How Industry 4.0 is giving ERP a new lease of life

There’s no question that the manufacturing industry is moving at a rapid pace. Assembly lines are becoming smarter, R&D becoming more innovative, and operations becoming slicker. Manufacturing businesses are embracing new technologies and utilising everything from the Internet of Things, to smart devices, in order to build a competitive advantage and stay ahead during highly competitive times.

But while new technologies are coming thick and fast, there is one application that has been a vital tool in the manufacturer’s arsenal for the last 50 years. There’s one application that streamlines efficiencies across entire supply chains and there’s one application that is continuing to grow in order to keep up with, and seamlessly integrate with new, more recent technologies. That technology is the humble Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system – a technology that has been around for decades, but which remains the next big thing in Industry 4.0.

Boosting factory efficiency

The smart factory of the future is one that is capable of delivering shorter product runs, manufacturing more complex products with more frequent material changes, resulting in quicker deliveries, different mixes of packaging and distribution, better change forecasting, supply chain management, and product traceability.

ERP has been helping businesses achieve all of this for many years. Yes, the stories of manufacturers saving time and money with ERP are everywhere – and they’re all true, but many of these document a single business process. Imagine the efficiencies that a business could achieve with seamless integration of planning, materials management and procurement, manufacturing, financial and business intelligence processes through one single system. ERP can deliver complete factory automation and unify multiple business processes, and disparate systems to better connect all facets of your supply chain. It can enable you to work smarter, faster, and spend more time focusing on product innovation and servitization, instead of operating manual tasks to try and plug the gaps left in your poorly automated supply chain processes.

Get a handle on those robots

Like it or not, the age of robotation is coming to manufacturing. Industry 4.0 is a period where manufacturing businesses are improving machine uptime, decreasing labour costs, consolidating factory space and saving on capital expenditure – robots facilitate all of these.

However, the introduction of robots to the factory floor means that a busy manufacturing manager now has yet another asset to manage. And what happens when one of them ultimately fails in a way that a human worker rarely does?

By linking robots to your ERP system, and integrating their data streams into your ERP data, you can better schedule robot maintenance and analyse their output to make them move orders forward more effectively. And by using ERP to adjust your product designs and held inventory, you can consistently change and modify your designs and materials to reap even more value from your robots.

Help your business leverage the Internet of Things

From product development to production control and after-sales, connected devices are providing manufacturing businesses with a higher level view of their supply chains and enabling them to make better informed decisions, more quickly. Add the Internet of Things into the mix, and the possibilities for a manufacturing business become endless.

Many manufacturing businesses are starting to fit sensors to their products to analyse their performance in terms of their effectiveness safety levels, durability and other critical values. By sending this information directly to your ERP solution, you can update Bills of Materials, adjust design specifications and adjust processes to continually improve your products through production. By leaving sensors on products post production, you can feed this information into ERP to track the lifecycle of a product and use this information to deliver a greater service to your customers by alerting them when a product may need maintenance, and to streamline or alter your production strategy for continuous product improvement. The use of sensors in manufacturing post production is nothing new, but ERP offers a way to route the masses of data collected by the sensors into your design and engineering processes to enable continuous improvement.

Greater productivity, improved efficiency and higher flexibility are the three traits of any competitive manufacturing business during Industry 4.0 and unsurprisingly, three benefits that ERP can deliver. The businesses that truly thrive during the fourth industrial revolution will be those that continue to use ERP as a mission critical supply chain tool, and continue to think up new and innovative purposes for their solution. After all, ERP has evolved throughout the last 50 years, just imagine where it will be in the next 50?

Industry 4.0 and the Drive in Productivity

Digitization, automation, and data collection has been driving the fourth industrial revolution in recent years, otherwise known as Industry 4.0. We’ve seen a phenomenal rise in the establishment of smart factories and smart data, but how has Industry 4.0 impacted the supply chain? The supply chain network is a complex and multi-faceted web. It is all too easy for one weak link to completely break down the chain. By digitizing the vital processes that make up the supply chain, manufacturers will not only future proof their business but will benefit from a significant rise in productivity and efficiency.¨

Building one transparent ecosystem

For any manufacturer, regardless of the size of the company, the supply chain is a hugely complicated and multifaceted eco-system. A lack of clarity can mean that processes and relationships can break down, disrupting the efficiency of the entire chain. Complete transparency enables businesses to not only respond to problems in real time but also to anticipate any issues and respond to them in advance.

