Industrial automation is fast becoming the standard rather than the exception. This has not meant that it’s been all fun and games, however, and there are still many challenges to be addressed before software technologies are fully optimized.
In recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies to innovate rapidly to become more digitally oriented. After the success of my previous article, I was interested to explore further how the lines between industry and companies are beginning to blur.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as Industry 4.0, is the buzzword of the day. It signifies the computerisation of the manufacturing sector, and increasingly, the domains of academia and government as well.
Computer-aided manufacturing allows for unprecedented efficiency, and more to the point, customisation. We’ve all heard that marketing is delivering the right message to the right person at the right time, but what if products were developed with the needs and desires of the individual in mind from the very start? This is just one of many opportunities now being considered and implemented in manufacturing.
Industry 4.0 is the meeting place of the Internet of Things as well as the Internet of Systems. Interconnected tech will make the process of decision making, without human involvement, possible, and viable as never before.
There are several ways Forbes contributor Bernard Marr sees this playing out.
First, the collection of large volumes of data is practically a given with modern tech. This data, with the appropriate software, allows for the analysis and identification of relevant patterns, trends, and insights, and this allows for operations optimisation. Marr says an African gold mine was able to increase their yield by 3.7%, saving them $20 million annually, by uncovering an issue concerning oxygen levels during leaching.
Also, logistics and supply chain software can quickly identify delays (e.g., weather-related issues) and adjust to ensure smooth processing. There are shipping yards already taking advantage of autonomous trucks and cranes to accept shipping containers with increased efficiency.
Robots are now more accessible to the average company, and they can streamline warehouse operations. This is already a reality at larger e-commerce companies like Amazon, which have been able to reduce expenses and optimise the use of floor space thanks to robotics.
3D printing, or additive manufacturing, may have been used for prototyping in the past. In the last decade or so, though, it has come to the point where it can be used in production, with new developments in metal additive manufacturing.
With the Internet of Things and its integration with the cloud, as well as the mass of data that becomes available with this integration, operations and equipment can be improved ongoingly.
As you might imagine, the software requirements for all of these items to function are vast, but exciting improvements are already being made. More on that later.
We’ve already seen some cases and how digitisation made a difference. For industrial automation there are increasing improvements in operating expenses, downtime, quality, power utilisation and more.
Forbes council member Aaditya Damani says, based on case studies across their customer base, downtimes improve by 35 to 40%, production by 15 to 20%, quality by 35 to 40%, productivity by 65 to 70%, and asset utilisation by 35 to 40%. These figures are expected with new implementations too.
The pathway to organisational transformation is also starting to become clearer, as Industry 4.0 technologies proliferate and become more widely implemented across different industries. Some, like Damani, have already been able to demonstrate desirable business results with the implementation of software in industry.
Here are some companies that are creating excellent software products in the Industry 4.0 space.
Fizyr offers digital vision software for picking and placing packages, parcels and other items. They serve a variety of industries including ecommerce, warehousing, logistics and more. The software is able to detect and learn the proper way to handle a variety of items in varying sizes and shapes. It can provide the robots that handle the items with special instructions that help to avoid potential damage or handling issues. These industries are seeing declines in available employees and this software can allow for reliability and scale.
Senseering provides software that helps organisations in the IoT and logistics industries. The software is able to parse through all the data these organisations are now dealing with and provide for smarter decision making. Bottlenecks are able to be found and addressed. Machine wear is able to be predicted. The solution does a lot of heavy lifting and allows many organisations to move scale into Industry 4.0.
Turntide is focused on the electric energy industry, which is critical to the success of Industry 4.0. Their software solutions provide a number of benefits to companies looking to lower their impact on the environment. It’s able to monitor electric motors and figure out the most efficient ways to provide the power necessary for a variety of applications. As more industries look for electric power, Turntide provides a way to get there faster and a way to continually improve power usage.
Ware brings peak efficiency to the warehousing industry. Their software and drone solution enables warehouse owners and operators the ability to continually monitor their operation. It captures data, processes the data and allows for better decision making and mistake avoidance. Entire warehouses can be scanned as often as needed and works with nearly any warehouse setup.
Zededa offers a solution for organisations that need to provide software and application updates to a variety of IoT hardware. As Industry 4.0 continues and expands, many companies are struggling to remain agile. Zededa helps these companies to keep updated with the latest software versions and security updates. Their solution allows companies to expand into IoT while making real-time decisions.
The smart factory is no longer some pie in the sky ideal. It is fast becoming the reality of modern manufacturing and the industrial world. The affordability, availability, and viability of needed tools is coming to an inflection point, as many organisations seek to optimise their operations.
The full potential and implications of Industry 4.0 may not be realised as of yet, but an industry that’s slow to adopt new technologies isn’t likely to enjoy any of its benefits by holding back.
Want to discuss the impact of Indutry 4.0 on the software market in some more detail? Drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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