Industry 4.0: Digital transformation trends in 2020

 

In essence, Industry 4.0 itself is a trend towards automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. Industry 4.0 digital transformation has already been making a difference throughout the industry, as it is reliable, cost-efficient, and has immense potential for growth. Manufacturing companies of all shapes and sizes can benefit from this, to avoid the risk of being obsolete, and to digitize instead. 

Throw in a bunch of buzzwords like cyber-physical systems (CPS), the internet of things (IoT), industrial internet of things (IIOT), cloud computing, cognitive computing and artificial intelligence (AI) and anyone knows they should already be on board with this revolution - but few actually know how to get there. 

If you are a manufacturer that wants to keep pace with the market and industry, it is important to pay attention and embrace the digital transformation trends driving Industry 4.0 in 2020. However, there’s no point in following them blindly just for the sake of it. Many companies lack a strategic approach to technological innovation and this can be the biggest downfall in keeping up with the industry. 

Coincidentally, a comprehensive strategic approach is also the first and foremost of these trends that drive the industry this year. Let’s take a look at this and four other Industry 4.0 trends in 2020. 

1. Holistic strategies and proper funding 

Just winging it doesn’t cut it anymore or has it ever? Future-proofing your business starts with a clear and comprehensive strategy to really deliver a competitive advantage. Yet only 10% of companies have longer-range strategies to harness new technologies in their field. Two-thirds of CxOs say that their companies either lack formal strategies entirely or are taking ad hoc approaches. At the same time, businesses with Industry 4.0 business strategies are far more successful across the board. 

Only planning doesn’t work either - action should follow. Even if the leaders understand the benefits of implementing Industry 4.0 technologies, only 5% indicate significant progress in this area and a mere 17% of CXOs say Industry 4.0 technology investments are a priority for their organization.

This means taking a decisive strategic approach and making respective investments into these technologies gives a significant head-start compared to the competitors who haven’t embraced the revolution. In this industry, if you wait too long and there isn’t a place left for you anymore. 

Therefore, we do see that one of the main drivers of digital transformations for successful manufacturers in 2020 would be holistic strategies that are properly funded and executed. This makes it extremely important for the other industry players to follow suit and carefully plan long-term digital transformation projects.

2. Self-maintaining equipment 

As the machines are getting smarter, it makes monitoring the processes themselves a lot easier. A major trend this year will be an increase of self-maintaining technology capable of detecting and maintaining their own conditions. For instance, IoT technology sends regular data reports on machine performance to the person in-charge, which lets the manufacturer know when certain equipment needs service or maintenance. This reduces the time spent on manual routine tests of machines and the chance of human error. All in all, software that assists self-maintaining equipment will reduce unexpected breakdowns and production standstills. 

3. Less waste 

Reducing waste is both a matter of societal and environmental consciousness as well as cutting unnecessary costs from the production system. New trends relevant to environmental sustainability in Industry 4.0 will help companies create more efficient processes with increased production, in addition to bigger energy and resource efficiency. Basically it’s a win-win situation anyway which has caught wide attention due to the rising climate change worries. 

Climate change and resource scarcity have become a pressing management topic due to increased pressure from customers, employees, and other stakeholders. For example, Industry 4.0 is expected to lower the amount of energy used by factories. Higher customization (which is explained later), a live overview of the production and fewer manual steps in the process also reduce the amount of resources used. 

In the case of Vaheladu tracking system built by Thorgate, we created an expansive system to monitor the lifecycle of timber in real-time. Before the system was implemented, forestry companies had at best a vague understanding of the capacity of the timber stock ready for collection, also any losses were near impossible to monitor. Now the timber in the forest, clearing, transportation, and storage is managed with real-life data. 

4. High customization 

While the first industrial revolution gave birth to mass production, Industry 4.0 is moving the opposite direction from rigid production lines and standardized products. With 5G and IoT, machines will not only connect with each other but also cloud systems, where business and engineering data is constantly available. 

Live product performance and consumer experience data can be collected, analyzed, and applied to the manufacturing process almost directly. This way the manufacturers are able to create and tune products for the users’ needs, making consumers more connected to their experience and offering a shift in product quality unimaginable before. 

In the case of Krah Pipes, a German manufacturer of construction pipes, their previous system of spreadsheets left ample room for human errors. Thorgate built them a software to help optimize their scheduling and logistics and automate their quality control systems. This allows them to design and manufacture custom pipe configurations or even one single section of pipe with automatic planning, adjustments, and measurement, with maximum flexibility. 

5. Training and empowering workers

74% of executives see training and developing their workforce as a top Industry 4.0 investment priority. However, just as lifelong learning and development of employees is crucial for companies’ success, so are the right tools these workers are supposed to operate. Industry 4.0 technologies should be seen as a way to make workers’ lives easier and increase overall work satisfaction. Collaborative platforms and new tools should give workers access to all the information they need to make informed decisions and have a better connection to all steps of the process - from design and manufacturing to consumer experience. 

Thorgate created a software for construction machinery manufacturer Pomemet which helps them plan production more efficiently. This also included a tablet view for the factory office, where employees can track the production line, and pick or assign tasks to themselves. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, AI and Machine learning relevant trends are driving digital transformations for Industry 4.0 in 2020. Smart manufacturing, real-time data or digital transformation strategy are no more just buzz-words in the industry, but real actionable ideas that are most in-demand. For the companies to take full advantage of the opportunities Industry 4.0 is presenting, they need to dive in and not remain passive bystanders, barely dipping a toe in the digital transformation initiatives. 

Thorgate knows the challenges that manufacturers face daily and we can help you tackle the challenges you might face approaching the complex digital technologies. We help multiple manufacturing companies maximize their business potential by embracing this fourth industrial revolution. Get in touch with us if you would like to discuss your concerns or ask for more insights from us.

Karl Okva is the Head of Industry 4.0 at Thorgate, and can help you with understanding how you can improve or implement your digital transformation strategy. Write to him at karl@thorgate.eu

All current statistics presented in this blog post are cited from Deloitte Industry 4.0 annual report 2020

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