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The Future of Manufacturing

Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is the latest trend in manufacturing that encompasses automation, instrumentation and data.  Many describe the concept of Industry 4.0 and the Smart Factory as the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution. As we have seen with home appliances and electronic devices, they are increasingly able to interact automatically with online platforms, cloud systems and other devices. Whilst this technology is highly accessible, in many areas of manufacturing – the technology is yet to make a real impact. In the manufacturing sector the trend of instrumentation and automation forms part of the concept known as Industry 4.0.

With a factory or manufacturing organisation embracing Industry 4.0, the plant and its processes are automatically driven by sensors, software and data – with analytics and machine-learning serving as the brains of the operation.  The term Cyber Physical systems describes a device or machine that through interfaces or ‘instruments’, is controlled by software uses leverages networks to interact with other platforms, algorithms and smart networks. The sheer scale and complexity of the systems in the average factory are very different to those in the home, but the concepts are very similar.

AWS is an ideal platform to host Industry 4.0 and IoT applications. Massive scalability and global coverage.
AWS is an ideal platform to host Industry 4.0 and IoT applications. Massive scalability and global coverage.

MTG is working with a number of companies in this space. Our software teams have been developing applications that interface legacy electronics systems with modern Cloud applications hosted in Amazon Web Services (AWS). We have integrated factory systems that use MODBUS and other legacy protocols, and abstracted the information using modern APIs and web technologies.  Once these applications are hosted on a cloud platform, our data teams are able to undertake analytics and modelling that can lead to new insights and will accelerate decision making. With further enhancement, the information can be used to direct and automate machines on the factory floor, it can feed information into ERP systems (i.e. Nav, SAP) and it can influence decisions in the supply chain (i.e. parts ordering). The opportunities are obvious; increased efficiencies, lower costs, more insightful decision making, greater margins and end-to-end visibility.

As you would expect, Industry 4.0 is not without its challenges; skills shortages are an issue, cyber-security and the need for mission critical IT systems are vital to ensure its success. These issues are not confined to manufacturing, they are equally important in areas such as biomed, financial services and online services.

quote1The concept of Industry 4.0 is an inherent part of MTG’s Fusion Concept and it is an area that will be explored in greater detail over the coming months. Fusion looks to bring together concepts and initiatives from several verticals such as e-Gaming, manufacturing, financial services and healthcare – to identify mutual opportunities, challenges and synergies. The ethos behind Fusion is that many organisations, particularly the larger, more traditional and perhaps institutionalised organisations find it hard to reinvent themselves – MTG is intent on partnering with these companies, sharing our ideas and experience, to help them both innovate and execute.

An IDC report entitled FutureScape recently looked at the trends, drivers and predictions facing the manufacturing industry.  Reading through the predictions, many of the key drivers and influencers won’t arise from the factories themselves, but from the software developers, data analysts and cloud platforms.

  • Prediction 1: By 2018, Only 30% of Manufacturers Investing in Digital Transformation Will Be Able to Maximize the Outcome; the Rest Are Held Back by Outdated Business Models and Technology
  • Prediction 2: By 2019, 75% of Large Manufacturers Will Update Their Operations and Operating Models with IoT and Analytics-Based Situational Awareness to Mitigate Risk and Speed Time to Market
  • Prediction 3: By 2018, 60% of Large Manufacturers Will Bring in New Revenue from Information-Based Products and Services, While Embedded Intelligence Will Drive the Highest Profitability Levels
  • Prediction 4: By 2020, Manufacturers Will Capture 20% More Aftermarket Revenue by Using Product and Service Quality Measures to Enhance Customer Experiences
  • Prediction 5: In 2019, 40% of G2000 Manufacturers Will Use Design Democratization and Collaborative Innovation to Meet Corporate Targets for Revenue from Newly Developed Products and Services
  • Prediction 6: By the End of 2020, 50% of Manufacturers Will Derive Business Value from the Integration of Supply Chain, Plant Operations, and Product and Service Life-Cycle Management
  • Prediction 7: By 2020, 60% of Plant Floor Workers at G2000 Manufacturers Will Work Alongside Automated Assistance Technologies Such as Robotics, 3D Printing, AI, and AR/VR
  • Prediction 8: By 2018, a Proliferation of Connected Information, Instrumentation, and Decision Cloud Ecosystem Networks Will Drive Manufacturers to Redesign Their Security Architectures
  • Prediction 9: By 2019, 35% of Large Global Manufacturers with Smart Manufacturing Initiatives Will Integrate IT and OT Systems to Achieve Advantages in Efficiency and Response Time
  • Prediction 10: By the End of 2020, 50% of All Manufacturing Supply Chains Will Have the Capability, Either In-House or Outsourced, to Enable Direct-to-Consumption Shipments and Home Delivery
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Joe Hughes is the CEO of Manx Technology Group. Joe has a background in software development, information security, networks, datacentres and enterprise IT.
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