Forbes: Human-Technology Symbiosis in Manufacturing: Changing the Discussion About Automation and Workforce

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Part 2 in a two-part series exploring the less tangible benefits of Industry 4.0.

Will technology help or replace workers?

The debate within manufacturing about whether technology will completely replace people is interesting, but it’s the wrong debate to be having. Technology is changing the workforce, it’s a fact, and it has eliminated low-skilled manufacturing jobs in the past; but it’s not as black-and-white as most arguments suggest.

Rather, the discussion should be about the concept of human-machine (or man-computer) symbiosis, the mutually beneficial relationship between humans and technology, and how machines and software can intelligently and physically increase the productivity of the systems to be more than that of human or machine alone.


Forbes: How Industry 4.0 Helps Manufacturers Solve Workforce Challenges

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Part 1 in a two-part series exploring the less tangible benefits of Industry 4.0.

Stuck between a soon-to-be retired workforce and a cohort of young engineers and operators with comparatively less experience, manufacturers are in a bind. They have job openings, but can’t find qualified people to fill them.

While the general public believes that all of the manufacturing jobs are going away, unemployment figures tell a different story. Since 2011, manufacturing unemployment has been lower than overall unemployment, sometimes by wide margins.

Exacerbating the issue is the skills gap, which means the jobs that employers need filled require skills that most of the unemployment pool doesn’t have. Manufacturers need highly skilled engineers and machine operators, but often times it’s those without this required skill set that are looking for work.

The result is that almost every factory I visit has open engineering positions and is struggling to run their business with a workforce that’s smaller than ideal.

One of the solutions to this conundrum is technology.


Forbes: ‘Machines As A Service’: Industry 4.0 Powers OEM Aftermarket Revenue Growth

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Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are no strangers to boom or bust sales cycles. Traditionally, they’re either ramping up production to meet demand or seeking ways to slash costs when sales are down.

But Industry 4.0, or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), is enabling new sales models that generate more consistent revenue streams for OEMs. There are considerable benefits for forward-thinking manufacturers that transition from selling a product to offering, “machines as a service.” Rather than relying on a one-time sale, they’re charging customers based on machine use and service.

Machines as a service can revolutionize the way OEMs design, sell and service products. It will be a win-win for OEMs and their customers, as both partners benefit from increased predictability.


Oden Talks Industry 4.0 in Wire Journal International

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I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Wire Journal International on the increased adoption of Industry 4.0 and how more manufacturers are embracing digital transformation and analytics.

Below is an excerpt from the feature.


How has your activity in Industry 4.0 most changed since the 2016 report?

In 2016 it felt like we had to do a lot of education and evangelization about Industry 4.0, but now we don’t have to introduce the topic anymore. Our company, Oden Technologies, and client base has grown exponentially, and we’re seeing bigger audiences at our speaking engagements and webinars. However, the one thing I’m very excited by is that we’re moving deeper and deeper in the Industry 4.0 technology to deliver more value. We’ve hired a VP of Data Science, Deepak Turaga, who led IBM’s AI and Machine Learning group so we can move further and truly deliver on the promise of Industry 4.0 with predictive quality and predictive maintenance.

Other industries and media, outside of manufacturing, are catching on to the potential of Industry 4.0. I’ve been asked to be a contributor to on the future of manufacturing and Industry 4.0. Additionally, we just closed a new round of funding with Atomico, and throughout the process we saw just how much venture capitalists and large financial institutions are seeing the tremendous value data analytics can provide manufacturers.

Read the Full Feature

Why IIoT is Essential for Every Factory

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Enterprise-grade connected technology associated with the ever-expanding internet of things has continued to expand its reach. The latest iteration of IoT has hit manufacturing in the form of the Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT, allowing workers to harness the power of the internet to streamline and strengthen production processes and more effectively meet consumer demands.

On paper, IIoT seems like the technology poised to drive innovation in manufacturing – and industrial organizations are following this thread in their investments. Enterprise IoT spending is expected to surpass $772 billion in 2018 and reach $1 trillion by 2021.

That said, for IIoT to be a sustainable solution, upgrading manufacturing technology needs to be more than just “keeping up with the Joneses.” The question then becomes: Is IIoT an operational necessity or just a flashy add-on?  Manufacturers and other industrial firms need to look clearly at their existing technology and determine where IIoT can translate to substantial – critical – improvements.


Human and automation symbiosis

Businesses in the manufacturing space are among the most enthusiastic adopters of IIoT technology, accounting for $189 billion in investments related to these cutting-edge assets in 2018. An estimated 38 percent of factories are already leveraging IIoT processes. As a result, you see some of the most mature IIoT workflows in this space – warehouses and production facilities where man, machine and advanced data analytics are working in harmony to achieve incredible results.

Perhaps one of the most prominent examples of IIoT at work is taking place at one of the world’s most successful companies: Amazon. In what MIT dubbed a “human-robot symbiosis,” Amazon has transformed their warehousing and fulfillment centers through the deployment of automation, allowing for the company to cut operating costs by 20 percent.

