Amir Aloni, CEO, LeaderMES

The 4th Industrial Revolution, or simply Industry 4.0, has put smart, digital manufacturing as the new operating standard, making SMEs’ ability to compete against companies with larger economic and technological resources more challenging than ever.

The huge amount of information streaming towards manufacturing managers and operators makes it difficult for them to follow, and effectively analyze results in real-time to make prompt, effective decisions. In addition, staff often lack the ability to examine the entire manufacturing process and improve its planning and execution.

Such difficulties can be highly significant, especially in light of the modest margins that production facilities typically face. Every improvement in the manufacturing process and every percentage of savings in raw materials or other resources can significantly contribute to a factory’s bottom line.

Furthermore, obtaining and maintaining customer satisfaction involves constantly increasing competition to SMEs. Manufacturers are required to comply with continually rising quality and customer service standards and fulfill clients’ expectations for full transparency and visibility into the manufacturing process. In addition, manufacturers are demanded to show production flexibility, prompt delivery and innovation. Delivering on these components can often make the difference between winning business or losing it to the competition.

To meet these core essentials, SMEs require manufacturing management systems that improve their current capabilities and allow them to better compete. Industry 4.0 solutions can help them do that.

What benefits can SMEs gain by implementing Industry 4.0 solutions?

  1. All processes are monitored
    Managers must know what is happening on their manufacturing floor in real time. Looking at last week’s manufacturing reports is simply not good enough. Successful companies have already adopted digital platforms that provide them with Real-time Operation Intelligence (RtOI), which provides managers and operators with an immediate, complete and ongoing stream of information about their manufacturing processes. For example, most manufacturing managers mistake their machine efficiency by up to a whopping 30% when asked. Ongoing monitoring of manufacturing processes allows managers to identify problems as they occur and take corrective action.
  2. Manufacturing processes are optimized
    Once problems are pinpointed, they can be fixed immediately, but the benefit of Industry 4.0 technology is that manufacturing decisions can be proactive and not just reactive. Learning from identified problems can help managers implement solutions that optimize processes and find the exact areas where resources can be maximized.
  3. Waste is eliminated
    Small, unnoticed inefficiencies can result in waste that builds up over time. For example, tracking manufacturing cycles with a digital manufacturing platform can reveal stoppages that accumulate to several hours per shift. Fixing these deviations in planned processes can cut energy use and help lengthen the life of machines.
  4. Procedures and practices are more easily established
    A digital manufacturing platform can help solve problems or optimize processes in order to create real changes. Beyond the daily improvement that these platforms can offer, the accumulated know-how and experience should evolve into work standards, practices and procedures that allow the company to comply with regulations and directives. Implementing a significant change becomes infinitely easier when all manufacturing processes and personnel are aligned through a central standardized platform.
  5. Employees are more involved, empowered and committed
    Despite common fears, implementing automated processes does not make human involvement redundant. In fact, the opposite is true. When done correctly, digital solutions in manufacturing environments empower employees and allow them to become a part of the company’s bigger picture. Implementing procedures and practices, and gaining employees’ commitment to them, can often be highly important on issues that require a joint effort, like complying with energy efficiency directives.

When we created LeaderMES, we had SMEs’ needs in mind. Our target was to provide LeaderMES users with layers of information and analysis that allow them to improve their manufacturing processes, and to make informed decisions in real-time. LeaderMES is designed as a plug-and-play, agile system that is adaptable to diverse production facilities and is quick in achieving tangible ROI.

SMEs who want to remain competitive should consider implementing Industry 4.0 tools and solutions within their manufacturing facilities, and the sooner the better. Today, it is not a question of whether they should or should not but rather one of now or later. Plug-and-play tools that are non-intrusive to manufacturing facilities and don’t require heavy investments in infrastructure are currently available, and can facilitate a quick, painless and beneficial leap into the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Sink or Swim: Industry 4.0 for SMEs, Industry TodayAmir Aloni is an expert in digital manufacturing and production management, and the founder and CEO of LeaderMES, a smart digital manufacturing platform that allows users to apply digital transformation to their manufacturing environment.

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