Industry 4.0: From buzzwords to business case
Mike Lewis, Innovations Director at Mpac Lambert – part of the Mpac Group plc, spoke at the Digital Talks 2019 event in Liverpool.
At Mpac Lambert, we may provide factory automation in the traditional sense, but we are not in the business of creating ‘standard products’.
Instead, we offer configured solutions that are tailored to individual customers. By listening to their needs and being innovative with our solutions, we can evolve to meet future customer demands and provide that differentiating process technology.
We had to get back to basics
When ‘Industry 4.0’ entered the lexicon, it became an industry buzzword. In response, we looked at how we could embed Industry 4.0 technology into our customers’ factories.
This was quite a challenge, however, as the digital landscape is very noisy. To ensure we were taking advantage of its potential, we had to get back to basics.
So, how did we do this? We addressed a few critical questions. These included: Where is data created in our business or product? How could this digital information be turned into value? Do our customers have strategic needs around digital? And, perhaps most importantly, how can our company realistically meet these needs?
To answer these questions, we looked at our supply chain..
There was no feedback loop to tie our data together
Historically at Mpac Lambert, product design and process development were performed quite linearly. Our production line went through order placement, design, commissioning, and then the data was fed back out the other end. There was no feedback loop to tie our data together.
We knew we needed to not only create a digital thread; we also needed to make sure that the data we collected was going to be valuable to our customers.
Today we provide manufacturing platforms and services which enable our customers to take product information from retail and then back through to the beginning to ‘close the loop’. This enables them to act on that information and make quick changes to their product and manufacturing production, releasing new products and features to market.
With this extra data and essential product information, processes become more efficient as a by-product.
We are left with two fighting forces
Closed-loop systems make processes more efficient, but they also leave us with more data to analyse. When production levels increase and new market demands emerge, the situation becomes even more complex.
As a result, we are left with two fighting forces: one involves being the fastest to market, the other is looking for a productivity breakthrough. With digitalisation, we can strike that balance.
With digital technologies, we can join up product information, make sense of the data and, most crucially, develop it so that we can address customer needs from all angles.
That’s the business case as I see it, insofar as, by linking digital technology to business operations, we become part of a more efficient supply chain.