Ultimately, digitization is the key to creating a transparent supply chain ecosystem. Through the installation of a digitized and fully integrated supply chain network, companies are able to respond to customer demands more effectively and efficiently, ultimately improving productivity.

Investing for the future

There is no quick fix to digitising an entire supply chain. This complete transition will take time and will be costly, but once completed manufacturers will reap the benefits for many years to come. In the last ten years, Essentra Components has invested in over £13.5 million in upgrading, future proofing and digitising the manufacturing operations at their Kidlington site in the UK.

Driving efficiencies

The creation of smart machines, linked to each other and to the cloud, ultimately speeds up set up times and installation processes, driving efficiencies in production whilst also reducing costs. By linking these smart machines to the cloud, process engineers are able to access machines remotely, diagnosing and resolving problems more quickly, ensuring the machines are back up and running in the shortest time possible. This quick exchange of information is revolutionary and boosts the agility and responsivity of the entire chain.

There is no quick fix to investing in the digitization of the supply chain network but, manufacturers wanting to compete on a global scale must begin implementing a digitized supply chain network now. By doing so, businesses can respond to customer demand in real time, ultimately improving the experience for both the manufacturers and the customers. Manufacturers must be reassured by the fact that this long term investment will pay dividends to the company for many years to come.

Contact us today to find out more.

How design changes with Industry 4.0

Based on the adoption of interconnected and intelligent technologies and solutions, the new paradigm of Industry 4.0 design is gradually changing production processes within Italian manufacturing companies.

However, the digital innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution not only affect the way factories produce, but also invest in the design and engineering techniques of the industrial product.

The 4.0 technologies allow a significant improvement in product design thanks to the integration of software components (sensors, GPS) that, connected to machinery or other physical objects, make it possible to collect data from the field. Making products intelligent through the Internet of Things has many advantages at every stage of the product life cycle, including design.

Access to data and information during the use of an industrial product enables designers to constantly monitor its performance and the way it is used. Thanks to real-time monitoring, for example, it is possible to effectively redesign the infrastructure of the digitized product in order to achieve high levels of energy savings, avoid downtime and consequently optimize production flows.

In the automotive sector, more and more companies are relying on IoT to automate various safety procedures for their vehicles. For example, the design of cars with vehicle proximity control sensors, stop-and-go assistance, emergency brakes or 3D maps enables the collection of information that can be used upstream by designers to improve the consumer driving experience and make it safer.

Once this scenario is outlined, it is quite clear to manufacturing companies that they need to rely on technologies based on data collection to improve not only the production of industrial goods, but also their design. In order for the potential benefits of Smart Manufacturing to become effective, the adoption of 4.0 technologies must therefore be accompanied by the implementation of management systems that make it possible to store, share and use data collected in the field and ensure proper management of information throughout the product lifecycle.
How do you evaluate the design activity in your company?

Contact us today to find out more.

The Future of farming 4.0: drones and artificial intelligence

The digital transformation has brought about changes to our way of life at every level, even the everyday — changes that aren’t necessarily very visible or disruptive. This is a necessary innovation seeing how the current model for agriculture–considering the social and environmental challenges the world faces– is no longer sustainable.

But it’s also about innovation that doesn’t turn its nose up at tradition. Quite the opposite–it embraces that knowledge and spreads it better and faster with big data, improving the taste and quality of products. And it’s the traditional companies, the ones most closely involved in this push for innovation, that need to invest in the most promising startups, so they don’t miss out on the chance to ensure their products are high quality and produced according to a sustainable and robust model.

What is farming 4.0?

Back in the 90s, the concept of Precision Agriculture (PA) started to gather speed. This was a new technological approach comprised of GPS, satellite technology and software-enhanced machinery.

Recent figures from the mechanical industry in Europe show that 70-80% of agricultural machinery sold today have at least one component using PA technology. Yet it’s been tough getting the technology to take off in Europe. In Italy for example, only a fraction of agricultural land uses PA technology. According to the watchdog Smart AgriFood, the Italian PA market is worth just €100 million.

Meanwhile in France, Germany and the UK, companies that have adopted PA techniques exceed 20%, and in the US this number reaches 80%. Farming 4.0 isn’t just a necessary evolution, it’s also useful for facing the impending food emergency: it’s estimated that the world’s population will reach 9 billion by 2050 and natural resources aren’t infinite.