In this article
- With the Fourth Industrial Revolution, manufacturing is moving from automation to mass customization
- Currently, only half of manufacturers are successful in their transformation efforts
- A new HPE approach accelerates digital factory transformation without disrupting ongoing operation
- Similar to a smartphone, applications can be deployed in factory premises with only six clicks
We already know that today, every company is a technology company and is at risk of missing a market opportunity or being disrupted by a new idea or business model. We often refer to this shift as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the subtext of which is a Darwinian demand to adapt to the data boom or become obsolete.
For the manufacturing industry, the ability to meet the demand to evolve has always been a sign of progress. Think of how Henry Ford kicked off the era of mass production, or, more recently, the huge improvements the industry has made since the 1980s, when the first waves of digitization started to roll into factories. Today, thanks to high degrees of automation and supply-chain integration, production processes are more efficient than ever before.
However, while these processes are efficient, they can be too rigid to support customers’ increasing demand for customized products, combined with shorter lead times – I want to order my unique car, and I want to have it in two weeks, not in three months. While the rallying cry in the Henry-Ford age was mass production, today’s rallying cry is mass customization.
The challenging journey towards Industrial IoT
The good news is we have technology available today to drive this transformation, including artificial intelligence, 3D printing and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions that can help manufacturers achieve unprecedented levels of efficiency and flexibility – and establish new types of services and revenue streams by leveraging the data created along the entire supply chain.
But that’s a big ship to turn. We surveyed more than 300 participants at the 2017 Industry of Things World conference and learned that business leaders acknowledge the need to undergo a digital transformation, but largely lack the staff and infrastructure to do so, such that the success rate of IIoT projects is only at 50 percent. One of the key challenges is to establish new technology architectures that create convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT). Accordingly, the number one skill companies are looking for is the ability to design new IT/OT architectures.
The manufacturing industry has always used innovation to fuel its growth, and there’s even more good news here for established companies (and industries, for that matter). The same technologies that make it easy for new entrants to get started are also enabling incumbents to increase their speed, adapt quickly to changing business models, and achieve faster time to value.
A new approach to digital-factory transformation
In an effort to help expedite the transformation, the team at HPE is rolling out the Express App Platform – Manufacturing, a new way to deploy smart-factory applications. Think of it as a smartphone for the factory floor, integrated with Cloud28+, the world’s largest cloud aggregator. Just as we use our smartphone to manage every aspect of our lives – from basic communication to health tracking, shopping and entertainment – the Express App Platform can consolidate many factory functions into one convenient place – running directly on the factory floor to avoid the latency, security and cost issues which are associated with application hosting in a remote datacenter or cloud.
And just like a smartphone, it’s extremely easy to deploy manufacturing applications with the Express App Platform – it takes only six clicks to securely download and install them in factory premises. Moreover, what makes it truly remarkable is its ability to unify the legacy applications that businesses depend on along with brand new apps that keep them competitive. It’s a big step in helping companies save on operations, improve flexibility and add new revenue streams.
The manufacturing industry’s shift to IIoT will be transformative to an extent that is almost without precedent. Quality will be uniformly pristine on millions of products completely customized for the end user. And the manufacturing industry will continue to do what it’s always done – innovate and transform.