Free-flowing information creates more flexible, efficient, and responsive manufacturers.
By Dave Evans, CEO and Co-Founder, Fictiv
We’re in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution, one powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, analytics, AI, and machine learning. It’s a revolution focused on the acquisition and distribution of information between people, machines, devices, and sensors to improve efficiency throughout the manufacturing process.
This connectivity, combined with computational power, provides access to data that helps operators and leaders make better decisions and both diagnose and solve problems. The flow of information also enables autonomous technologies and makes them more efficient.
Industry 4.0 is industry accelerated.
Why We Need Industry 4.0
And it’s a good thing this newest revolution is accelerating manufacturing because consumers have higher standards than ever before. Customization is increasingly important to getting and maintaining a competitive edge, and the expectation for higher quality products at optimized price points with faster delivery is only growing.
Even as this evolution of customer expectations speeds up the industry, there are significant headwinds to meeting those expectations. Increasingly globalized and complex supply chains are being disrupted by natural disasters, geopolitical conflict, and the pandemic. Those disruptions show that the old methods of manufacturing just don’t work well in this new normal.
The smart money is betting that volatility isn’t going anywhere. The good news is that Industry 4.0’s technologies are well suited to both help manage the challenges posed by disruptions and deliver what customers want.
Agile Manufacturing Provides the Flexibility Needed to Succeed
Because of the premium on flexibility and the growing need to be more responsive to customers, more manufacturers are implementing an agile approach to their operations than ever before. For the uninitiated, agile manufacturing is focused on rapidly responding to customer demands using feedback loops and continuous product iteration.
Its methods aim to increase efficiency through flexible, parallel problem-solving — an approach that starts from the bottom up and requires collaboration between operators, engineers, managers, and business executives. Agile manufacturers abandon the hierarchical, top-down approach in favor of distributed decision making, which increases speed and agility to create a competitive advantage.
Industry 4.0 Makes Agile Manufacturing Easier and More Efficient
However, to be flexible, fast, and efficient using agile methodology, manufacturers need the data creation and analysis and human augmentation technologies that are driving industry 4.0. IoT sensors provide real-time visibility into operations and logistics. AI and machine learning use data to generate insights that provide visibility, predictability, and automation of operations and business processes. Cloud computing connects and integrates engineering, supply chain, production, sales, distribution, and service.
The end result is an organization that can provide real-time targeted feedback to operators and makes real-time data-driven decisions for resolving production bottlenecks, meeting customer needs, and improved quality control.
In short, these digital technologies increase automation and enable predictive maintenance, process improvements, and levels of efficiency and responsiveness to customers not previously possible.
Dave Evans is the Co-Founder and CEO of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystem company, Fictiv. Since its founding in 2013, Fictiv has manufactured more than 18 million parts for early-stage companies and large enterprises alike, driving innovation with agility from prototype to production and ensuring supply chain predictability and success for customers in industries from automotive and robotics to healthcare and aerospace.
Dave graduated from Stanford University in 2011 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. In 2017, Dave was named to Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 list. More recently, he was honored with the 2021 Manufacturing Leadership Award for his role as CEO in driving digital transformation and also by Supply & Demand Executive with the 2021 Constellation Research Business Transformation 150 list.
Email: [email protected]