2019 was another interesting year for the manufacturing sector. Competition and cost cutting forced manufacturers to operate more efficiently and as a result, the industry turned to Industry 4.0 for its long-term benefits.
More than a fad or buzzword, Tim Keech, Sales and marketing director for SMC Corporation says that Industry 4.0 is here to stay, and it’s set to have a major impact on the industry in 2020.
“Manufacturing has become increasingly competitive. We’re competing both locally and on an international front where many manufacturers are already advanced in the implementation of IoT (the Internet of Things) solutions,” said Keech. “Australia should leverage the benefits of implementing Industry 4.0 solutions to remain competitive.”
Keech notes that challenges around cost reduction, energy savings, compliance with environmental initiatives, effective supply chain management and stringent health and safety standards can be alleviated through the implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies.
“Some of the most recent challenges addressed by Industry 4.0 solutions is meeting the evolving expectations of consumers, such as immediate access to products and services and access to more detailed information about the products. Smart manufacturing helps to meet this demand and we see this trend continuing to grow and influence production in 2020.
“With changing technology comes a change in job skill requirements. Both production and people need to evolve at a rapid pace. “We need people who can interpret and utilise the data which Industry 4.0 will bring. This is one of the major challenges facing the industry,” said Keech. “This skill can only come through on the job experience, making it critical for STEM undergraduates to be closely aligned and integrated with industry.”
SMC has been evolving not only as a business also as an employer. The company has a keen focus on upskilling and developing their workforce to meet the needs of the changing economy.
SMC has developed a Cadet Program to attract and retain talent. “Through much-needed skills transfer, we are training technical people in sales, operations, logistics and administration to ensure they have a comprehensive overview of the business. These cadets are earmarked for future roles in the business and will be highly adaptable to changing economies,” said Keech.
In addition, SMC is placing more engineers in the field of energy savings and has been setting up digital transformation departments. “Our clients look to us to provide them with insight into automation trends. As a multinational with over 60 years’ experience, we draw on global expertise and skills to ensure that our local teams are trained up and ready to add value.”
Security and IOT
Keech believes that no one company is immune to cyber security threats and that these continue to have major implications on business. “Fear of such risks may initially hamper the appetite for investing in Industry 4.0 technology. It is however a matter of educating customers with industry proven solutions and processes that are available to limit exposure and protect their business.”
The challenge of our environment
Keech notes that shrinking resources, climate change and power hikes continue to affect business. “We cannot ignore this factor. It puts pressure on the supply chain and impacts our ability to compete – both locally and globally. Drought conditions continue to affect our farmers and we are now finding that reduced access to reliable water is having similar impacts on the mining and manufacturing industries.”
Supporting Australia’s 2030 climate change targets, SMC’s energy saving efforts remain active and continuous. “Many manufacturers are starting to realise the hidden costs of compressors running inefficiently throughout their plants. The recent success of SMC with several multinational manufacturers demonstrated real savings at the compressor.”
According to Keech, SMC’s team of engineers work closely with customers to meet their energy saving mandate. “We have the ability to identify areas of savings, from something as simple as identifying excessive leakage through to optimising the pressure and flow through the use of regulators, boosters and more.”
“2020 promises to be an interesting year but manufacturing is gearing up for the changes that are required to remain competitive,” said Keech.