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.

Read more on Forbes.com

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.

Read more on Forbes.com

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.

Read more on Forbes.com

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 Forbes.com 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

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.

Read more on Forbes.com

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.”

Read more on Forbes.com

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

How Industry 4.0 Will Change Product Quality

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One of the strongest contributors to the sustainable growth of a company is how well it can retain its customers. With customer acquisition costs ranging from a couple dollars to hundreds of dollars, it’s especially important for businesses to maximize the lifetime value they get from each customer. Thus, retention should be a business’ main focus when tackling long-term growth. Sustainable growth calls for an emphasis on customer satisfaction, and therefore, high product quality.

For companies that ship physical goods to their customers, product quality depends highly on their manufacturer partners. Poor product quality results in low customer satisfaction, refunds and returns, dissolved partnerships with distributors, and an overall nightmare for manufacturers. How do manufacturers swiftly detect and prevent product quality failure in their factories? This is where Industry 4.0 technology comes in.

In present-day manufacturing, plant managers experience challenges in detecting where production failure is taking place and may spend days or even weeks tracking down exactly which line is underperforming. One underperforming machine in a factory could result in hundreds of defective units and tension between manufacturers and customers.

Industry 4.0 advancement is meant to help manufacturers prevent product quality failure wherever possible. With the combination of articulate, data tracking IoT devices, analytics platforms, and cloud computing, plant managers, engineers, and supervisors can attain actionable and specific information about what’s happening in their factory at any given time.

How? Let’s talk about how Industry 4.0 technology helps prevent things like this from happening at your factory.

IoT – Real-Time Data Gathering

The backbone of Industry 4.0 technology consists of the IoT devices that are constantly gathering data from the machines and sensors they’re installed on. Most of these devices are installed in machines on a production line, where they will gather a multitude of data points such as time, speed, temperature, rates of production, product ID numbers, etc.

These data points are constantly gathered and sent to a secure, cloud database, housing every aggregate piece of information collected from that machine, in perpetuity. Since the value of data appreciates as more of it is gathered, using 3rd party services such as Oden, which stores unlimited data indefinitely, is a valuable investment that will help manufacturers compare and analyze production over longer periods of time.

Analytics – Clear & Actionable Data Insights

Industry 4.0 technology is providing a new wave of clearer and more concise data analytics platforms to complement its big data counterpart. Data is useless without the correct analytics tools to process that data, detect trends, and draw actionable insights from.

For example, if a plant manager needed to track where there a production line failure occurred, they could use an analytics platform to understand why it failed. Using Oden’s platform, manufacturers can track the exact time a particular faulty product was run, which machine is responsible for the particular failure, and all the performance metrics associated with that machine.

In the past, it could take plants hours, days, or even weeks to aggregate all the necessary information to track production line failure. Assuming plant employees are using a user-friendly platform like Oden’s, they can shorten this production line analysis time to mere minutes.

Cloud Computing – Flexible Monitoring

Since Industry 4.0 depends heavily on the power and scale of cloud computing, the technology allows every person in a factory (not just the managers or engineers) to have data at their fingertips. Data will no longer need to be stored locally in a factory’s network, with rising costs. It is already commonplace for advanced manufacturers to have access to their factory’s information, wherever they would like, through cloud storage.

In addition to the “big players” in a factory, employees down the authority ladder can also be granted limited access to information relevant and necessary to their particular daily tasks and job. This democratized data will give team members the ability to make actionable and swift decisions in response to real-time stimuli. The typical “top-down” methodology of information will soon become outdated as Industry 4.0 technology becomes mainstream.

To a manufacturer, maintaining product quality means everything. Your reputation depends on it! Often times it could be one of the biggest challenges as a manufacturer. Luckily, different technologies, like the ones listed above will change the way entire factories are managed. The best part is that this smart factory technology isn’t something that factory owners hope becomes mainstream in the next decade– it’s already possible to integrate this technology today. Oden’s IIoT platform offers everything discussed in this blog. Don’t wait to start collecting data today.

