For a lot of manufacturers, implementing Industry 4.0 strategies may be a difficult mountain to climb on their own. As they focus on the core business, it is difficult to devote enough staff to the requirements and challenges associated with deploying data-driven, smart manufacturing technologies to boost agility and competitiveness.
Many companies need guidance. The convergence of IT and OT that facilitates the implementation of smart manufacturing is complicated. Most could use help to determine how to blend operational technology (OT) and IT without disturbing production processes or introducing too many new risks. They need a knowledgeable technology partner, who like a Sherpa guiding a climber, can follow the best routes and negotiate the perils of the journey.
3 ways a trusted advisor helps you reach Industry 4.0
In selecting a trusted advisor, organizations should be choosy. A worthy guide should demonstrate an understanding of the environment and know the intricacies of blending IT and OT to develop an Industry 4.0 roadmap tailored to a company’s specific vision, constraints, risks, and requirements. A trusted advisor can help you in three essential ways.
1. Learn the Industry 4.0 terrain – assessments are key
An effective guide has mastered the terrain to effectively lead clients in the right direction. Industry 4.0 implementations should start with an assessment. to learn the customer’s environment and understand their level of digital readiness. A typical assessment reveals critical information about the path ahead:
- The current state of automation and connectivity
- The available technical skill set of existing staff
- Challenges and needs related to data exchange with customers and suppliers
- Responsiveness of the manufacturing process to customer demands and changing market dynamics
Assessments help determine the capacity of important systems such as MES (manufacturing execution system) and ERP (enterprise resource planning) that are in place and whether they should be added or updated. Could the customer benefit from artificial intelligence and augmented reality (AR) implementations? What about a customer’s ESG (environmental, social, and governance) status? How can the customer meet sustainability and energy consumption goals? Looking into all these areas is essential to mapping out the digital journey.
2. Act as interpreter – use the right OT and IT systems to achieve Industry 4.0
Experienced guides also serve as interpreters. In OT/IT convergence projects, the ability to “speak” both OT and IT is essential. OT teams focus on production machinery and industrial control systems while IT teams run IT infrastructure and components. These teams historically have worked independently with minimal interaction. They speak different languages, work with different equipment, and approach challenges with different mindsets.
Convergence creates the obvious need to bridge these teams together so each can understand the other’s priorities, challenges, and goals. A trusted advisor with experience and expertise in both can act as a bridge and interpreter, coordinating the collaboration between teams so each understands the other’s requirements. Only by getting both teams on the same page can an organization successfully move forward with its Industry 4.0 planning and execution.
3. Follow the best path to Industry 4.0 – plan a step-by-step route
A reliable guide knows the best routes to a destination, normally the safest, but not necessarily the fastest. With Industry 4.0, a gradual approach is preferable for many organizations. A company may need to go through Industry 3.1 and 3.2 before ascending to the 4.0 summit. An experienced technology advisor will plot a step-by-step route that may start, for example by placing Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sensors on existing manufacturing motors and drive systems to begin collecting shop floor data.
Information collected by sensors can show how to improve maintenance efficiency and reduce energy consumption. A quick, early ROI win can help make the case with management for further technology investment in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced robotics. A progressive approach helps to educate all of those involved on the steps to take next so they can make well-informed investments.
Pathway to digitization and Industry 4.0
At BPX Group, we take our role as technology guide seriously. Our motto is “Help to Choose, Help to Use.” We apply a half-century of experience working with industrial systems to help our customers select the right products and solutions for their applications and ensure they can optimize the value they get from their investment. We leverage our trusted relationships with suppliers, including Schneider Electric, to help you plot the best route to the top of Industry 4.0.
We strive to deliver best-in-class customer support and tailor our services to each customer. As a BPX Schneider Electric Alliance Master Industrial Automated Distributor, we have access to support, resources, and a wide catalog of industrial automation solutions. Where necessary, we can help you reskill your workforce for Industry 4.0 and help with financing. We work with technology suppliers and lending companies to assist you in mapping financing plans to your budget.
Our partnerships with Schneider Electric and other vendors are essential to guiding you up the Industry 4.0 mountain. We recognize the journey can be long and complex, but the view makes it all worthwhile, so let us be your Sherpa on your path to success.