Building Blocks to Industry 4.0

Building Blocks to Industry 4.0

After decades of stagnation, it is clear that the automotive industry undergoes a significant transformation. Two mainstreams spearheading the revolution are electrification and autonomous driving. Although many people are aware of this change, since it makes quite a bit of media headlines, the requirements to produce such technological marvel are hardly underscored. As product complexity increases, it is only natural that production/manufacturing technology needs to keep up with product demands.

Industry 4.0 / smart factory / intelligent manufacturing. These interchangeable buzzwords echo often in the manufacturing landscape in recent years, and for good reasons. If realized properly, this technological evolution can be a game changer and provide a significant competitive advantage. The ability to interconnect, trace, and track both products and production data opens up a new world of possibility to perform the next step of analytics and optimization. This provides levers to drive actionable items that result in increase of overall efficiency, quality, and reliability.

To stay ahead of competitions, many industry leaders scramble to prepare their business to embark on Industry 4.0 journey. 

However, with such a broad range of topics, many businesses encountered the same pitfalls without a carefully planned strategic implementation.One of the building blocks of Industry 4.0 is Manufacturing Execution System (MES). Depending on the size of the business and the approach taken, implementing an MES solution presents its own unique challenges. In this article, we will focus more on the challenges and mitigation strategy of the Brownfield approach.

If realized properly, this technological evolution can be a game changer and provide a significant competitive advantage

 For many industry giants, taking the Brownfield approach presents a more organic way to reach Industry 4.0. With this method, understanding the status of current legacy systems in place is critical. However, this is not to be confused with replacing every legacy systems/applications into the modern MES solution in a 1:1 manner. Instead, we need to evaluate why the legacy application was developed and what it is trying to address at its most basic form. If the modern MES solution can achieve the same goal with a single application, whereas the legacy system needed multiple applications, it makes limited sense to replace them in a 1:1 manner. Thus, we also benefit from streamlining and optimizing the current process; and not carry over all the encumbering issues associated with the old and archaic systems. With this fundamental understanding, we can maximize the potential outcome of modern MES solution easier.

Another roadblock often overlooked is the cultural change impact that a modern MES solution will have on the business. Without acceptance from all of the stakeholders from all levels across the hierarchy, taking a journey towards Industry 4.0 becomes extremely long and arduous. Taking a top-down cascading approach on this can often be beneficial for large corporations. However, when the development of the modern MES solution neglects to consider a bottom-up approach, user acceptance can be quite challenging. Often, this aspect presents the final roadblock when going through digital transformation. As with any product development, I believe that designing for our end users/customers should always take a priority.

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