23 Feb Unlock your Manufacturing Potential through Technology Adoption
by Maurice O’Connell, Chief Operating Officer at Irish Manufacturing Research
Introduction to Industry 4.0 and its Potential Impact on Manufacturing
The term Industry 4.0 (I4.0) describes the ongoing evolution of the manufacturing industry around the world. It is an attempt to characterise the current impact of a suite of digital technologies that have reached a developmental maturity such that they have become mainstream and thereby economically accessible to small start-ups as well as large multinational companies.
The primary technologies included under the industry 4.0 banner are robotics, sensors, computing (AI, Storage, Cloud), Additive manufacturing, AR/VR, and digital twin/simulation. The contention with Industry 4.0 is that we are living in a technology revolution where the rate of change is fast-paced and disruptive and where laggards may be adversely impacted if they do not embrace the opportunity of change. More imaginative terms like the paperless factory, lights out manufacturing or digital thread can convey the vision of I4.0 in a more intuitive way to people working in manufacturing. An autonomous manufacturing process initiated by a digital order moving through the production process and into the marketplace with complete traceability and process time stamps is still somewhat futuristic for most companies, but it is not far away for many.
The assertion is that I4.0 has the power to radically transform how products are created, how supply chains are managed and how value chains are defined. I4.0 can enable organisations to gain new competitive advantages through greater quality, productivity, speed, and flexibility.
Barriers to Technology Adoption and Implementation in Manufacturing
Barriers to I4.0 implementation can vary, one of the common problems in technological changes are economic/financial issues, especially for SMEs and the fear of innovation changes leading to job losses. However, there is a simpler issue in dealing with change, almost no company is starting with a blank page and even though there is a technological revolution going on, companies still must evolve while they maintain their existing business and service their current customer base.
The success of an organisation’s I4.0 journey relies on its ability to understand, internalise, and apply I4.0 technologies and solutions. It is imperative for organisations to understand their I4.0 readiness levels so that they can empower and mobilise their workforces and prioritise strategic opportunities and high-impact initiatives. Very often they need a well-defined roadmap that identifies the sequencing of change such that they address their current priorities but do not disrupt future necessary changes that will be required for the next stage of their journey.
The Importance of Understanding Digital Maturity Levels – Knowing where your Company is
Using a digital maturity model can help you determine where your company is on the path to digital transformation. One such maturity scan is the Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI). SIRI was created by the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) in partnership with a network of leading technology companies, consultancy firms, and industry and academic experts to ensure the Singaporean manufacturing sector remains globally competitive. In 2020 SIRI was adopted by the World Economic Forum as its recommended I 4.0 maturity model for all member countries and organisations.
SIRI comprises of a suite of frameworks and tools to help manufacturers regardless of size and industry to start, scale, and sustain their manufacturing transformation journeys. SIRI is designed to support manufacturers throughout their transformation journey and enable them to realise their potential with recommendations that improve economic performance (as opposed to technology adoption). SIRI examines the three core areas of Process, Technology, and Organisation. Very often 1 and 3 are not considered important and managers dive into the technology, but not understanding your processes and people can often underwrite the failure of technology implementation.
Key Insights and Recommendations from SIRI Assessments in Ireland
To date, IMR has engaged with 34 companies in a wide range of sectors including Primary Meat Processing, Discrete components, heavy industry, construction and advanced electronics. These companies cover a range of different industries and include small, medium and large enterprises.
Approx. 2100 hours of executive hours have been contributed by companies to the engagement process through briefing/debriefing calls and assessment workshops.
When we look at the challenges faced by enterprises and how they are categorised in terms of SIRI dimensions, 4 of the 16 dimensions are consistently being fed back as significant areas of strategic importance to companies. Those areas are Vertical Integration, Shop floor Intelligence, Workforce L&D and Enterprise Intelligence.
At a high level, this reflects the need for ICT infrastructure and capabilities to enable additional value to be extracted from company assets. We see many companies with a proliferation of enterprise applications that overlap in functionality, but very often create data transfer ‘fire walls’ that make it more difficult for management to understand what is going on in their factory environment and drive decision-making to the right levels in the organisation.
The Role of SIRI in Accelerating Digital Transformation and Technology Adoption in Manufacturing
We are confident that SIRI Assessments can play a catalytic role in accelerating the digital transformation of the Irish manufacturing industry. The feedback from clients has been very positive regarding the process and reports provided, including downstream support. SIRI is of vital importance as it brings together the industry 4 development plans across the various areas of your organisation such as Process, Technology, and Organisation and combines them with key business information such as costs, KPIs, and planning horizons to identify high-impact areas for improvement. This significantly increases the impact that Industry 4.0 implementation plans.
Get in touch if you’d like to find out more about SIRI