5 June 2019
Data-driven manufacturing

In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we have been discussing a lot around Smart Manufacturing and how to leverage the Internet of Things and advanced technologies to improve productivity and efficiency in modern factories and plants. The truth is that any technology we might think of is based on data: moving forward, smart industries will be more and more based on data, which will be core assets from the input to the output steps of any manufacturing process.

In the input phase, row materials and components will be exponentially augmented by information, so supply chain management solutions will be increasingly needed to govern complexity and ensure compliance to regulations and industry standards. In the production phase, machines, equipment and systems will be connected to the same integrated network and exchange a wide range of data to monitor and control all workflows from remote, thus enabling smart asset management capabilities. Finally, in the output phase, data will allow industrial businesses to engage in customised operations and predictive maintenance activities.

This future is closer than we might expect, and business analyst IDC stated that industrial data would soon become the real critical success factor for innovation and competitiveness in manufacturing domains. By the end of 2020, about 80% of medium and large industrial companies will turn into data-driven enterprises.

However, the real news is not about technology; it deals with people. Employees will be pushed to extend individual capabilities to manage new tasks and workflows entirely based on data. They will need systems to empower cognitive and analysis competences; they will use wearable devices to enhance physical touch points; they will have robots and drones as co-workers. The same IDC predicted that about 60% of manufacturing businesses would provide staff with augmented or virtual reality tools, co-bots and smart apps by 2021, and will benefit from a productivity increase up to 7%.

Will this change the role and priorities of the IT department? Yes, for sure. Data-first will be the leading principle when deploying the next industrial processes, so we might soon have the CIO sitting together with the head of the production to co-design future-proof equipment and plants.

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