Smart Manufacturing and Automation

Smart Manufacturing: Industry 4.0 & Automation

Manufacturers face a great need for efficient, reliable processes in a world of smart technology. While leveraging equipment automation was once cutting edge, the rise of smart manufacturing means companies must do more to keep up. This trend is known as Industry 4.0, with manufacturers turning toward synchronous, real-time information and AI machine learning in addition to automated data processing. These proactive strategies give teams access to up-to-date insights to inform efficient and cost-effective decision-making.

At Pioneer Service Inc., we embrace the possibilities of Industry 4.0 and are actively working toward implementing smarter, interconnected systems to continue producing high-quality parts.

What Is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is billed as its own industrial revolution, the first of which began in the 1700s with the advent of water- and steam-powered engines. This gave way to the second industrial revolution in the early 20th century, as electricity and steel led to dramatic improvements in manufacturing productivity. The third revolution, which began in the late 1950s, was characterized by the use of computers to achieve both extreme precision and automated efficiency. CNC machining and automatic bar loaders began generating extensive gains in automated efficiency as well, allowing for 24/7 productivity with minimal downtime.

The fourth revolution, or Industry 4.0, represents the next paradigm shift in manufacturing. It’s about connections between physical machines, cloud-based data storage, and human decision-makers. Companies increasingly seek to bridge the gap between physical and digital environments to create smarter factories. Data collection is paramount, with sensors continuously sending information to the cloud. Coupled with advanced analytics, this real-time data gathering allows for better decision-making and more efficient manufacturing automation. By integrating information across internal departments and vendors, management can have a full-picture view of production rates, workforce, suppliers, and more through autonomous technology.

Some of the key technologies that enable this include:

Internet of Things (IoT).
IoT is a general term referring to wireless connections between the Internet and various electronic devices and sensors.
For instance, consumers use the IoT to control their thermostats, turn off their lights, or close their garage doors from their phones

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The IIoT simply refers to the IoT as it applies to manufacturing. It specifically involves connections between the Internet and sensors or manufacturing equipment in a production facility.

Cyber-physical systems (CPS).
A CPS is a collection of fabrication tools integrated with Industry 4.0 technology. A whole facility might constitute one large cyber-physical system. These systems are typically connected via the IIoT and offer constant, real-time data collection.

Cloud computing.
Cloud computing pushes data storage, management, and processing to remote Internet servers. These servers are interconnected and accessible 24/7, facilitating Industry 4.0 data-driven processes.

Artificial intelligence (AI).
AI is a broad term that encompasses any application in which a computer mimics human decision-making or analysis skills

Cognitive computing.
Cognitive computing is advanced AI for complex or ambiguous situations. This computing often uses pattern recognition to aid, rather than replace, human decision-making.

An integrated approach with IIoT technology is commonly referred to as Industry 4.0 smart manufacturing (SM), utilized by smart factories.

Advantages & Challenges of Adapting Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is considered a revolution for a reason. Reimagining how we interact with manufacturing equipment promises significant changes.

Advantages Disadvantages
Productivity. Industry 4.0 tools allow facilities to optimize daily processes, maintenance schedules, and more. With smart manufacturing, the same equipment and materials can be more productive thanks to data-driven resource utilization.

Cost-efficiency. Smart factories derive cost savings from faster production speeds, better resource use, and lower defect rates. 

Collaboration. Industry 4.0 relies on data sharing within and between departments, promoting a more collaborative environment. Combining IIoT with cloud computing makes data immediately available to company decision-makers.

Growth. Industry 4.0’s emphasis on data gives managers a wealth of insights, including data trends, to proactively drive efficiency, profitability and, ultimately, growth.

Together, these benefits put smart factories at a major competitive advantage compared to those running 3.0 technology.

Upfront investment. Smart manufacturing requires a robust infrastructure, including modern equipment and reliable cloud storage. Depending on a facility’s current capabilities, upgrading typically requires a significant upfront investment.

Training & skill requirements. Simply having the right equipment means nothing if employees don’t know how to use it.Adopting Industry 4.0 requires retraining employees, rewriting protocols, and accepting a slowdown as technicians adapt to new processes.

Data growth. The strength of Industry 4.0 lies in its use of data. However, the initial influx of data can be overwhelming if companies are not prepared. It’s important to develop a robust data management strategy that can handle many streams of input while still flagging what’s most important.

Cybersecurity & data sensitivity. While high interconnectivity is critical for data sharing and Industry 4.0 automation, it also means that a single cyberattack could impact an entire facility, which is particularly worrisome for supply chains within industrial sectors like aerospace, automotive, military, and medical. New cybersecurity strategies are necessary to protect physical equipment and stored data.

While manufacturers don’t realize benefits until they’ve made significant investments in both equipment and training, the advantages of smart manufacturing outweigh the costs for many, and also highlight the importance of having talented teams and thorough transition plans.

How Industry 4.0 & Automation Are Impacting the Machining Industry

Like the broader manufacturing industry, the machining sector is shifting toward interconnected, data-driven Industry 4.0. Smart manufacturing techniques help operations such as the CNC machining industry run machinery for longer with less supervision, all while producing high-quality components through:

  • Continuous production. Effective material and labor forecasting lessens the risk of shortages. Also, automation combined with continuous data streaming allows machines to run autonomously while still alerting managers to potential problems, with time-saving techniques like lights-out machining increasing productivity and shortening turn times. Staff can track tooling wear and usage data, tapping into enterprise resource planning (ERP), a quality management system (QMS), and customer resource management (CRM) to reduce unscheduled downtime.
  • Equipment interactions. If smart machines don’t take the place of older equipment outright, they can often sync with current systems. Also, human workers can interact with automated equipment remotely or on-site to create a fully functioning, efficient workspace.
  • Quality monitoring. The IIoT provides a continuous stream of up-to-date data about machine status and product quality. With constant monitoring, it’s possible to achieve excellent repeatability with low error rates.
  • Resource cost-efficiency. Another benefit of constant data collection is that it provides actionable insights about energy and resource use. This information helps managers identify and resolve inefficiencies, keeping operational costs down. Also, real-time order status data helps customer service teams give accurate timing information to customers or finishing service.

More information about IIOT and the precision machining industry can be found here.

Creating a Smart Factory at Pioneer Service

Pioneer’s transition to 4.0 is firmly underway, in keeping with our forward-thinking approach to machining technology. Our CNC machines will incorporate new IIoT technology through connections to ERP and QMS. This shift has already improved our ability to make decisions with up-to-the-minute data, even as we work toward the ultimate goal of fully integrating all shop machines with resource and quality management systems.

As we work on network upgrades to support this initiative, we continue to invest in training so team members will be ready to begin immediately when the servers are ready. Our engineering, operations, quality, and tooling teams have already embraced the possibilities that Industry 4.0 can offer. We are also keeping cybersecurity at the forefront to proactively manage data protection.

Contact us at Pioneer Service

Industry-Leading Precision Parts by Pioneer Service.

swiss machining process

Pioneer believes that a continuous investment in the best technology and training is paramount to running a successful operation. Our move to 4.0 builds on our existing automation capabilities, which include extensive experience with CNC set-up and programming.

For the past three years, we’ve worked to integrate smart manufacturing into our facilities, but we’ve been at the cutting-edge of machining for over three decades, delivering top-quality precision parts to companies from diverse industries. Our flexible processes allow us to adapt quickly to new products and achieve unique technical requirements.

To learn more about our ongoing commitment to excellence, contact Pioneer Service today.