What makes the Amazon deployment so novel is that IIoT is being viewed as an enhancement of industrial processes rather than a replacement for human labor.

“It’s a natural outgrowth of efforts to harness cheap computing power to make robots more collaborative,” Wily Shih, a professor at Harvard Business School who studies manufacturing, said at the time.

Smaller companies have similarly employed IIoT to improve operations in their facilities. Robotics maker Fanuc, for instance, sought to address the issue of downtime by employing a cloud-based analytics software that would predict imminent component failures and flag for maintenance. The Zero Downtime system Fanuc pioneered ultimately resulted in the company being awarded GM’s prestigious Supplier of the Year Innovation Award in 2016.


250% increase in productivity with automation

Smart factories represent the pinnacle of IIoT technology and early facilities, such as those discussed above, have revealed that connected industrial-devices, deployed at scale can have an immense impact on the shop floor. This is why an estimated 76 percent of manufacturers worldwide are developing these advanced sites. In fact, almost 60 percent of the industry have $100 million or more invested in these efforts.

Embarking on the IIoT journey: Where to start

As both of these use cases show, IIoT is more than just a flashy add-on to existing workflows. It’s hard to argue with the ability to seamlessly turn digital designs into reality via automated production lines or a whopping 250 percent increase in productivity.

Manufacturers that have yet to roll out concrete IIoT development plans should certainly consider doing so quickly, as it seems that this technology may soon drive the industry. Still, this can be an intimidating undertaking. Even smaller scale IIoT deployments have lots of moving parts – literally and figuratively – that even the most advanced internal IT teams might struggle to juggle without external assistance and guidance. Even worse, some some manufacturers may not even know where to start with their needed upgrades.  

This is why we built Oden Technologies: to assist manufacturers that want to embrace IIoT technology, but aren’t sure where and how to begin. Our hardware and software solutions allow manufacturers to collect actionable shop floor data and use it to improve and streamline their production flows, thereby building the data-backed foundation needed to move into more advanced IIoT deployments.

Connect with us today to learn more about how our technology can future-proof your manufacturing operation.

Let’s Meet! Oden Fall 2018 Events Calendar

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Have questions about Oden Technologies, our Industrial IoT platform, or production data and analytics in general? Stop by our booths or presentations at any of the following events, to get answers and meet the Oden team.

Request a meeting and a member of our team will get back to you.

Meet the Team

Extrusion Conference 2018

September 18-20, 2018 — Cleveland, Ohio
Exhibiting: Booth 415
Speaking: Thursday, September 20: “Gaining a Competitive Advantage from Industry 4.0”

Attending Extrusion 2018? Book a meeting with an Oden representative here.

IWCS 2018 International Cable & Connectivity Symposium

October 14-17, 2018 — Providence, Rhode Island
Exhibiting: Booth 303
Speaking: Monday, October 15, “New Product Presentations”

Attending IWCS 2018? Book a meeting with an Oden representative here.

The IOT Solutions World Congress

October 16-18, 2018 — Barcelona, Spain
Speaking: Wednesday, October, 17: “How to Survive Machine Automation and Attract New Skilled Workers” 

Attending The IOT Solutions World Congress? Book a meeting with an Oden representative here.

Plastics News Financial Summit

October 24, 2018 — Chicago, Illinois
Speaking: Wednesday, October 24: “Game Changing Panel: The Future of Plastics in Key End Market”

Global Plastics Summit 2018

2018 Data Analytics Partner

October 30-November 1, 2018 — Chicago, Illinois
Speaking: Thursday, November 1: “Game Changing Panel: The Future of Plastics in Key End Market”

Attending Global Plastics Summit 2018? Book a meeting with an Oden representative here.

Forbes: ‘What’s At Stake In The Race To Industry 4.0?’

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What’s At Stake In The Race To Industry 4.0?


To put it simply, the answer is that the future of your business is at stake. But most executives will see that answer as too simple or abstract, if not too glib.

To truly understand the risks and rewards of being among your industry’s leaders during this transformation, bring the debate down to earth. Consider one of the fundamental issues you deal with every day: the cost of poor quality and the cost of downtime.


Understanding the State of Digital Transformation Technology

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Digital transformation, particularly within manufacturing, assumed its place as the driving force behind industry innovation. An estimated 42 percent of CEOs worldwide have greenlit such programs, according to Gartner. Manufacturers are, of course, have enthusiastically taken part in the gold rush and seen their efforts rewarded in critical bottom-line metrics: Decreased downtime, scaled up production, reduced costs and improved ROI.

As Industry 4.0 matures, moving forward with digital transformation becomes less about “if” and more about “when.” Firms on the outside looking in on these developments need to learn from the lessons of early adopters that have found sustainable success.


Innovation Takes Root

The first digital transformation technologies entered the mainstream in the early 2000s. Now-standard fixtures such as cloud computing services started largely as experimental early-stage digitization efforts which were eyed by many but adopted relatively slowly among manufacturers. After all, in 2004, it was hard for many industry leaders to picture how the ability to store and access data remotely would meaningfully improve manufacturing practices when much of the “innovation” seemed focused on social media and sharing media.

