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Industry 4.0 advancements offer benefits beyond improving the bottom line

Whether it’s automation, machine learning, or industrial IoT, integrating advanced capabilities helps improve bottom-line performance via increased productivity.

But the benefits of Industry 4.0 technologies specifically for ITW industrial companies go well beyond the bottom line, largely because, done right, these technologies improve the experience of working in many ways. Let’s look at four that stand out.

Background: What is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0, also called the fourth Industrial revolution, is the age of the smart factory. It’s the age of machine learning, advanced automation, and the industrial Internet of Things (IoT). It represents a new opportunity for manufacturers to leap forward in capability, productivity, and impact.

For ITW Test and Measurement customers, this might manifest as IIoT-enabled grinder-polishers that transmit usage data to a cloud-based dashboard that can easily highlight whether some machines are getting used more often than others, which can inform medium-term buying decisions.

The manifestation might involve applying machine learning algorithms to data collected from customer equipment to identify potential problems and opportunities.

But Industry 4.0 also includes a lot more than the products themselves. To operate in a way that takes advantage of the many opportunities Industry 4.0 presents, organizations also have to embrace a style of working that prioritizes innovation.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways Industry 4.0 benefits organizations beyond the bottom line.

1. Improved operational efficiency

Today, ITW’s Test and Measurement hardness testers can transmit data digitally to DiaMet to auto-generate reports. But what if they could do more? What if, for example, every hardness tester had an internet-connected sensor that transmitted testing and usage data to cloud-based software that could use the data to make bigger-picture business predictions and recommendations?

For example, it might forecast maintenance and consumables spend based on actual machine use. How much time would that save your customers’ finance departments?

And how might you use similar data – say, gathered from production equipment on the factory floor? Imagine a dashboard that correlated time spent on a problem with outcomes. That kind of visualization – made possible by Industry 4.0 technologies – could make it obvious which 20 percent of effort yields 80 percent of impact.

And those are just a couple of examples. As your segment works with an innovation partner to dive deep on what its machines do today and what Industry 4.0 makes possible, we’ll uncover dozens of others, all of which have the potential to make you an irreplaceable partner to your customers.

2. Predictive equipment maintenance

ITW Test and Measurement company’s preventative maintenance program helps reduce unexpected downtime by ensuring that customers’ equipment is regularly inspected, repaired, and calibrated to factory standards. But it’s also imprecise in that it’s based on best practices for machines overall rather than tied to the individual needs of each machine.

That’s because it would be impractical to manually inspect every machine every day to see what maintenance (if any) is needed. That is, it would be impractical without Industry 4.0 technologies.

With IIoT, for example, every machine could be equipped with an internet-connected sensor to more precisely measure the condition of wear parts, calibration, and cleanliness. These sensors could transmit data to a central dashboard so customers could track anything out of the ordinary and you could use a machine learning algorithm to spot trends and opportunities.

When sensors detected measurements that suggested that a machine might need maintenance ahead of its next scheduled date, the software could send an alert, both to the customer and to your segment, so both parties could take steps to schedule maintenance and prevent downtime. If data analysis showed that ahead-of-schedule maintenance was trending, you could investigate its supply chain for problems or adjust its preventative maintenance calendar.

3. Proactive worker safety

Even when your customers are on the cutting edge of industry or research, they may still rely on a paper system for their workplace safety program. That’s not ideal in the event of a chemical exposure.

Taking proper safety action quickly is key to minimizing a worker’s discomfort (and potential for injury) but if workers have to dig up binders of safety data sheets and flip through to the right one, they lose precious time.

Again, Industry 4.0 technologies can help. Making safety data available digitally, via a mobile-first software, ensures that workers have access at their fingertips. Making that data accessible via QR codes printed on solution labels, for example, would empower workers to quickly review safety data before they begin work or instantly in the moment they need it.

This kind of application also empowers employees to live out ITW’s entrepreneurial culture: with access to safety data, all workers are better informed and can hold themselves and coworkers accountable. This, in turn, lets them deliver on goals and standards.

Digitizing safety data can extend to incident reports, as well, ensuring that facilities as a whole care for workers in a timely way and remain compliant. With help from machine learning and AI algorithms, a digitized system can also proactively recommend refresher courses for workers based on which products are getting used most.

4. How Industry 4.0 innovation transforms company culture

ITW Test and Measurement companies USa standard means its employees are familiar with the discipline of looking for opportunities to improve established processes. Industry 4.0 technologies offer new opportunities to simplify and automate processes throughout the organization, as well as opportunities to modernize the products you manufactures.

Embracing innovation on a broader scale can be difficult, but innovation is essential for firms that want to stay relevant in today’s fast-evolving world.

Luckily, there is a proven framework for innovating consistently: product innovation.

Product innovation is a way of working that balances the needs of customers (do they want it?), the business (can we sustain it?), and existing technology (can we support it?). One of the main benefits of product innovation is that it de-risks new products and features throughout their development so that, when they launch, they tend to enjoy widespread adoption and add value right away.

Embracing product innovation means expanding USa to include not only processes but also products. This requires…

  • Collaboration across functions and teams.

  • Ongoing, iterative testing of new ideas and concepts.

An innovation partner can help you master both. Let’s take a quick look at why these two behaviors are so important and how an innovation partner can support companies hoping to learn them.

1. Cross-team collaboration

Everyone who interacts with your products (customers, engineers, assembly technicians, customer support, salespeople, and so on) has insight into what makes your products work and what might make them better.

Even more important: all of these groups have different perspectives.

When you’re hoping to minimize risk in developing new things, those varied perspectives are invaluable. A customer might want expanded functionality that the sales team is eager to promise but that the engineers say is impossible.

But if you talk to the customer, maybe you’ll discover that the problem they want the functionality to solve has other possible solutions. Not just possible: viable and sustainable. Solutions that would make life better for every customer.

This is why it’s valuable to include many voices in the work of updating products and developing new ones.

But many established organizations (even those with existing process-improvement practices) don’t have processes in place for proactively seeking feedback from varied stakeholders, never mind using that feedback to guide product development. This is where an innovation partner comes in.

The work of innovation is, in many ways, the work of seeking, forming, shaping, testing, and refining ideas. An innovation partner has experience in this process: how to start it, how to sustain it, and how to turn the best ideas into real-world products.

2. Continuous iteration

You’ve probably noticed that you’re regularly asked to update your phone’s operating systems and the apps you use. That’s because these digital products are constantly evolving. They’re adding new features and sunsetting unpopular ones. They’re tweaking capabilities within existing features and adding new security to address new threats.

Day to day, you probably don’t notice much difference, but if you picked up an original iPhone with its original OS, you sure would.

That same model is what innovative companies in Industry 4.0 must embrace to stay on the cutting edge of changing customer expectations: Develop a new feature or product via cross-team collaboration, release that feature or product, then immediately start collecting feedback to inform the next version.

The world your customers operate in doesn’t stand still, so your products shouldn’t, either.

Again, an innovation consultant can support you as you adapt to this model of working. They can help you orient your organization toward continual change and the mindsets that support that change and reward those who push it forward.

Industry 4.0 makes materials testing more rewarding

Briefly put, Industry 4.0 technologies can translate the ambient data in your customers’ facilities into actionable insights. They can facilitate complex decisions, prevent problems, and keep workers safer. And embracing Industry 4.0 pushes organizations like yours to work in a way that makes room for innovation more broadly, which can have compounding positive effects.

The key is finding an innovation partner who can help you transform your products, culture, and mindset. That’s what we do at TXI.

Want to take the next step in your innovation journey? Let’s start a conversation.

Published by Jason Hehman

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