The benefits of Industry 4.0 technologies, processes, and systems include improved productivity and efficiency, better flexibility and agility, and increased profitability. Industry 4.0 also improves the customer experience, including through more personalised and intelligent products.
Understanding and then contextualising these benefits is important, particularly in highly regulated industries like medical device, pharmaceutical, and biopharmaceutical manufacturing. Any investment you make in technology, improved manufacturing processes, or enhanced systems must also take into account compliance, quality, and patient safety.
It is essential that you get a return on investment too.
So, what are the benefits that Industry 4.0 technologies, processes, and systems can bring to your production lines and business? We have split them into four categories with a specific focus on high-speed, highly regulated production facilities in the life sciences sector:
- Manufacturing benefits of Industry 4.0
- Quality and compliance benefits of Industry 4.0
- Customer and patient benefits of Industry 4.0
- Operational Benefits of Industry 4.0
Manufacturing Benefits of Industry 4.0
Improved Productivity and Less Machine Downtime
In simple terms, Industry 4.0 technologies enable you to do more with less. In other words, increasing throughput while allocating your resources more cost-effectively and efficiently.
Your production lines will also experience less downtime because of deeper levels of integration, enhanced machine monitoring, and automated/semi-automated decision-making. OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) will improve, too, as your facility moves closer to becoming an Industry 4.0 Smart Factory.
Multiple areas of your production line will become more efficient as a result of Industry 4.0-related technologies. Some of these efficiencies are mentioned above – less machine downtime as well as the ability to make more products and make them faster.
Other examples of improved efficiency include faster batch changeovers, automatic track and trace processes, and automated reporting. NPIs (New Product Introductions) also become more efficient as does business decision-making.
Optimised Supply Chain Management and Security
With Industry 4.0 technologies, processes, and systems, you will have better visibility across your entire supply chain. Your supply chain will also become better connected, enabling real-time monitoring with enhanced communication and collaboration.
This can, for example, make it possible to identify bottlenecks and other supply chain problems before they have an impact on production line output. Having this advanced knowledge means you can take mitigation steps.
Your supply chain will also become more resilient and agile, improving your ability to respond to changing market conditions and customer demands.
Optimised Product, Production Line, and Factory Lifecycles with Digital Twins
Digital twin technologies capture data in the physical world to create a digital replica that updates in real-time. That replica could be a twin of a product, a production line in your facility, or your entire factory.
Having this digital twin allows you to optimise performance and efficiency and test different scenarios without impacting real-world output. You will also be able to identify areas of innovation and improvement.
With Industry 4.0 technologies, your people will have access to better data to give them enhanced oversight as well as the ability to take data-driven decisions.
Furthermore, you can eliminate the need for your people to work on repetitive tasks. With automation technologies and advanced workflows taking on repetitive tasks, your team can concentrate their efforts on value-adding tasks.
Increased Knowledge Sharing and Collaborative Working
Traditional manufacturing plants operate in silos. Individual facilities are silos as are individual machines within a facility. This results in minimal collaboration or knowledge sharing.
Industry 4.0 technologies allow your production lines, business processes, and departments to communicate regardless of location, time zone, platform, or any other factor. This enables, for example, knowledge learned by a sensor on a machine in one plant to be disseminated throughout your organisation.
Best of all, it is possible to do this automatically, i.e., machine-to-machine and system-to-system, without any human intervention. In other words, data from one sensor can instantly make an improvement across multiple production lines located anywhere in the world.
Flexibility and Agility
The benefits of Industry 4.0 also include enhanced flexibility and agility. For example, it is easier to scale production up or down in a Smart Factory. It is also easier to introduce new products to the production line as well as creating opportunities for one-off manufacturing runs, high-mix manufacturing, and more.
Quality and Compliance Benefits of Industry 4.0
Makes Compliance Easier
Complying with regulations doesn’t have to be a manual process in industries like pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing. Instead, Industry 4.0 technologies make it possible to automate compliance, including track and trace, quality inspections, serialisation, data logging, and more.
