MiMfg Sep/Oct 2022 | Page 13

M ore manufacturers than ever are taking advantage of Industry 4.0 technologies to find solutions for some of their most stubborn challenges . From finding and retaining talent to improving machine and process quality , manufacturing leaders are seeing Industry 4.0 as a vital , long-term investment for the health of the company .

Industry 4.0 can be described as the latest evolution of manufacturing technology , utilizing concepts such as systems integration , data collection and analysis , automation , robotics and the Internet of Things ( IoT ).
Ironically , taking advantage of Industry 4.0 solutions will have a positive impact on a company ’ s most important asset — its people .
“ Industry 4.0 solutions are focused on creating improvements to some sort of process or maybe it ’ s a human improvement ,” says Troy Mohrland , Vice President at Hyperion Automation . Hyperion is a Holland-based company that provides equipment , technology and training for manufacturers looking to take the next step into Industry 4.0 .
Having been in the manufacturing automation world for over a decade , Mohrland has seen the benefits of increased automation , big data and connected systems . And , more recently he has seen the industry leverage Industry 4.0 to address the ongoing talent crisis , therefore adding even more benefit to these technology-backed solutions .
“ Of course , companies want to see the ROI of that up-front investment , but it ’ s not just the money that ’ s a positive outcome ,” says Mohrland . “ Technology can also free up people ’ s time . There ’ s really a multi-factor gain that happens .”
Using Industry 4.0 to Address the Talent Crisis
Sandalwood Engineering and Ergonomics is a company that helps manufacturers solve tough problems through data analysis and implementation of technology . Developing data-based insights into day-to-day operations has become especially important as companies are seeing more and more reductions in their workforce , according to Mike Vitek , Director of Systems Engineering at Sandalwood .
“ Many of our clients are struggling to maintain the right mix of technical talent ,” says Vitek . “ Introducing new products , or simply trying to solve normal production problems becomes a challenge when experienced resources are not available . We ’ ve found that certain Industry 4.0 solutions can provide unique insights .”
Implementing software like an Enterprise Resource Planning ( ERP ) or a Material Requirements Planning ( MRP ) system can address complex challenges on the shop floor and elsewhere in the company . But , when it comes to people , leaders need to be willing
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to try something new and embrace these kinds of creative solutions , says Vitek .
Mohrland says it often takes going through that initial project for leadership to understand the long-term value of Industry 4.0 .
“ Getting through that first project , whether that be implementing a new ERP or leveraging data to make an equipment improvement , that ’ s usually a big first step ,” says Mohrland . “ Once you do get through there , you ’ re just really opening the door to realize more efficiencies and process improvements .”
The hardest part for manufacturers right now is finding skilled labor . There are technology solutions that can help with that issue . Can we use augmented reality and virtual reality to train workers faster ?
— Mike Vitek • Sandalwood
What about training ? Training can be a huge undertaking because it takes up company resources and your people ’ s time . While vital to creating a skilled and safe workforce , it will ultimately create downtime and lost productivity if you have to pull somebody from their station for a day or more .
Vitek says we ’ ve reached a point where virtual reality ( VR ) and augmented reality ( AR ) can play a vital role in improving the quality and speed of worker training , thus having an impact on the skilled labor shortage .
“ The hardest part for manufacturers right now is finding skilled labor ,” says Vitek . “ There are technology solutions that can help with that issue . Can we use augmented reality and virtual reality to train workers faster ?”
Ultimately , the goal of Industry 4.0 is to make improvements to the human element , which is the most important asset of any manufacturing company , says Rob Simmons , Director of Business Development at Sandalwood .
“ The more advanced the application that you ’ re working with , the more you have to go beyond the technology and look at the humans involved ,” says Simmons . “ We ’ re very big proponents of creating human-centered designs and systems .”
Industry 4.0 can also be looked at as an enhancement to the workforce . Manual , repetitive jobs that can be replaced with a robot will allow you to repurpose workers for more value-based roles .
“ Nobody ’ s out there to get rid of people , it ’ s an opportunity to allow people to do something of a bigger value or to learn a new skill ,” says Mohrland .