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Factory 2050 Event Reflections

 Industry 4.0 is leading the way for intelligent data analytics for improved business outcomes in manufacturing

Last week saw OCF DATA take its maiden voyage into the event world, where we presented and exhibited at an event specific to manufacturing. ‘Where digital meets manufacturing’ was organised by the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and was held at the impressive Factory 2050 in Sheffield.

The AMRC Factory 2050 is the UK’s first state of the art factory, entirely dedicated to conducting collaborative research into reconfigurable digitally assisted assembly, component manufacturing and machining technologies and is capable of rapidly switching production between different high-value components and one-off parts. The building is on the site of the former Sheffield airport runway, and close to an area of industrial mining heritage. It’s therefore rather fitting that the latest revolution in manufacturing is taking place where it is.

Why analytics for manufacturing?

At the event there was lots of talk of Industry 4.0 and digitisation in manufacturing. With adoption of digital technologies on the increase it’s important for businesses that want to remain competitive take this on-board. Although the bigger companies have been leading the way, smaller companies also stand to benefit too. Analytics enables manufacturing organisations to make the most of their own data to improve their businesses, in whichever area is most important to them. If you were told that you can reduce your downtime by 30-50%, improve yield by 15-20% or improve forecasting in your supply chain by 85%, I’m sure you would be very interested in learning more and doing something about it, no matter the size of your company.

New technologies are becoming available

The Factory 2050 event showed that it’s an exciting time to work in manufacturing. Over the two days there were many talks and demonstrations explaining the latest technologies to become available. These included a demo of the KUKA Titan heavy-duty 6-axis robot, controlled by a Siemens 840DSL controller. This machine is capable of carrying out heavy-duty machining of difficult to machine materials, offering a more flexible alternative to traditional machine tools. But it wasn’t all shiny new robots. There were also demos explaining how sensors can be retrofitted to older equipment, providing useful real-time statistics on how machines are operating and efficiencies can be made, information that otherwise would not be available on equipment of that age.

Size doesn’t matter

Just as there are different types of manufacturing, be that automotive or aeronautical or consumer package goods to name a few, there are also different ways of doing analytics. It doesn’t really matter if you have a lot or a little amount of data, whether it’s structured or unstructured. What is important is that it’s collected frequently (preferably daily) and is available to analyse. Whilst it’s great that the likes of Boeing et al., are accessing and utilising digital technologies, there are still opportunities for smaller tier 2, 3 ] and beyond] sized companies to better their businesses by using data analytics and digital technologies. It is these types of companies that I feel are perhaps more important as they are often the supply chain of larger organisations; without them where would we be?

It’s easy to get started

It doesn’t have to be difficult and there are a number of ways to get started. First things first, it’s really important to get the right tools in place to measure and/or predict your key information, even if it means starting with spreadsheets. Once this is mastered and you’re getting valuable insights, progression to a business Intelligence dashboard solution, will be next. Then on to a more sophisticated in-memory analytics system. In time, a platform for machine learning or Artificial Intelligence system will come in.

Broad and deep analytics can drive productivity and remember, it’s a journey and you need to start based on the key business objective you want to achieve. If you’d like to have a chat with us on how best to get started in your business, please get in touch.

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