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How Industry 4.0 is transforming factories across the globe

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Industry 4.0 technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics and artificial intelligence, can complement skilled workers in the Asian manufacturing sector and transform how factories are run.

Fueled by connectivity and data, these solutions help manufacturers automate operations, generate actionable insights and save time and cost.

Manufacturers today face unprecedented pressure, with rising operational and market challenges. They must manage evermore complex global supply chains and new logistics models, embrace new ways of working, and cope with the constant threat of cyberattacks. At the same time, customers are demanding more customized products and yet customer loyalty is more difficult to maintain as competition intensifies. Plus, all of this is playing out against the backdrop of a growing skilled-labor shortage.

More and more ambitious Asian manufacturing companies are now harnessing faster networks, IoT and other technologies to relieve these pressures. IoT solutions can drive operational efficiencies to improve sustainability and control costs through better inventory management and improved asset utilization.

Key outcomes that are already achievable with IoT solutions on a reliable and flexible core network include:

Workforce productivity: Manufacturers can empower employees with mobility solutions to bring insight onto the factory floor and improve productivity. Examples include mobile asset management, quality inspections for materials and components, and worker safety monitoring and support.

Predictive maintenance: Remotely monitoring equipment with IoT helps ensure that machines are properly calibrated for optimal efficiency and high-quality output. This condition monitoring also enables predictive maintenance, which can help manufacturers save time and money by repairing or replacing equipment before it fails.

Supply chain management: Tracking the location of assets in transit lets manufacturers predict when shipments will arrive. Paired with near real-time analytics, fleet solutions can provide end-to-end visibility of goods throughout the supply chain.

Near real-time insights: With IoT sensors and other devices deployed on the factory floor and throughout the supply chain, manufacturers have an opportunity to gain near real-time actionable insights via data analytics. But this requires an IoT asset management platform that supports multiple devices, communication protocols, networks and cloud environments, and that integrates with existing enterprise systems.

IoT in action: data and insights on a global scale

One global manufacturer, for example, turned to IoT to enhance its performance in all of these areas. As a leader in the design, production and servicing of commercial products, it embeds connectivity inside the goods and services it brings to market.

Allied with a global mobility solution, this provides access to near real-time information and insights for the firm’s research and development teams and its service technicians in the field. Remote technicians are further supported with a fleet management solution to promote safety and efficiency.

Van dorselaer.Dave.LowRes.950x1300.color.00038674859Back on the factory floor, Wi-Fi coverage and end-to-end network services provide on-demand capabilities to help the company optimize operations and more easily scale capacity up or down to cope with business fluctuations.

Overall, this combination of connectivity and data helps create a complete understanding of the company’s assets, from manufacturing equipment to inventory, vehicles, installed units and people, and their individual capacity and performance.

Need for increased operational insight

Finally, to ensure that this information remains a competitive advantage, and not a liability, the entire network is secured through the cloud.

While this manufacturer is both large and global, it is not unique in its need for increased operational insight. IoT solutions can help manufacturing companies of any size to scale and respond in near real-time to their operational and market challenges.

The future of manufacturing is already here through IoT and on-demand, next-generation networking technologies.

What makes the shift to Industry 4.0 even more exciting is that it goes far beyond manufacturing to transform not only how modern factories work, but also how things are designed, used and serviced.

Dave Van Dorselaer is General Manager (Manufacturing & Transportation Industry) at global telecommunications company AT&T

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