Factories and supply chains are increasingly interconnected through advanced networking and computing technologies that enable products and production capabilities far beyond anything previously possible. This cyberphysical connectivity is often called Industry 4.0, a term coined by the European Commission.
Implementing advanced manufacturing technology services/Industry 4.0 can help your company achieve better product quality and innovation, improve manufacturing process efficiency and productivity, and increase supply chain connectivity – ultimately making you more competitive in the marketplace and fueling business growth.
Small and medium-sized manufacturers can be overwhelmed by advanced manufacturing technology services/Industry 4.0 options. The MEP National Network will help you understand what these technologies are and how they can improve your company’s efficiency and stimulate business growth. Our experts can help you establish an adoption strategy, scope the project, align suppliers with vetted resources and manage implementation to ensure your business goals and customer needs are met. Specific areas that MEP Centers can help with include:
Additive manufacturing, which includes 3D printing, involves adding layers of material (plastic, metal, concrete or wood) on top of each other to create a product. Additive manufacturing has quickly grown in popularity because of its many benefits and applications including design alternative exploration, rapid prototyping, repairs, waste reduction and more flexible innovation.
Augmented reality technology superimposes computer-generated images onto a user’s view of the world – essentially adding a layer of extra information onto the real environment. Virtual reality technology provides realistic immersion experiences in three-dimensional simulated environments using special electronic equipment such as helmets with integrated screens or gloves fitted with sensors. Such tools enable you to make better and more informed design and production decisions throughout product lifecycles.
Endless amounts of data are created daily in manufacturing facilities, yet not all manufacturers know how to collect and use this data efficiently and effectively. The MEP National Network helps you harness the power of big data (large sets of data gathered from a range of business areas that can serve as inputs for artificial intelligence analysis) to reveal patterns and trends in operations, production characteristics, and human behavior and interaction. Big data can help you make more informed business decisions.
Cloud computing involves storing and accessing data and software applications on third-party servers at offsite locations through internet connectivity. This provides you with fast, safe and cost-effective alternatives for locating and managing your company’s information. Cloud computing also gives you options for outsourcing many data storage and software management functions, ultimately saving your company time and money.
Unauthorized data breaches are a risk that you have to manage as cyber and physical systems become increasingly connected. Cybersecurity covers all the ways you can protect your company against breaches. By safeguarding your hardware, software and operating systems from both internal and external threats, you – and your customers – can stay protected.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is an aspect of advanced manufacturing technology services/Industry 4.0 that describes cyberphysical connectivity through the ubiquitous use of sensors and communications technology. By implementing an IoT philosophy, your company can collect data from its physical assets and share that data throughout all operations. This increased level of interconnectivity enables your factory to function more efficiently with detailed, real-time information about all facets of operations creating an environment with complete visibility and increased productivity.
Today’s robots are more intelligent, versatile and flexible than ever before and the costs of introducing them on the factory floor as fixed automation tools are decreasing. Collaborative robots (cobots) enable your workers to safely interact with machines that do repetitive, hazardous and ergonomically challenging tasks. The result is improved worker safety and reduced lost-time costs. Industrial robotics and flexible automation are a priority for manufacturers as tighter labor markets and competitive pressures drive change. MEP National Network experts can help you discover there’s a positive return on investment as the cost of automation falls and ease of use rises.
When it comes to the design of parts or production processes, there is always room for improvement. Your challenge is to figure out what to change to get the best results. Simulation software can help you with this process. Using simulations, you can create virtual representations of a part or process on a computer. This allows you to validate a product, process or improvement idea without incurring its full expense up front.
Integrating manufacturing execution and software systems is a key to advanced manufacturing technology services/Industry 4.0. Increasing the connection and data exchange between your manufacturing hardware and software systems provides significant opportunities to optimize manufacturing operations and decisions. Gathering and analyzing data is easier than ever before. With system integration, you can use enterprise resource planning or product lifecycle management systems to collect, store, manage and understand data from a variety of areas. Having one centralized location for all data gathered throughout your organization makes data management more efficient and increases the overall transparency of your company’s business operations. System integration delivers information to those who need it, where they need it, when they need it – both within your factories and across your supply chains.
Employees often think robots will replace jobs, but that’s not even close to what we're looking to do. We want to utilize the robot to help our people become efficient and enjoy their work more – shifting the tasks they don’t enjoy as much to the robot and giving them more opportunities to do what they like doing.
—Hans Haase, ESI Manufacturing Engineer, Electronic Systems Inc.
Read the Success Story
For more information or assistance with advanced manufacturing technologies or Industry 4.0, please contact your local MEP Center.
If you would like someone to contact you about advanced manufacturing technologies or Industry 4.0, please complete the form below.