How to ride the wave of digital disruption – a manufacturer explains
Digital transformation has arrived in manufacturing and the potential shows no signs of abating. European Commission research estimates Industry 4.0 will boost manufacturing production by 20% by 2020, thanks in part to a 50% decrease in downtime. Darren Duke, business analyst at world-leading foam product manufacturer Zotefoams, explains how manufacturers can harness data to create actionable business insights, and how emerging technologies can be applied to refine today’s manufacturing processes.
There is no ‘silver bullet’ technology to guarantee growth for manufacturers, but there is a winning attitude. Businesses that keep an open mind to all possible technology options and take the time to review them will stand a better chance of making the right investment – one that will power the business ahead of its competitors. For that, you need an open enterprise strategy that enables you to maintain that sort of open mind.
No ‘one size fits all’ approach to technology investment
Investing in good analytic and reporting software can help you spot trends or outliers early – allowing you to respond in an agile way. Used right, this sort of software will help you react faster to market and customer needs.
To prepare for market fluctuations, manufacturers should run a regular portfolio management exercise and see how changes in the next year could move products around a tool such as the Boston Matrix which analyses businesses based on their growth and market share. They can then consider what opportunities or problems will arise and prepare for them accordingly.
Key technology trends for manufacturers
To successfully ride the wave of digital disruption, manufacturers must embrace the move towards fast data analysis, interaction through social networks and a move towards a light, app-based suite of systems.
At Zotefoams we are always looking to gather information from real-time or near-real-time automated analysis using artificial intelligence (AI) to highlight trends that a human may miss.
That means that AI can help us be more proactive in quality, product and customer service areas. We also really like the way the technology is changing to allow us to pick up social media trends and industry conversations – revealing market insights such as untapped customer needs. We all know that younger business system users are used to an app-based ecosystem. Systems we use such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 are particularly valuable in delivering this, as they allow businesses to design their own, tailored apps to increase productivity and streamline business processes.
Moving closer to the customer adds market direction and financial understanding
Manufacturers must ensure they can identify the real value drivers for customers, and the internal measures used to maintain this value. Valuable input comes from our technology partner Columbus who recently published a major industry report that explores how manufacturers can effectively prepare for 2020 and beyond. Drawing on academia, technical experts and industry leaders, they identified the emerging technologies that are allowing manufacturers to develop customer-centric strategies and, for the first time, put the customer at the heart of all business operations.
Traditionally, the manufacturer has been far-removed from the customer. Transforming to get insights into market direction or financial movements will move manufacturers closer to their customers and their needs. This will accelerate the movement from risk averse, capital intensive industries to a smarter, faster, analytical and results-driven business with predictive process controls and improvements.
Emerging technologies have arrived
Each manufacturer will have a differing use case for emerging technology, but technologies such as artificial intelligence and IoT have almost limitless potential and applications.
At Zotefoams, we are looking at new technology around sensors and predictive product quality as well as the more established predictive maintenance areas.
Using AI, we will look to pick up machine problems based on real-time monitoring before the business reports any issues with plant equipment. The aim is to have large screens in maintenance workshop so each morning the team can review what’s going on, identify any likely problems and provide mitigating actions prior to a machine stop. Our goal is for this proactive approach to keep the machines running without failure, increasing overall equipment effectiveness.
Incremental gains with digital transformation
These technologies are truly helping manufacturers to respond faster to changes in the market, as well as helping us understand the value of products from a customer or end user perspective. They are also allowing businesses to reduce the time spent gathering data from a range of ad hoc systems and spend more time on the decision-making process.
With a careful, measured approach to technology selection and deployment, the promise of digitised manufacturing operations is within reach of businesses of all sizes.
Darren Duke is a business analyst and IT consultant at Zotefoams plc, a leading global manufacturer of lightweight, high-performance foam products based in London.
Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router
Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age.
Siemens Enables 5G IIoT
The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.
Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance
- Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
- The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
- A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
- Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites
“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.
Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said.
Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future
Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’
And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.
The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.