The manufacturing industry is going through a tough time right now. Brexit means additional complexity for those dealing with Europe – whether in their supply chain or as a market for finished products – while the sector is especially vulnerable to the challenges posed by Covid.

To cope with these issues and remain competitive, firms need to increase productivity and keep costs as low as possible. To do this, firms will increasingly need to turn to the latest technology – known as Industry 4.0 – to streamline their operations.

What does Industry 4.0 mean for manufacturers

But what is Industry 4.0? Broadly speaking, the term covers the new generation of smart technologies central to the success of the most forward-thinking manufacturers today.

If Industry 1.0 was the development of steam power, Industry 2.0 was the invention of electricity, and Industry 3.0 the introduction of the microchip. Industry 4.0 is the essential data and connectivity to run today’ systems.         

For manufacturers, this translates to a range of critical technologies that make their business easier and more cost-effective. These include:

  • Automation
  • Internet of Things
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Machine learning
  • Augmented reality

In practice, this means greater use of automated industrial equipment that can be controlled and monitored remotely, for example. Real-time data tied to artificial intelligence also allows systems to make decisions without human input.

These can help give rise to ‘smart factories’, which are defined by The Manufacturer as: “The computerisation of manufacturing, involving systems that communicate with each other, monitor physical processes and make decisions.”

If implemented effectively, these tools can go a long way to helping manufacturers cut their costs and keep productivity as high as possible. But to do this, firms will need to make sure the foundational platforms these advanced solutions will depend on are in place.

The right tools to help manufacturers thrive

This means having integrated business communication and IT strategy that ensures essential data connectivity solutions are implemented from the factory floor to the back office.

The value of effective communications equipment also can’t be overlooked. For instance, being able to connect factory workers on the ground with suppliers, logistics partners, production teams, and engineering teams using consistent, real-time information and real-time data greatly improves collaboration.

Effective unified communication strategies aren’t only limited to factory floors and warehouses. They also play a vital role in improving customer satisfaction in areas such as the contact centre. If these teams are able to get real-time answers to queries, this boosts their performance and leads directly to happier customers.

Tools such as video conferencing will also be increasingly important in keeping remote workers in touch with colleagues in the factory. This is something that will be vital in fostering a positive, collaborative atmosphere in an environment where some people will be able to perform this type of working on a permanent basis, while others will still be required in the factory or warehouse.

Research by Mitel suggested that while three-quarters of manufacturers have a clear strategy for linking business and IT, this still leaves as many as 31,000 small and medium-sized firms that don’t know how to link these elements.

Therefore, it’s clear that many manufacturers could benefit from an expert partner to help guide them through this process and ensure they’re putting in place the right solutions to guarantee success for years to come.

Manufacturers are facing a period of intense pressure due to Covid and Brexit. Read our article and discover what tools they need to cope with this challenging environment.

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