Improved Product Quality
Industry 4.0 solutions can move quality functions from inspection rooms to the production line. This can mean real-time, in-line inspection with increased automation. The result is an inspection process that evolves from a go/no-go approach to one that is continuously measuring and analysing to improve processes and identify quality issues so they can be corrected before they get to a failure stage.
An increase in automation will also reduce human error in the quality function and automate the collection, transmission, and storage of data.
Customer and Patient Benefits of Industry 4.0
Better Customer Experience
Industry 4.0 also presents opportunities to improve the service you offer to customers and enhance the customer experience. For example, with automated track and trace capabilities, you can quickly resolve problems. In addition, you will have fewer issues with product availability, product quality will improve, and you can offer customers more choice (see the point about increased profitability below).
Given the benefits they offer to patients, the medical device and pharmaceutical industries are moving closer to personalised products. For production facilities, this means mass customisation and increasingly smaller batch sizes down to as low as batch sizes of one.
With Industry 4.0 solutions, it is possible for manufacturers in the life sciences sector to personalise products within a high-speed mass production environment.
Intelligent Products, Particularly in the Medical Device Industry
Products across all industries are becoming more intelligent, including medical device products. Technologies like sensors, 5G, and the industrial internet of things (IIoT) make it possible to develop connected products that can share a wide range of information. This includes:
- Patient health data to enhance monitoring, treatment, and diagnosis
- Usage data to monitor the performance of the device
- Product data to help R&D teams develop improvements to existing products as well as new products
Intelligent products that are made possible with Industry 4.0 technologies can also perform multiple functions, including monitoring multiple health data points.
Operational Benefits of Industry 4.0
Becoming a Smart Factory does not happen overnight, and it won’t happen on its own. To achieve it, you need to invest, so there are upfront costs. However, the cost of manufacturing at your facilities will fall as a result of Industry 4.0 technologies.
Primary drivers for these reduced costs include:
- Better use of resources
- Faster manufacturing
- Less machine and production line downtime
- Fewer quality issues with products
- Less resource, material, and product waste
- Lower maintenance costs
- Lower overall operating costs
- Creation of innovation opportunities
Industry 4.0 technologies also give you a greater knowledge of the manufacturing process, supply chains, distribution chains, business performance, and even the products you manufacture. This creates opportunities to innovate, whether that is changing a business process, developing a new product, optimising a supply chain, improving OEE, and more.
Enhanced Potential for Innovation
The enhanced potential for innovation delivered by Industry 4.0 is a result of many of the points already highlighted:
- Digital twin technologies
- Knowledge sharing
- In-line real-time inspection processes
- Product personalisation and technologies that enable intelligent products
- Increased automation of repetitive workflows that enable staff to focus on value-adding tasks
Data is a key element of Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing processes as machines and systems need to become more integrated so that data can be captured and used. This makes it possible to move to true data-driven decision-making in medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities. There is also the potential for machines to make decisions based on data, enhancing automation even further.
There is a range of benefits when you move to data-driven decision-making, including improving forecasting accuracy.
Many of the above points can result in higher revenues for your production facility. For example, by fully automating your production line and implementing other Industry 4.0 technologies, you could add a new shift with minimal staffing costs to meet an uptick in demand or compete for a new contract.
Increased profitability comes as a result of many of the points above, including higher revenues with reduced costs.
Furthermore, Industry 4.0 technologies enable you to produce higher quality, higher margin, and/or more innovative products. For example, Industry 4.0 technologies make it possible to offer customers personalised products while still using mass production methods to make those products.
The benefits of Industry 4.0 span manufacturing, business operations, compliance, quality, and the customer experience. As a result, the technologies and solutions that come under the Industry 4.0 umbrella are transforming manufacturing industries across the world.
While industries in the life sciences sector are generally behind other industries in terms of Industry 4.0 evolution, there are significant gains that can be achieved through careful planning.
Additionally, regulators are adapting to the realities of digital transformation and Industry 4.0, enhancing the potential even further. Other drivers are also accelerating the push towards Industry 4.0 solutions, including challenges in recruitment and the need to increase resiliency. With the benefits outlined above, it is also possible to get a healthy return on investment.
Staying competitive in a digitally transformed world is about continuous improvement with an Industry 4.0 focus.