We live in the golden age of innovation. Recent advances in digital technology make it possible for small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) to further automate their manufacturing processes. The best news is that it’s no longer a choice between cutting your production costs or improving your product quality – with the right partner you can do both at the same time. While the task of process automation has traditionally been a major challenge, new innovative software products make it easier and more affordable than ever before.
Navigating their way through all pandemic restrictions and post-Brexit effects has not been easy for SME manufacturers. The quest to help them survive the digital upheaval and thrive on a budget has led startups like IndustriGen to develop affordable automation software designed for manufacturing needs such as data collection systems for next-level visual reports, computer vision for optimal quality control or digital twins for ultimate product simulations.
What is Industry 4.0?
Automation is changing the face of manufacturing. Industry 4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution will have a huge impact on traditional manufacturing processes. SMEs that want to remain intact from the ongoing digital transformation and stand out from their competitors will eventually have to embrace new technological solutions. Emerging trends such as sustainability, innovation and data analytics are no longer just business buzzwords but real phenomena, taking place as you read this. What better time to future-proof your processes and skyrocket your business than now?
As you know, one of the key value drivers in the digital age is automation. Designed to improve existing processes, limit waste and reduce operating costs, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help manufacturers make a smooth transition to the new business environment and comply with the high standards regarding low environmental impact. Just imagine how much energy, human and financial resources are currently being wasted around the world with paper documents and reports! The best news is that despite being a setback, Covid-19 also opened the doors to innovation and new investments as it accelerated long-postponed digital transformations across manufacturing industries.
Automated Processes with a Seamless MES
To reap the benefits of digitalisation, many manufacturers turn to innovative multi-talented solutions to help them re-invent process efficiency and reduce unnecessary costs in the long turn. Manufacturing Execution Systems are a good initial step for implementing industrial automation software within a manufacturing facility. In fact, international experts predict a 30% productivity boost by 2025 thanks to Industry 4.0 related innovations.
MES can be a key component of your successful digitalisation strategy. As a technical system, MES operates at the process-related level and plays an integral part in production management as it is responsible for real-time production control. What an MES does is collect data from manufacturing processes, helps production engineers identify errors and optimise the process to save costs and increase productivity.
What can be Automated with a MES and How?
For example, let’s take a closer look at the food processing industry. The Covid-19 crisis once again highlighted the importance of this industry. Food processing faces extraordinary challenges because of the current dynamic nature of market demands. For manufacturers who maintain wider product lines, the challenge is even greater. Especially in the UK context, the pressure for an optimal production process is very high due to low end-product prices, increased quality demands and rising energy costs.
So how can a system like MES help you automate processes as a manufacturer? Essentially, every manufacturing business produces tons of data streams alongside its usual product line. In the era of digitalisation, more and more factories opt for interconnected machines that generate massive amounts of production-related data. However, this is the easy part and the more crucial aspect is how you extract meaning from this data collection. A robust MES product can be a powerful asset when you need to optimise individual machine behaviour or attain higher performance between multiple production modules.
It is a privilege to live and work in an era of abundant technological innovation and real-time analytics. With today’s advanced technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) algorithms, manufacturers can solve previously unsolvable challenges. While complex calculations run in the background, the MES visualises automated Drag and Drop reports on ongoing primary processes (e.g. sterilisation, drying, freezing and packaging), advanced performance predictions & efficient energy management. As a result, with the implementation of just one MES solution, you eliminate paper documents, optimise process monitoring and get enhanced workflow.
Elaborate Automation ≠ Expensive Software
What comes to mind when you hear manufacturing automation? The traditional way of thinking suggests long and expensive implementation timeframes. However, as it turns out, there is a smart way to design affordable powerful AI software. Affordability is also a fortunate byproduct of the combined expertise of technical talent and domain knowledge. Digital transformation is all about facilitating meaningful data insights and enabling people to collaborate efficiently and get the most of processes.
Leveraging the success stories of tech giants like Google and Amazon, the software development for a comprehensive AI-driven system applied to manufacturing becomes simpler and cheaper than expected. The reason is that ML algorithms use Deep Learning methods and Neural Networks to analyse and make sense of the incoming data. With most of the AI algorithms already available as open-source code, only the upper layers of the programme, providing it with special criteria and parameters to work with.
Future-Fit Manufacturing On Demand
Modernisation consists of consistent efforts towards process optimisation. Many UK manufacturers embrace the philosophy of continuous improvement (CI) and invest in employee training just to find out that something’s still missing. A common reason that impedes CI is the lack of timely communication of suitable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and end-goals for the workers. The usual scenario includes a visual board on sales, productivity, sick leaves etc. on a monthly basis which is a long period. The most efficient way to get relevant daily statistics & shift reports and involve more senior employees in important decision making is to trust the MES-delivered data.
The core idea of next-generation IT solutions in manufacturing is to simplify and improve existing processes, remove redundant steps and future-proof business models. Linking MES to your unique KPIs provides you with the opportunity to innovate existing processes and make them flexible and adaptive to constantly changing market conditions, including better product quality, process sustainability and shorter supply chains that cut down transportation costs and risks.