The Key to Understanding Industry 4.0: Show, Don’t Tell!


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Matties: In planning, it's really the first 15% that's the most critical, because if you get that wrong, everything is wrong. When people are planning, is it best for them to really focus on that first 15%?

Ford: It is important; if you have a mistake or a problem with that first 15%, that's what's going to kill your whole schedule. You've got to make sure that's right, so from that perspective, absolutely. We like to keep the factory going absolutely flat-out for the entire time though.

The most confusing thing that we see at the show at this time is everybody's displaying Industry 4.0 banners. Of course, machine vendors have to do this because nobody's going to buy anything today unless it's future-proof, and future-proof means being Industry 4.0 compatible. What we're saying is that you do not need to blow tens of millions of euros on replacing all of your machines in order to achieve Industry 4.0. Actually, you can implement software. Industry 4.0 is actually a software solution. We can communicate with all existing machines. For a fraction of what you would spend on new hardware, you can get all of the benefits of Industry 4.0.

Matties: It's just a different perspective.

Ford: It's exactly a different perspective. The clue's in the title: computerization. Automation was Industry 3.0. That's on the record, you know?

Matties: When we look at the recent issues that we've just done, that's exactly what it's all about.

Ford: It's amazing actually what can be done. We see a lot of resistance to embracing change; I guess it's momentum in the industry, where people have been using the same ERP systems, MES systems, machine lines and layouts, and programming practices that have been in place now for many, many years. People don't want to change them because they know that if they make a change, they introduce risk. They need to re-qualify everything. They need to investigate the effect that it has on quality. You know what? Industry 4.0 is so compelling however because that increase of productivity by 30 or 50% is so compelling. Being able to respond to the customer almost immediately. Eliminating all of your warehouses full of products that are costing investment and depreciating in value. That is so compelling, you've got to make the change.

Matties: You have to. That's the only way you're going to stay in business, ultimately.

Ford: This is it. There will be people who are on the leading edge who will start to do this and who are now making the change.

Matties: And they can sell for lower, or have more resources at the end of the day.

Ford: It's not what you do, it's how you do it. If you are there planning it out, making sure you've got the right tools to do the right things to achieve your business objectives, that's the power that gets you there successfully. Industry 4.0 is a business initiative. It's not a technical initiative. It's not just a Kaizen project to improve quality on an SMT line. It's not that. That can be included, but the focus is ultimately on delivery flexibility to the customer demand—it's a business point of view. Delivery of products to customers at the right time at a reduced price.

Matties: For the lowest cost possible.

Ford: Exactly.

Matties: What's your background, Michael?

Ford: My background is first of all in electronics, so I understand what goes on with circuit boards. Then I started in manufacturing in the mid ‘80s, specifically to support information flow within manufacturing between test and assembly, programming of SMT. I started out as a programmer, and I moved on to become an architect of computer systems solutions, and now I try to explain to people the merits of the different solution approaches that are out there.

Matties: We appreciate that and I greatly appreciate your contributions monthly.

Ford: You're very welcome.

Matties: They're highly read and they're always wonderful.

Ford: Excellent. It's great to hear that.

Matties: Good, thanks for sharing this today. This is wonderful. What a great way to depict what you're talking about because people can really understand what they're seeing here and relate to it when the cars are crashing.

Ford: It's a bit of fun, isn't it? Otherwise, when you start talking about Industry 4.0, peoples' eyes start glazing over.

Matties: Clever. Thank you very much, Michael.

Ford: You're very welcome.

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