your equipment and remaining aware of its position and its condition can help to keep you one step ahead.