Go back just three short years and most people would not have been familiar with the phrases “Smart Factories” and “Industry 4.0”. Fortunately, these phrases are based on fact rather than emotion. The fact is, that to move forward and deal with globalisation, industry is having to adopt the first and understand the second.
From a practical point of view, all it means is businesses using robust enterprise software in everything from their factories to warehouses. This automation, rather than manual input, allows them to track their products in real time, collect performance data to send back to a centralised system for analysis e.g. to check your machines are doing their job and, of course, it provides information on everything from stock levels to faults in equipment on the production line.
As a company that provides next-generation enterprise resource planning software (ERP) we, at SYSPRO are very aware of how important it is to get it right in what is known as the “fourth industrial revolution.” Having the best technology is crucial for industry to move into that space.
The wide range of Industry 4.0 technologies should mean most manufacturers are able to find the right level of investment for them. It may be called the “fourth industrial revolution”, but companies shouldn’t feel pressurized to look for an all or nothing solution. We’re not talking about heads rolling here!
There are many solutions available which will be able to fit in with the systems you already use and the move into being a Smart Factory can be made over time. Indeed, your factory may already be a “smart” factory or a “connected” factory, but you’re just not labelling it as such. Customizing your current processes is also another way of taking that step forward.
Of course with any change – particularly in processes which rely more heavily on people power – there will always be concerns. But ERP is not just about getting your factories to work smarter, but your staff to work smarter too.
When a client calls wanting to know where their product is, customer services will be able to tell them the exact location simply by looking at the data from their desktop. No more wandering around the factory/warehouse giving a guess-estimate. Being smart and connected, and your customer services staff having information and data at their fingertips, equals one happy customer. Which also means your customer services staff will be happy too. A win/win for Industry 4.0
Smart factory staff will contribute to smarter working in other ways. By letting technology look after the day to day workload, they will be freer to think up more innovative ways of working. After all, they probably know your processes even better than you.