This year, manufacturing challenges and weak spots in the supply chain have been pushed to the forefront. Maintaining a resilient workforce in the face of changing times, operating manufacturing facilities while achieving compliance with government mandates, and getting goods to market with transportation shortages have all challenged companies that manufacture consumer goods, especially high-tech items. More specifically, manufacturing constraints, import restrictions and increased electronics demand from students and virtual workers have combined to create a shortage in PCs and laptop computers during this challenging time. Dell, HP, and Lenovo have said that they are facing a collective shortage of five million laptops.
Industry 4.0 offers the potential to solve these challenges and set the high tech industry up for success no matter what the future has in store.
What is Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0, also sometimes called the fourth industrial revolution, refers to the increasing use of automation and artificial intelligence in manufacturing. This includes robotics, machine-to-machine communication and IoT (the internet of things). The first appeared in 2011 in Germany and was presented as a set of standards to the German government the following years. For there, the concept of industry 4.0 swept across the globe and has become more viable than ever before. However, adoption of Industry 4.0 is not universal or uniform across all industries.
Solving the Challenges that Face High Tech Companies
There are three major trends shaping the High Tech Industry in the coming years that will impact operations and further increase the opportunity for Industry 4.0 to become a key value driver and strategy to gain competitive advantage:
- By delivering customized solutions with shorter product technology life cycles,
High tech companies are transforming from selling products to selling solutions. High tech leaders are gradually moving toward becoming outcome providers. This means they will now provide their customers with bundled hardware, software, and services—giving customers more flexibility to better meet the needs of the end consumer.
- By meeting higher demand with consistent quality throughout the supply chain.
With increasing customer demand for tailor-made products and solutions, product innovations will need to dynamically adapt to market, consumer, usage, and environmental needs. This increases costs and complexity in supply chains, highlighting the need for technologies like IoT and robotic process automation.
- By developing more resource-efficient and economical
product innovations, a growing number of product mixes will emerge. As a result, environmental & safety regulations will increase the complexity in manufacturing. Under these circumstances there will be increasing pressure to reduce manufacturing costs while maintaining high quality, efficiency and an environmental consciousness.
To achieve these outcomes, SAP believes there are four basic tenets to Industry 4.0:
- Intelligent products that are built and configured to meet exactly what customers need;
- Intelligent factories that use data and intelligence to run as autonomously as possible and deliver customized products at scale;
- Intelligent assets that are linked to all processes and are dynamically maintained;
- Empowered people who are equipped with all the tools and information they need to do their best work.
Industry 4.0 for Life-Saving Devices
Industry 4.0 is not just a hot buzzword, but leading high tech manufacturers are already using this strategy to increase production volume and overall equipment efficiency.
Varian Medical is a leading manufacturer of radiation therapy equipment. The company provides thousands of systems to hospitals and medical centers around the world that are used to treat thousands of patients every day. Their challenge was that radiation therapy technology is advancing rapidly and the demand is very high. This makes quickly incorporating new product developments into production very difficult. The company wanted to reduce time to market for new products, but the use of paper in its development processes was a serious impediment.
To help solve their issues, Varian digitized their design and manufacturing processes. Using an intelligent platform that paired with advanced technologies, the company unified disparate systems used throughout its product development community around a single, trusted source of truth with a goal of making relevant information available to decision makers at all levels without any delay.
These solutions automated process control and enforcement, exchanged data between the shop floor and core SAP software, automated data collection, and provided real-time device history records, eliminating all of those inefficient paper records.
Additionally, data integration provided a structured way to track time and materials with greater granularity than ever before and is used to compare actuals against plan for better forecasting and reporting.
To learn more about how Industry 4.0 and SAP can help your company meet the challenges of this new manufacturing reality, please visit our Industry 4.Now landing page at sap.com