Help is available on the path to Industry 4.0

By Andy Haly, sales director of X-STK|Applied Automation

Many manufacturers will have already considered automating repetitive or intricate tasks. They are likely to have looked for opportunities to collect data by installing various sensors into the production process. Possibly assessed the potential benefits from having secure, remote access capabilities, being able to monitor equipment to reduce downtime and carry out routine maintenance from afar. Has your company explored these opportunities as first steps towards full Industry 4.0 adoption? What was the outcome?

More efficient processes usually translate into a stronger, competitive position. It is not a time to be complacent with numerous opportunities now available from new technologies and the digitisation of manufacturing. Many manufacturers however, particularly SMEs, are yet to take those first steps. To an extent this is understandable, yet it should be a growing concern. Let us consider some of the barriers that has held SMEs back from introducing these industrial digital technologies.

A lack of knowledge and awareness of the specific benefits to be gained is one such barrier. As engineers we are very good working with existing technologies in our line of business. Less so with new and emerging products, with a lack of opportunity to fully understand potential benefits and how to integrate them within current set-ups.

Adopting new technologies can ‘feel’ risky. Investment with an unknown return can be difficult to justify. Particularly when a business is successful. Some would say, all the more reason to plan for the future now!

The UK government recognises the need to embrace adoption of Industry 4.0, highlighted with the recent publication (October 2017) of its report, Made Smarter Review. The overall challenge being how to unlock the potential of manufacturers through the use of industrial digital technologies.

The report suggests that by 2020 the number of data-communicating objects in the world is forecast to be around 20 billion from around 6.5 billion today.

This presents tremendous opportunities, particularly with the convergence of these technologies. The report says the potential size of the prize is huge, concluding: “From the data and evidence collated, we are confident that industrial productivity can be improved by more than 25 percent by 2025.”

That’s only seven years from now. Inevitably there will be winners and losers.

Seek advice from experts and develop a strategy and a plan of action. The journey is part of the learning process and in time it may uncover new opportunities not yet apparent.

A common misconception is that a huge investment is required. Adoption can and should be done in stages. Often legacy machines will not need replacing but can be adapted.

X-STK are experts in control and automation products. As a division of Applied Automation with over 30 years of machine building experience, there is a wealth of knowledge and experience that can help SMEs find a sensible path towards Industry 4.0 adoption.

At X-STK we don’t just supply components, we can help you identify areas where opportunities exist so you can devise a sensible plan that works for you.

For more information visit: www.appliedautomation/x-stk.