Blog: Manufacturing’s ‘Industry 4.0’ Hinges on the Cloud and APIs

We all know the world swirls with information. We’re surrounded by it, and sometimes even overwhelmed by it. Fifteen years ago, the sheer volume and speed of today’s data generation was inconceivable. And yet, despite the challenges it presents, this information has made it possible to both work and live in a tremendously interconnected way.

We often don’t realize we’re in a paradigm shift until it’s well underway. That’s the case today, with the fourth industrial revolution, which some people call “Industry 4.0.”

Industry 4.0 and manufacturing

While the third industrial revolution brought automation and increased efficiency to manufacturing, Industry 4.0 is a digital revolution, connecting machines, people and systems. It integrates data across the value chain, involving multiple functions within the organization, partners, suppliers and even customers. The result is streamlined product design, production and speed to market. 

What makes all this possible is API integration, which connects all parties – people and machines – via the cloud solution. The benefits of this inter-connectedness are many:

Better use of resources and assets. Culling data from IoT devices, manufacturers can now monitor and evaluate assets and processes. The resulting data enables preventative maintenance, which improves productivity and quality even as it reduces costs.

Agility and responsiveness. With data flowing in real time from sales and customers, manufacturers don’t have to wait for another product cycle to innovate and respond to customer demands. 

Faster time to production. Product designs move from simulations to reality using advanced robotics and 3D printing. Suppliers and partners collaborate to troubleshoot design issues earlier in the cycle.


Better communications help manufacturers produce more. Check out our infographic for a breakdown. >


Data ecosystems and “digital champions”

The development of partner data ecosystems is a quickly developing trend in manufacturing. The reason: Today’s manufacturers must work beyond the boundaries of their organization, and even their supply chain, to share business information with each other, with technology partners, startups, institutes and universities when they search for new solutions.

“Organizations that can create data ecosystems – that can most rapidly integrate and incorporate new internal and external data sets and can most effectively leverage their proprietary data to identify unique insights or monetize their data in unique ways – will be the ones that rise to the top,” explains Charles Araujo, principal analyst at Intellyx.  Key to this, he says, is a cloud-based approach using APIs so that all stakeholders can easily and securely share data.

In its Global Digital Operations 2018 Survey, PWC identifies “Digital Champions” as organizations that have fully embraced Industry 4.0 and excel in several types of business ecosystems, including customer solutions, operations and technology. In each of these systems, partners inside and outside the organization share information using web-based digital connections. 

Each ecosystem focuses on an essential aspect of manufacturing. For example, the customer solutions ecosystem gathers data from the entire value chain, including customers, designers, manufacturing and logistics. From this, companies can develop more innovative, customer-responsive designs and improve revenue.

The operations ecosystem focuses on the physical processes that help produce products. This typically involves internal departments such as product development, manufacturing, distribution and logistics, but should also include external partners like contract manufacturers, sources, logistics partners and academia.

When it comes to building a technology ecosystem, these digital champions understand that rather than developing technology solutions in isolation, a “holistic approach” that connects systems across the organization and its strategic partners is essential. With sophisticated Industry 4.0 technologies like AI, 3D printing, IoT, augmented reality and robots, learning from others is the most efficient and cost-effective way to grow a business.

APIs and cloud communications

Cloud communications, enhanced with APIs, is what oils this collaboration machine. It enables disparate entities to make effective use of the immense amount of data the manufacturing ecosystem now generates.  

Says Araujo: “Organizations must adopt a cloud-based and software-driven approach that offers them the flexibility to integrate data from across the digital landscape—whether it exists within their direct control or not.”

Cloud communications is opening up possibilities for manufacturers. Learn more with our white paper. >


 

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