This changed with the growth of formalized cloud offerings and the rise of the internet of things. Suddenly, the digital transformation wasn’t just about connecting people and exchanging ideas, but creating automated networks of technology.

Today, manufacturers are among the biggest supporters of these technologies. Connected sensors and robust back-end systems have given firms the power to streamline their operations in the age of lean manufacturing, enabling them to navigate turbulent markets and more effectively meet customer demands. One-third of modern manufacturing companies attest to managing highly digitized workflows. By 2020, that figure is expected to surpass 70 percent.

What about the businesses that haven’t yet embraced digital transformation? While seemingly inevitable, going all-in on full-scale adoption is daunting. Luckily, early adopters have essentially paved the way for deployment and their trajectory can serve as an effective roadmap.


Understanding the Transformation Roadmap: Getting It to Work for You

The most common digitization roadmap centers around technology that generates data analytics and insights.. Manufacturers pursuing this use case install connected sensors and platforms that allow them to collect and analyze shop floor insights of all kinds, from data on machine performance and wear to information on the supply chain.

Harley-Davidson was among the first enterprises to take this approach. Back in 2010, the company outfitted the 10 year-old production assets in its York, Pennsylvania plant with sensors capable of collecting key mechanical insights, including machine temperature and rate of vibration. These data points allow Harley-Davidson engineers and maintenance specialists to proactively address problematic equipment and therefore reduce downtime, while simultaneously ensuring that production lines ran at capacity.

Digitization strategies centered on supply chain integration are also common. Manufacturing firms employing this approach leverage cutting-edge online communication and data-sharing tools to craft collaborative processes that enable product design, and production teams to connect with third-party partners that provide mission-critical services. Smart warehousing technologies, advanced procurement modules, and prescriptive analytics engines drive these streamlined workflows.


Taking the First Steps

Manufacturers can learn a lot from these deployments and embark on digital transformation with a relatively clear picture of the end product. However, there are numerous pitfalls implementation teams must manage. For example, firms with aging shop-floor workers must focus on change management. Manufacturers with legacy systems will also encounter problems as modern industrial IoT assets normally do not mesh with older technologies.

That said, manufacturing firms intending to modernize cannot let these roadblocks dissuade them, for those that continue to put off digital transformation will soon find themselves unable to compete with more advanced, forward-thinking industrial players. But how can manufacturers looking to stay competitive avoid implementation pitfalls?

Industry 4.0 platforms that streamline digital transformation are the ideal solution. We created Oden to provide hardware and software for manufacturers of all sizes to launch their digitization efforts through an easy-to-install system, machine agnostic sensors, and robust in-house configuration services.

Connect with the Oden team to learn more about our software and services that have already given manufacturers the actionable insights they need to improve production.

Forbes: ‘Industry 4.0: The Journey Towards Perfect Production’

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I was thrilled when Forbes invited me to contribute to their website on the future of manufacturing. Given all the time I spend speaking to people in manufacturing about Industry 4.0, its competitive advantages, and how they can leverage their factory data to improve production, I’m excited to now share my perspective with the readers on Forbes.

Below is an excerpt from my first article in the series. Join me every other week for my take on how manufacturers should approach Industry 4.0 in addition to other challenges facing the industry.

“Manufacturers are under constant pressure. They need to decrease waste while increasing uptime, throughput and quality to continue to compete effectively. Manufacturers are no stranger to disruption either, and in recent years lean manufacturing practices and automation have applied further pressure on them, even forcing some out of the game altogether.

The next disruptive phase in manufacturing is already well underway. “Industry 4.0” builds on the previous three phases of industrialization – mechanization, mass production and controls. It’s an intelligent production environment enabled by an integrated platform of enterprise data systems, the Internet of things (IoT) and cloud computing.”


Oden Featured In Atomico’s Take on Industry 4.0, Data, AI & Robots

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Our investors at Atomico published an insightful report on the future of manufacturing. I am thrilled to see venture capitalists not only understand the value of Industry 4.0 but are investing in this technology. The future of manufacturing is bright, but the true digital transformation requires investments from many different industries to scale quickly. Reports like this prove that a broader group of people are seeing the exciting opportunities that lie in manufacturing.

In a cable manufacturing plant near Chicago’s O’Hare International airport, a few small, sleek black boxes sit discreetly, plugged into decades-old plastic extrusion machinery, silently gathering data.

Distilled down locally on each of the boxes into a smaller set of meaningful variables, the data gathered is then wirelessly streamed to a cloud-based analytics platform, so that factory staff can monitor the production process in real time and from any device.

Oden Technologies — the company behind the platform (in which Atomico has just led a $10m Series A investment) — combines industrial hardware, wireless connectivity and a sophisticated data pipeline to produce an unprecedented (in this industry) view of the factory floor and its production processes.

At this deployment, issues are caught up to 95 percent faster (i.e. in minutes or hours, versus up to weeks), cutting waste by hundreds of thousands of dollars per year per plant, while increasing output by 10–15 percent through increased steady-state line speed.

Read the Full Report