Industry 4.0 Misconceptions Debunked

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In the world of manufacturing, there is plenty of skepticism surrounding Industry 4.0 technology. Will it live up to the hype? Is it too early to consider? Is the manufacturing industry really moving in this direction? As with any cryptic subject, there is also a list of misconceptions that arise due to skepticism. We feel that it’s time to address the objections to adopting advanced technology in manufacturing. Let’s talk about a couple Industry 4.0 misconceptions.

 

 

Misconception 1: “I should wait to start investing in Industry 4.0.”

 

This very well might be the most common misconception that manufacturers have about Industry 4.0. When any innovative technology is in its early stages, only a few invest in the technology before it becomes popular. These are known as the early adopters.

As with any investment, it’s only worth time and effort if the ultimate ROI is significant. Industry 4.0 is no different. What makes Industry 4.0 especially compelling for manufacturers is the value that data accumulates brings to a factory in the long-term. Data is the only asset that is guaranteed to appreciate over time. Since big data and data analytics are the backbones of Industry 4.0 technology, it’s especially beneficial for manufacturers to start investing today.

Why?

Because it can take a long time to create a full-fledged smart factory. In competitive markets like manufacturing, it’s vital to have the foresight to adopt new technology that will keep you ahead of your competition. By integrating smart factory technology and simultaneously adjusting your operations from the insights gleaned from those solutions, early adopters of Industry 4.0 technology will gain the competitive advantage over those who play ‘wait and see’.

Misconception 2: “It’s not worth making the difficult transition into smart manufacturing.”

 

Contrary to popular belief, taking the first steps to building a smart factory don’t have to be a painful, headache-filled process. With services like Oden, which makes data collection and hardware tech integration easy for manufacturers pressured to digitize, it’s become easier than ever to make the move.

When most people hear “Industry 4.0” or “smart factory” they picture an extremely expensive, entirely automated factory filled with machine-learning robots working 24/7. In reality, a smart factory can be achieved by simply connecting your existing equipment to IoT devices that capture data and installing software that provides analytics that shorten your time to resolution and production improvement.

If you implement Industry 4.0 technology today, you’ll benefit from it in both the short term, by making immediate production improvements, as well as in the future, when you are ready to adopt more technology into your factory. Manufacturers who start data collection now will also benefit from having years of data to train machine learning models on to make better, more informed decisions.

Misconception 3: “Industry 4.0 isn’t happening anytime soon.”

 

This simply isn’t true. In fact, PwC recently did a thorough study on Industry 4.0, in a global perspective, and published their findings in a 30+ page analysis. The PwC study even shows that 83% of manufacturers, in various industries and countries, believe that data analysis will become important to their operations by 2021. In fact, even General Motors, one of the dominating manufacturers in the automotive industry, has made moves to integrate data gathering systems into their operations. If that’s not enough proof that Industry 4.0 is coming to fruition, Oden is living, breathing proof that the manufacturing industry is leading the pack of Industry 4.0’s exponential growth.

Misconception 4: “It is difficult to learn about Industry 4.0.”

This one definitely has some merit to it. There are few resources circulating in the world of manufacturing that provide clear and concise information about Industry 4.0, which is the exact reason why we produce that content.

We’re trying to increase Industry 4.0 literacy through our weekly content because we believe that manufacturers looking to digitize shouldn’t be left in the dust of technological innovation. We want to provide the resources that will help them learn why the journey to digital manufacturing is important, inevitable, and easy to start today.


