The main purpose of newcomers companies is typically to learn and explore the new technologies, and to identify where in the production process the Industry 4.0 concepts can be applied. That is not necessarily linked to where they will bring the best business benefits. With that in mind, the first step is to make an assessment of your current situation, considering the six dimensions:
Normally the core of an early development, but it is important to understand the business value behind the development. Companies should identify where process sensors can be added either through an upgrade of existing equipment or by replacing some equipment or tools.
Connectivity between sensors, IT systems and data storage needs to be established for the pilot scope. Communication standards and security solutions should be part of the scope. However, a standalone pilot is a good start and will require less sophisticated security and standardisation.
The importance of proper product data is often underestimated and insufficient detail of product and process data can be a road blocker that requires a significant effort to overcome. For example, the quality of assembly can be measured with high precision using different sensors. However, it assumes that a definition of desired quality exists – what torque and angle is required when tightening the screw.
Normally, companies at the newcomer level don´t even have the right systems in place to support Industry 4.0 concepts. They should limit the IT solution to a level that is sufficient to validate the Industry 4.0 concepts that are being explored and evaluated.
The implementation of Industry 4.0 concepts is a development and change journey for any company, even though the initial phase will have limited organizational impact. One key objective of the initial phase is the learning of new concepts, and companies should strive for an organisation and culture of collaboration and agility to prepare for the coming changes.
The approach of newcomers should be to explore and learn the new technology and create a vision for how Industry 4.0 concepts can benefit the company in a set of “use cases”. These “use cases” will serve as input to the strategy development and formulation of a roadmap going forward.
In addition, it’s important to use an agile approach where the solution is developed through iterations and a set of minimal viable products to demonstrate functionality and prove each part of the solutions stepwise. Another step is to select the scope, for example one cell or station (or one assembly process) and one product. By the end of this roadmap, companies should have a working solution for improving quality in an assembly process. In addition, the company has gained knowledge and demonstrated results to determine the business value of this “use case” – all important input to plan the next phase of its Industry 4.0 development.
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