Manufacturing is currently going through a massive amount of disruption. You likely have heard the terms “disruptive manufacturing” and “Industry 4.0.” Both describe the current generation of manufacturing tools and practices that are transforming the industry and allowing for greater efficiencies. The application of disruptive practices will vary in scope depending on the size of your manufacturing operation, but all manufacturers have a stake in disruptive manufacturing.
First, think of disruption as a positive force in the industry. Manufacturers are always seeking ways to boost operational efficiencies and innovate products for their customers.
We can trace disruptive manufacturing to the 1970s, with the IT revolution that enabled faster order processing and bill paying. When the internet took on a greater role in the 1990s and beyond, manufacturers were able to capture larger amounts of data for each step of their processes. This enabled them to make cost-efficient changes and better integrate their activities with outside suppliers. Today, digitalization – the process of converting information into a digital format – is at the forefront of disruptive manufacturing.
So what do we mean by digitalization as it applies to manufacturing? In today’s digital age, manufacturers can replicate digital processes, which leads to the ability to improve products and processes simultaneously. Digitalization offers many benefits to your company’s production by improving efficiency, quality, adaptability and time to market—all of which can increase profitability and cash flow.
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the way in which various smart devices and the data they generate are connected and use cloud-based technology to interact. Through real-time feedback, digital devices can alert you to know when one of your machines is malfunctioning, or when goods are being damaged during the manufacturing and shipping process. Looking ahead, manufacturers will be able to connect all their physical assets through a “digital thread” that links every step of the product lifestyle.
You likely are already tapping into the cloud to keep up with the needs of your customers. The cloud is simply a network of remote servers, each with a different operation function for sharing, processing and storing data. Since it runs on the internet, you can access it from anywhere using multiple devices. The benefit is that you can efficiently scale operations up or down depending on customer and market demands.
Widely known as 3-D manufacturing, additive manufacturing is a process that begins with a digital design of a component and raw material. A part can be created layer by layer from a digital file until you have a three-dimensional product in a matter of hours. By doing so, you have accelerated the design-build-test cycle by reducing the need for long supply chains. You also have the immediate ability to make necessary design changes in a cost-effective manner. It is already possible to produce components using metal, plastic and mixed materials.
A recent McKinsey report states, “Bold, tightly integrated digital strategies will be the biggest differentiator between companies that win and companies that don’t, and the biggest payouts will go to those that initiate digital disruptions.”
Our hyper-connected Industry 4.0 environment can vastly improve product quality and production speed. To take advantage of disruptive technology, manufacturing companies should rethink their internal processes and adopt the digital tools that best enable them to be more competitive and work more efficiently. Fortunately, it’s all scalable, so you can take small but significant steps. When profit margins are thin, and customers increasingly demand sophisticated products and services, the digital thread offers manufacturing companies a great competitive advantage.
Goldin Peiser & Peiser can help you determine how your manufacturing business can benefit from disruptive manufacturing tools. To learn more, contact the Manufacturing and Distribution Group or Alita at 972-818-5300.
Note: This content is accurate as of the date published above and is subject to change. Please seek professional advice before acting on any matter contained in this article.