Deploying robots in a factory is not enough to succeed in a digital transformation. In order to benefit from the immense potential of Industry 4.0, the digitalization of the shop-floor is essential.
Putting an end to the compartmentalization of data and processes
Industrial companies are still too often characterized by their compartmentalization. On the one hand, the headquarters lead strategic projects. On the other hand, the factory manages the operational tasks. This separation is reflected in two temporalities: the data reported weekly to headquarters and the multitude of information collected in real time from the shop-floor. Finally, another rupture concerns the headquarters' management of IT when the OT (Operational Technology) depends on local teams.
And that is not all. Today, few industrial groups are limited to a single site. The giants of the sector have hundreds of workshops throughout the world that mobilize the most heterogeneous systems. And even on a single site, the equipment comes from a variety of manufacturers and operates according to even more varied protocols. The result: it becomes impossible to get all the tools to communicate in order to have a complete view of the production chain.
These partitions are a constraint for manufacturers, at a time when the issues are becoming cross-functional and require, more than ever, flexibility and immediacy.
This is without counting on the entry into the era of Industry 4.0. From design to manufacturing, a new industrial model is being put in place. On a global scale, some 900 billion dollars will be invested each year between now and 2020 by industrial companies for their digital transformation. To make this change and move forward in a sustainable manner, companies must have solid foundations. Accumulating large amounts of data in workshops via dashboards is no longer enough. Sensors, actuators, software, security... systems must now be interconnected. What is the goal? To have complete and comparative visibility of all operations, on all sites. In France, this immense potential seems to have been assimilated by the players in the sector. For example, according to the research company PAC, 73% of French industrial groups with more than 500 employees say they are aware of the important role that the IoT (Internet of Things) will have to play in the management of their shop-floor.
What is at stake is not only the availability of more accurate and complete information, but also the increased capacity for analysis and action. The smart company gains in agility. It is able to adapt its production or even to mutualize its capacities between different clients. The connected shop-floor is also the means of greatly improving product traceability, which is a major challenge for sectors such as the food and pharmaceutical industries.
*Source: Worldwide survey of Industry 4.0 by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC): “Industry 4.0: Building the Digital Enterprise".
Taking up the challenge
Laying the foundations for the industry of the future
The digitalization of the shop-floor is intrinsically a cross-functional project: the whole company is concerned. Logically, it is therefore up to the Information Systems Directors (ISD) to take the lead.
So, where do we start? Every project begins with a maturity study. Conducted in a local and cross-functional manner, this audit aims to define where the company stands, by evaluating its actual situation. Volume of data, equipment standards, interoperability... everything is scrutinized. Subsequently, it is possible to assess what is feasible, identify areas for improvement and measure risks.
IT/OT convergence requires the implementation of a common language, operational standards and interoperable solutions. These must cover the entire value chain: from sensor to cloud, through to real-time management in the factory and beyond. Operators can view production orders or enter time spent on machines. To achieve these objectives, two tools must be used. First of all, the MES (Manufacturing Execution System). Positioned between the ERP and the machines, it ensures data integrity to avoid discrepancies between the information in the central software and the reality in the field. Then, the ERP itself must be configured in such a way as to integrate the data received from the factory. This makes it possible to provide the right information for the right person at the right time.
"The backbone of Industry 4.0, the digitalization of the shop floor represents the first step in the transformation of manufacturers. This is a true business project that can wait no longer."
Frédéric Billon-Grand, Senior Manager, Gfi Informatique Group
Gfi Informatique's advantage for the digitalization of the shop-floor lies in our perfect knowledge of industrial reality. We have numerous client references such as Thales, PSA, Renault, Michelin, etc. Moreover, we are long-standing partners of IT Departments through our activity as a software editor and integrator.