Many people are familiar with that feeling of being stuck in traffic, changing lanes, and still feeling like every other lane is moving faster than they are. It’s a sentiment shared by many of today’s manufacturers who, despite their best efforts, often feel like they’re falling behind the competition.
In today’s market, manufacturer anxiety is being exacerbated by what is known as the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), which essentially refers to the merging of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices with the current technological market. It includes factors like the Internet of Things (IoT), Digital Twins, and the convergence of Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT), all of which represent advancements that come with their own set of challenges.
For manufacturers, the biggest difference between this latest industrial revolution and the three that preceded it is speed; while those previous transformations took decades to fully materialize, changes are happening at a much faster pace now, meaning that manufacturers must adapt quickly to stay competitive.
A prime example is the rise of the so-called Smart Factory; a term that refers to the transition from traditional automation to fully connected systems that use continuous streams of data from connected operations and production to facilitate new demands. For manufactures, the Smart Factory is a double-edged sword that promises smarter, more connected products, but also unprecedented competition. The benefits can be significant – more efficient and agile systems, less production downtime, a greater ability to adjust to changes in a broader network – but late adopters will pay a price.
These changes in technology have facilitated the shift towards a more flexible, adaptive production system, but they have also made it necessary for manufacturers to make this shift, often at great cost. So what do manufacturers do to maintain or advance their position in the market? Well first they need to clearly understand the industry changes taking place.
Nothing is Constant Except Change
One key change is the arrival of the IoT, a broad term that largely refers to the number of smart, connected products now proliferating in the marketplace. This covers multiple applications from mechanical or digital machines and computing devices, to animals or even people! The main stipulation is that they are all somehow interconnected (think an electric toothbrush with Bluetooth capability that sends data on your brushing habits to your smart phone or a heart monitor that delivers life-saving data to another interconnected mobile device). All of these products represent new opportunities and new competitive challenges that OEMs need to be aware of.
The challenge of combining IT and OT is another major change that cannot be ignored. Both IT and OT are associated with hardware and software infrastructure, but while IT is dedicated to managing, tracking, and supporting business operations and information systems, OT is devoted to designing, manufacturing, and repairing products. Bringing IT and OT together has the potential to solve certain manufacturing challenges in Industry 4.0, such as minimizing production downtime, increasing yield, facilitating the use of mobile technologies, and decreasing waste. But bringing these two departments together in a typical manufacturing plant, for instance, is not an easy task and requires a specific type of expertise.
The concept of a Digital Twin represents yet another change associated with Industry 4.0, one that can be particularly instrumental in connecting industrial assets to the digital world. The concept of a Digital Twin is yet another change associated with Industry 4.0, one that can be particularly instrumental in connecting industrial assets to the digital world. A Digital Twin represents an asset, as well as a virtual model of a process, product or service. It acquires data about itself to improve and optimize its operations and maintenance, a process which has multiple benefits, including decreased downtime and increased awareness of potential problems that can then be anticipated before they occur. But again this is an advancement that can only be a benefit to manufacturers if they take advantage of the technology in a timely manner.
Superior Testing is the Key
At the heart of this technological revolution is the need for these sophisticated and connected products to work well, and work well together, which is where targeted testing becomes key. Rather than do it all themselves, manufacturers must recognize the need to partner with companies that have the level of test expertise required to navigate the new market reality, which includes extensive knowledge of Automated Testing Equipment (ATE).
Not surprisingly, Averna’s engineering expertise in building ATEs is an invaluable asset in today’s market considering the complexity of ATE integration, which includes factors like limited standards for test sequencing development, and the need for translator or connector additions to common platforms. This type of integration requires specialized knowledge in test and electronics, and often includes the need to add sensors to existing equipment and the ability to link those sensors to platforms like PTC ThingWorx in order to obtain richer information that would enable better decision making.
As a PTC ThingWorx Platinum Partner, Averna is well positioned to use this platform to assist manufacturers in their digital transformation. ThingWorx focuses on industrial innovation that allows for more control of manufacturing and test assets, and greater efficiency in terms of executing manufacturing strategies in Industry 4.0. Averna’s custom dashboard in ThingWorx, for example, provides valuable insight on manufacturing and test processes, real-time machine monitoring, information on system status, and KPI that includes first pass yield, top defects, and Takt Time, exactly the type of technical expertise that manufactures need in order to successfully navigate this latest industrial revolution.
With a strong background in manufacturing test assets, Averna is seasoned in assisting clients who want to connect their test assets to IT systems. Furthermore, by providing efficient turnkey solutions, Averna has demonstrated that it can effectively address the manufacturing needs of its customers, particularly those who want a specific type of dashboard for a particular asset. Knowing this environment well also means that Averna is skilled at pinpointing areas where assets are likely to fail.
This is the type of ROI that manufactures need in order to establish a foundation for preventative maintenance that will not only help them identify potential risks and malfunctions but keep them on pace or ideally ahead of their competition. Because in this new industrial age, it’s not so much about getting into a faster lane, it’s about discovering new and quicker paths to follow.