Get Smart: the 4.0 RevolutionThu, 12/01/2016 - 14:52
It sounds simple: incorporate new digital platforms into manufacturing processes and improve efficiency. Sometimes it is the simple things that have the greatest effect. Those closest to manufacturing say a revolution is unfolding and it is called Industry 4.0.
The latest trend in factories and plants incorporates automated processes and “smart” systems connected via the Internet. Through constant, automated monitoring, companies receive large amounts of real-time data, giving them the potential to obtain comprehensive knowledge of processes, real-time requirements and consumer needs. PwC says Industry 4.0 encompasses four main characteristics. The first is vertical networks of production systems, logistics, production, marketing and services through smart systems. The second is horizontal integration through the creation of global value-creation networks. Through-engineering across the value chain is the third characteristic followed by acceleration through exponential technologies.
Automation, one of the pillars of Industry 4.0, is permeating many manufacturing systems. “Initially, only design processes were virtual but migrating all that knowledge to the production level will result in intelligent manufacturing sites,” says Juan Manuel Kuri, Vice President and Country Manager Mesoamerica of Siemens Industry Software. Virtualization and predictability are now the bases for all engineering and manufacturing operations, he says. This trend is growing in Mexico, mainly driven by the booming automotive industry.
Previously, companies preferred to hire more people instead of investing in automation solutions that could benefit the company in the long-term. Nevertheless, technology adoption has improved in the country and younger generations have made this process even easier. “Between 2000 and 2010, many Mexican companies realized the only way to compete with their Asian counterparts was to either lower the base salary or invest in automation,” says Kuri.
While Industry 4.0 was brought to Mexico by the automotive sector, it can be used — and in other countries it is used — by many more industries. The growing aerospace sector could greatly benefit from this latest trend because the industry is somewhat similar to its automotive cousin.
Kuri says that as leaders in automated solutions, Siemens has much to offer all manufacturing sectors. The company’s Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) gathers large quantities of information from the production floor and presents it in a Big Data solution, permitting an easier and more efficient virtualization of the entire manufacturing process. “Siemens is the leading company offering these solutions and the standard provider in 65 percent of the industry,” says Kuri.
The technology allows an OEM to keep in touch with all suppliers, regardless of their position in the supply chain or their location. Communication through all steps of the manufacturing process eliminates production delays by allowing all members to synchronize their processes. Furthermore, automation can greatly benefit SMEs, an area Siemens has both recognized and targeted. “Siemens has recognized the importance of the SME segment in Mexico and we have adapted our solutions to the needs of this particular sector,” Kuri says.
There are still challenges to overcome. “The biggest area of opportunity we detect in Mexico is telecomms infrastructure and Internet bandwidth, which is still insufficient to support major Internet of Things developments,” says Kuri. The available infrastructure in the country has limited the services developers can bring to their clients. Even so, Siemens sees potential in the country. “Mexico has amazing opportunities in the manufacturing sector. New investments are continuing throughout the supply chain and several reforms are boosting the growth of the country,” says Kuri.
Industry 4.0 will continue to penetrate manufacturing at a global level. Kuri says Siemens PLM is concentrating on developing better solutions with a strategy based on digitalization, data collection and the Internet of Things. The company will work with Mexican businesses to help them “understand how they can take advantage of those circumstances and make the right investment in technology.”