The benefits of Industry 4.0 include improved productivity and efficiency, better flexibility and agility, and increased profitability. Industry 4.0 also improves the customer experience.
While Smart Factory technologies are interesting and exciting, the benefits of Industry 4.0 should always be central to any discussion. After all, any investment you make in technology, improved manufacturing processes, or enhanced systems should deliver a return.
With Industry 4.0, the ROI opportunities are significant because of the benefits the technologies offer.
This includes technologies that improve automation, machine-to-machine communication, manufacturing oversite, and decision making.
Here are the main benefits of Industry 4.0 to your production lines and your business.
In simple terms, Industry 4.0 technologies enable you to do more with less. In other words, you can produce more and faster while allocating your resources more cost-effectively and efficiently.
Your production lines will also experience less downtime because of enhanced machine monitoring and automated/semi-automated decision-making. In fact, general OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) will improve 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 and more.
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.
Makes Compliance Easier
Complying with regulations in industries like pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing does not have to be a manual process. Instead, Industry 4.0 technologies make it possible to automate compliance including track and trace, quality inspections, serialisation, data logging, and more.
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).
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 dramatically fall as a result of Industry 4.0 technologies, i.e. automation, systems integration, data management, and more.
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 overall operating costs
Creates Innovation Opportunities
Industry 4.0 technologies give you 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.
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.
You will achieve this Industry 4.0 benefit through many of the points above including higher revenues with reduced costs.
In addition, 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.
Getting a Return on Investment
Industry 4.0 technologies are transforming manufacturing across the world. The benefits of Industry 4.0 and potential return on investment are what is truly important, though. To stay competitive and equip your production lines for the future, the time to think about the next stage of your Industry 4.0 journey is now.