For the manufacturing sector, each industrial revolution has been driven by significant advances in technology. Whilst we sit on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, known as Industry 4.0, the likes of cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things and robots have been crowned the future of smart factories. But is anyone able to map out the next industrial revolution with any certainty?
In a series of articles, INSPHERE is examining whether revolutions can indeed be mapped out in advance, and whether history and current state-of-the-art can really guide us to predict what prospects lie around the corner – the trouble with predictions is that they can sometimes be wrong.
A Failing Technology Push
Indisputably launched, Industry 4.0 may be a genuinely transformative event that already has many champions. The Made Smarter review is testament to this and there is a strong emphasis UK wide, to drive the adoption of technology and digital manufacturing which is seen as a way to bring Industry 4.0 into our factories. And yes, there are definitely ways in which cutting-edge technology might be better adopted, but it is misguided to simply push technology in place of implementing purposeful philosophies.
Companies such as INSPHERE often talk of data-driven manufacture and like other leaders in the industry, consider metrology data to be a key enabler for smart manufacturing. Data is at the heart of Industry 4.0 and it is only by driving our processes with robust and effective data that organisations will be able to deliver factories that will meet the demands to be more efficient, more productive and less wasteful. Questioning how purposeful data can be generated, which can then provide informed, predictive maintenance or performance data with deeper insight, is equally, if not more important than considering the future of the technology used to deliver it.
A Pull to De-skill and Increase Capability
With the rise of automation and digital capabilities, many proponents of Industry 4.0 talk of their concerns regarding the investment needed to upskill a workforce. However, as technology advances are pushed forward, looking at opportunities where it is possible to de-skill the work and not the workforce may allow an organisation to increase its capacity in a more innovative way, without also diminishing the role or presence of shop floor workers.
That said all stakeholders working in the manufacturing sector, from inspection and test engineers, shop floor team leaders, quality managers and even the designers working away from all the action need to have the same fundamental knowledge – this includes dimensional measurement and value-added metrology principles.
Furthermore, for the shop floor populated by machine operators and manual workers, replacing them with a robot isn’t quite as straight forward as we are led to believe. It takes significant investments in time, people, their skills and high capital costs, to shift decades of the status-quo. So, what are the alternatives?
The stakeholder pull to increase manufacturing productivity and profitability is un-relenting. It will not be achieved by simply adopting new technologies and providing a workforce with the skills to operate them correctly. The industry needs solutions that are based on experience and expertise with an implicit understanding of the entire manufacturing landscape.
In many ways, experts such as INSPHERE have long been practicing the fundamental philosophies of Industry 4.0. Through their own value-added approach implemented at each level of the manufacturing cycle, the company have a proven track record for achieving huge cost savings and improved process control for clients that are leaders in the aerospace, automotive, civil-nuclear, and oil and gas sectors.
INSPHERE are bringing a disruptive portfolio of product solutions to market and inaugurally launched BASELINE at the Nuclear AMRC in March, this year. Although an integral part of the system’s function, BASELINE was not designed to force adoption but instead use proven laser tracker technology as a way to facilitate implementing data-driven and Industry 4.0 manufacture on the shop floor. The metrology solution delivers rapid, machine tool verification in as little as one hour and can be commissioned for state-of-the-art or legacy machines. In addition, BASELINE de-skills the work involved in machine tool verification and empowers the machine operators with the capability and added responsibility to be able to manage these tools without the need for specialist metrology expertise. With an easy-to-use software interface, rapid checks are performed with single-button execution.
It is emerging product solutions like BASELINE which are revolutionising a change in current manufacturing practices by implementing data-driven philosophies and increasing the capability of a workforce that will drive the Fourth Industrial Revolution.