To Adopt Industry 4.0, we Must Look to the Lighthouses
Lighthouses have been the key to maritime navigation for centuries, emitting light to guide sailors across treacherous seas. Recognised by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Lighthouse facilities can also act as a guiding light for the manufacturing industry, as it navigates the technologies of Industry 4.0. But what makes a Lighthouse factory, and what can other manufacturers learn from them? Here, Dieter Heimerdinger, Vice President, Supply, Sandvik Coromant at high-tech engineering group Sandvik, explains.
A study by WEF in 2018 found that over 70% of businesses are investing in technologies such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence and 3D printing, but are not able to take these projects beyond the pilot phase. But it seems that tides have changed. 2020 has been a difficult year for many manufacturers to navigate, but its impact on digitalisation is clear. In May 2020, a Fortune survey found that 77% chief executive officers believe the crisis will force their companies to speed up their digital transformations. But how can they get it right?
Certainly before 2020, the manufacturing industry was sometimes slow to adopt digital technologies. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions have been implemented at a sluggish pace, and are yet to scale across industry. It’s been typical for manufacturers across many sectors to rely on legacy systems to collect and analyse data, preventing them from realising the main benefits of digitalisation: data-driven insights to run equipment more efficiently, to react automatically and to boost operational speed.
There are many reasons why digital progression has been stalled. Stagnation may come from a lack of skills in the workplace, with new technologies requiring a different set of competences.
The investment in reskilling, training and hiring new specialists can leave many manufacturers questioning whether digital transformation is really worth it. But it is. Having 70% of manufacturers struggling to get new projects off the ground teaches us that — while many want to implement digital technologies — it’s difficult to find ways to prove their continuous benefits. It’s those manufacturers that are in need of a guiding light.
A beacon of hope
To date, the WEF has identified 54 facilities across the globe as “Lighthouse Facilities”. The network has been selected from a survey of over 1,000 manufacturing sites, based on their success in adopting Industry 4.0 technologies. They represent a range of industries, such as automotive, additive manufacturing and consumer goods.
Described by WEF as “the world’s most advanced factories, which are leading the way in the adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies”, the recognition demonstrates a clear motive. For WEF, showcasing the 54 facilities as Lighthouses means they can show the way for the 70% of companies stuck in “pilot purgatory”.
Just like maritime lighthouses shine light on danger at sea, Lighthouse facilities are here to dispel the myths that make digitalisation seem hazardous. Contrary to concerns about skills gaps, the Lighthouse factories are not deploying IIoT technology to replace operators.
A McKinsey report suggests that less than 5% of occupations consist of activities that are completely automatable, while over 60% of occupations have at least one third of automatable tasks. Consequently, employees in production enjoy a working routine that’s less repetitive, and more interesting, diversified, and productive.
An evaluation of the facilities has uncovered several other findings that demonstrate the value of implementing Industry 4.0. The facilities are more agile and showcase greater customer centricity across end-to-end manufacturing, and are quicker to recognise shifts in customer preferences.
Increased automation and upskilling and reskilling efforts also means these facilities operate at speed, giving them a greater advantage over competitors. This speed and efficiency is also leveraged to make processes more eco-efficient, reducing waste and using fewer finite resources.
Gimo: factory of the future
In 2019, Sandvik Coromant’s production facility in Gimo, Sweden was awarded Lighthouse facility status. At the factory, Sandvik Coromant manufactures machine tools and metal cutting inserts, which customers use to produce anything from small machining parts to aircraft engines. Activities are divided into two plants, one for the inserts and one for the tool systems. Both of these are the biggest production plants in the world in their respective fields with a total surface area of 110,000 square metres. Running through the factory is a digital thread that unites production activities with data driven insights.
One area of production praised by WEF is Gimo’s ‘touchless changeovers’, which allow tool design patterns to be changed automatically, even during unmanned shifts. Historically, design patterns in production cells had to be changed manually, with operators from the day shifts preparing machines to run through the night. This took time and resources, and limited flexibility during unmanned shifts.
Seeking an alternative, Gimo invested in smart automation with ultra-flexible robots, machines, tools and fixtures, which together perform complex, touchless changeovers without the need for any human oversight.
This is just one example where digitalisation boosts productivity and takes the strain of performing monotonous tasks away from human workers. Digital technologies are also used to deliver improvements in other areas at Gimo, such as maintenance. Increasingly, sensors are being fitted to plant equipment, collecting data for a growing list of parameters such as pressure, temperature, vibration and acoustics. This data, combined with sophisticated analytics, can reveal patterns and problems before downtime occurs.
Businesses looking to invest in digital technologies should look to the Lighthouses for guidance. Their agility and resilience set them apart before the pandemic, and are part of a strong foundation to withstand the changes it has brought forth. With more businesses recognising the need to go digital, but perhaps not knowing how to sustain the benefits, having 54 guiding lights is key to the industry's future.
Microsoft: Building a secure foundation to drive NASCAR
Microsoft is a key partner of The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and together they are driving ahead to create an inclusive and immersive new fan experience (FX).
These long-term partners have not only navigated the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic with the use of Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365, but are now looking to a future packed with virtual events to enhance the FX, well beyond NASCAR’S famous Daytona racetrack.
“Together, we've created a secure environment that's allowed for collaboration, but the future is all about the fans”, said Melinda Cook, General Manager for Microsoft South USA Commercial Business, who cited a culture of transparency, passion, adaptiveness, and a growth mindset as to why this alignment is so successful.”
“We've partnered to create a fluid, immersive experience for the users that is supported by a secure foundation with Microsoft in the background. We are focused on empowering and enabling customers and businesses, like NASCAR, to reach their full potential. We do this with our cloud platform which provides data insights and security.”
“Our cloud environment allows NASCAR to move forward with their digital transformation journey while we are in the background,” said Cook who highlights that Microsoft is helping NASCAR
- Empower employees productivity and collaboration
- Improve fan engagement and experience
- Improve environment security and IT productivity
- Improve racing operations
Microsoft Teams, which is part of the Microsoft 365 suite, enabled employees to work remotely, while staying productive, during the pandemic. “This allowed people to provide the same level of productivity with the use of video conference and instant messaging to collaborate on documents. Increased automation also allows the pit crews, IT, and the business to focus on safety, racing operations, and on the fan experience,” said Cook.
“We have started to innovate to create a more inclusive fanbase, this includes using Xbox to give people the experience of being a virtual racer or even leveraging some of the tools in Microsoft Teams to have a virtual ride along experience.”
“These environments are how we create a more inclusive and immersive experience for the fans. We're working on a virtual fan wall which allows people from new locations to participate in these events,” said Cook, who pointed out Microsoft was also helping bring legacy experiences alive from NASCAR’s archives.
“At Microsoft we can take it one level further by letting fans know what it's like to see the pit crew experience, the data and all the behind-the-scenes action. We will continue to improve automation with machine learning and artificial intelligence, from marketing to IT operations to finance to racing operations,” said Cook.
Christine Stoffel-Moffett, Vice President of Enterprise Technology at NASCAR, said: “Microsoft is one of our key partners. They have been instrumental in helping the NASCAR enterprise technology team re-architect our Microsoft systems to ensure an advanced level of security across our environment, contribute to our business outcomes, and focus on fan experience.”