 

The path to maintaining technology advancement within a factory doesn’t have to be difficult for plant managers. Services like Oden are aiming to erase misconceptions about Industry 4.0, especially the misconception that transitioning to a smart factory isn’t worth the investment.

connected factory IoT sensors

Industry 4.0 In-Depth: Sensors and IIoT

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connected factory IoT sensors

As Industry 4.0 technology increases in popularity, it’s vital that manufacturers understand the terms associated with it. However, vocabulary is only the tip of the iceberg. For any individual who wants to get ahead of the competition in their space, having a clear understanding of the technology they’re working with is just as fundamental. This is especially true for manufacturers who feel pressure to digitize. The Industry 4.0 space is a fairly complicated realm that involves a series of different, separate technologies coming together to build one aggregate system.

One way to think about Industry 4.0 smart factories is to view it as any other complex machine. Let’s use a computer as an example. Computers aren’t a single technology. Computers are the aggregate product of various different pieces of hardware like CPUs, GPUs, SSDs, and countless other elements. Industry 4.0 smart factories, like computers, aren’t a single piece of hardware– smart factories are the product of multiple components that are integrated together to build an efficient system.

Today, we’ll be talking about IoT and sensors, one of the most important terms to understand for manufacturers who aim to build a smart factory. Machine sensors aren’t anything new, but the development of devices that can extract information from these sensors is garnering a new age of information distribution and empowered decision making. In fact, Mark Cuban, a prolific investor in technology, says that sensors are indeed the future. Excited about IoT and sensors yet? We’ll break it down for you.

IoT and Sensors– What Are They?

 

IoT sensorsThe IoT (Internet of Things) is a term used to describe the collective number of hardware in the world that gathers data and is connected to some form of internet connection. A great way to think about the IoT is to imagine it like a giant web of devices that gather information and sometimes share that information with each other (depending on who owns them). Some of the devices in the IoT are cell-phones, laptops, and other devices that are commonly associated with the internet. However, sensors that exist within or added to factory equipment, make up 8+ billion of the IoT volume.

It is the adoption of smart devices, which extract the data from sensors, and gather the process metrics and calculate insights, that really provides the power in Industrial IoT. Industry 4.0 technology has become more useful and practical for manufacturers to leverage. Since smart devices gather various data points (temperature, humidity, production speed, etc.) they are especially important to engineers and operators. Advanced devices that calculate metrics, such as OEE and scrap, are the key to providing actionable information to the plant managers and executives of smart factories.

How do sensors and IoT relate to Industry 4.0?

sensors the cloud IoTMachine sensors connected to smart devices, in conjunction with the cloud, make up the IoT and serve as the backbone of Industry 4.0 technology. Everything starts with sensors, but without devices to gather information from wherever they’re placed, nothing else will work.

The long-term consequence that manufacturers who fail to digitize will face is the technical expenses they’ll incur by not integrating smart devices into their machines. It’s important to start as soon as possible. Rather than trying to retrofit their existing machines for PLCs and SCADA systems, or buying expensive new equipment, it’s more effective to invest in smart technology that can easily gather data from your existing machine sensors without additional upgrade expenses.

In the near future, at the peak of Industry 4.0 adoption, while every other manufacturer struggles to catch up, manufacturers who digitize today will be ahead in three ways.

  1. Early adopters will have more data to work off of and can make more informed decisions.
  2. The technology is already integrated into their operations. Early adopters will be able to leverage the technology better and more effectively than newbies.
  3. Since data is an asset that appreciates with time, they will have the benefit of compound interest. The more data a factory has accumulated, the better.

Why should manufacturers invest in Industry 4.0 technology today?

While it may seem burdensome for manufacturers to install smart devices into their already-functioning factory, they should invest in the long-term and start today. Eventually, all manufacturers will need to integrate this hardware into their factory because if they don’t, they will be at a heavy disadvantage against their competition.

Blockbuster didn’t see value in video-streaming on the Internet in 1990’s. On September 23, 2010, Blockbuster filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, having incurred $900 million in debt and outperformed by on-demand video streaming services. The same could easily happen to manufacturers who sit by idly while their competitors invest in the future (Industry 4.0 technology) and bring the smart devices to their factories. The solution? Become an early adopter.