We are currently in the fourth revolutionary stage of industrial manufacturing. The first – the Industrial Revolution, which began in the 18th century – saw the introduction of steam power; the second saw mass production and the introduction of the assembly line; and the third saw the gradual introduction of electronics and control systems. And now Industry 4.0 – the fourth industrial revolution – continues apace, enabled by critical changes in technology.
Advances in fields including data, analytics and connectivity are the driving force behind a transformation in manufacturing and the delivery of products and services. Developing technologies, including artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the internet of things (IoT) – and the ways in which they can interact – connect people, machines and data in new ways.
Quality 4.0 offers a unique opportunity to embrace the technological advantages offered by Industry 4.0 and to use them to embed quality within broader organizational strategy. There has surely never been a better time to do so – and across the world there are multiple examples of Industry 4.0 taking hold and transforming everything from the production process to the customer experience. Here, we delve into just a few sectors that are already feeling the impact of Industry 4.0.
One of the main benefits of early changes in industry was the capability to manufacture many of the same thing, all identical, while leveraging economies of scale. Now, however, consumers are increasingly demanding customization – they want to be able to make more choices and decisions when it comes to furniture, but they still want to enjoy the best prices. Working out how to deliver this is a major challenge for furniture manufacturers.
Industry 4.0 is increasingly promising to deliver exactly the solutions needed. Smart factories, within which the optimized workflow for each product has been digitally modelled, allow for incredible flexibility and versatility of design and production.
Designs can be created digitally, based on a customer’s customized information. Once finalized, the details can be sent to the relevant machines, which can complete manufacturing. Finally, the component parts of an order can be collated and packed, ready for distribution.
Case Study: Lectra
In June 2019, upholstery technology specialist Lectra cemented its position as an Industry 4.0 pioneer as it demonstrated new options for customization offered in its new initiative: Furniture on Demand.
At an event held at the International Advanced Technology and Conference Center (IATC), industry experts explained how the adoption and implementation of Industry 4.0 principles offered furniture manufacturers a very real opportunity to design, manufacture and deliver original, customized products at competitive prices.
Lectra asserts that the revolution being driven by Industry 4.0 is a game changer. Céline Choussy, Lectra’s chief marketing and communications officer, said: “The furniture industry is at the dawn of an era rich in opportunity. Industry 4.0 opens up a range of possibilities for value creation and transformation.”
Pharmaceuticals is one of the world’s most heavily regulated industries; the dangers presented by potential errors in manufacturing, labelling and packaging are all too apparent. It is that very need to be vigilant and to conduct rigorous testing and checking that presents an ideal application for Industry 4.0 technologies.
Pharmaceutical companies face challenges in relation to producing products of consistent quality. Data analytics technology is capable of making a positive contribution to Continuous Process Verification (CPV), by which products can be assessed and validated against regulatory guidelines to ensure compliance with standards.
The main ways in which this can be applied are in the areas of data collection, measuring and evaluating processes, quality control, and quality checking, in terms of incoming and in-process materials, and finished products.
The overall outcome would be to not only guarantee but improve product quality and manufacturing processes, which would impact positively on the bottom line.
Case Study: Marchesini Group
In April 2019, in Italy, the pharmaceutical packaging company, Marchesini Group, unveiled its Industry 4.0 program and demonstrated its blister packaging line.
When it comes to blister packs, a three-stage process is employed. Stage one sees a camera-equipped blister-packer machine inspect the shape, thickness and color of the pills to be packed, plus integrated imaging technology that can distinguish active ingredients. The chances of the wrong pills being packed are slim to none.
Next up is labeling, conducted by a machine that provides a unique identity to cartons and also deals with tracking. Finally, cartons are packed into cases, ready for distribution.
Sitting above all this is a data collection system that provides full feedback to operators monitoring the processes. Both monitoring and corrections can be carried out either on-site or remotely. Analysis of the data gathered will help make systems smarter, over time.
According to urban legend, back in the time of the second industrial revolution, when Henry Ford introduced the assembly line to automotive manufacturing, you could have a car “in any color, as long as it’s black.”
Times have changed, and in common with various other industries, automobile customers now want to be able to make a range of choices and customize their vehicles. Industry 4.0 not only allows for that, but for more rapid delivery too.
Self-monitoring machines that can report on their own performance, so avoiding unplanned downtime, and increased data gathering and sharing – not just between departments or stages of production within a manufacturer, but potentially up and down the whole supply chain – promise smooth production and increased productivity.
However, this whole capacity for sharing data also presents one of the biggest challenges: data security. It’s not just a case of the need to protect industry secrets; there’s also the issue of customer safety to consider, as connected cars – vehicles with internet access – can potentially be hacked.
Case Study: Renault Group
In July 2019, the Renault plant in Cléon (Seine-Maritime, France) was hailed as an “advanced lighthouse” for Industry 4.0 by the World Economic Forum.
The digital transformation into a recognized Industry 4.0 plant is underpinned by all 57 hectares of buildings being fitted with Wi-Fi, which allows data to be gathered and shared, and fully automated processes to be implemented. Other systems, such as virtual reality safety training and automated truck flow management, also contribute to the plant’s success. The aim is to use a range of technologies to facilitate production levels that fully meet customers’ needs and expectations.
Javier Bernaldez, Director of the Renault plant in Cléon, said: “Being at the forefront of Industry 4.0 is a strong competitive advantage that allows us to look to the future with confidence.”
Successful implementation and adoption of Industry 4.0 depends on forward-thinking professionals who are driven by continuous quality improvement. Technology is a great enabler, but knowing how to apply it to fix business problems is what separates successful organizations from the rest. Quality improvement professionals are still needed to identify how tech can be applied to improve productivity, performance, innovation and business results.