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Digitalization and Industry 4.0 in Manufacturing

Manufacturers are experiencing a period of drastic change as digital transformation rises throughout the sector as part of what is called Industry 4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This digitalization trend adds pressures to traditional businesses, but also offers exceptional opportunities that will optimize production and increase efficiency. These changes revolutionize activities, processes, competencies and models through a mix of digital technologies with an accelerating impact across not only businesses, but society and cultures.

Sparked by a shift in new demands from customers, Industry 4.0 is the name for the current trend of automation and new technologies in the manufacturing sector. The revolution brings changes in all areas of life and existing business models. For example, it will not just be me who uses Amazon's Echo Dot - Alexa - to carry out mundane tasks such as turning on music or making phone calls out of sheer laziness and convenience. This is an example of the shift and a starting point for automization and its effect on society and the way we all operate.

Industrial manufacturing organizations have realized the necessity in improving flexibility and reducing time to market whilst, at the same time, ensuring the quality of products is not sacrificed.

With present and future shifts in mind, many organizations recognize the need for industrial transformation and have already taken steps to future proof their activities. Indeed, 63% of manufacturing organizations surveyed by THE ECONOMIST have already initiated major digitalization strategies to either parts of or the whole organization.

Manufacturers are finding the need to launch products faster, despite the challenge of rising product complexity that they face - a problem that manual labor and processes cannot keep up with. Where possible, manual processes and standard tasks are being replaced with technologies and automated systems to better use human skill sets to cope with product complexity and to meet customer expectations and requirements.

As customer expectations reach a new high, manufacturers are trying to balance demand for individualized and bespoke products while still presuming to pay the price of a mass-produced product. Automated and electronic technologies take some of the pressure off by reducing the time spent carrying out procedures or manual tasks - they are taken care of and efforts can be put elsewhere.

THE ECONOMIST reports that of the companies they spoke with who had already initiated digital transformations, 83% had reported a current increase in revenue and 81% reported a cost reduction as a direct result of implementing said transformations.

Being under such scrutiny, all product and quality processes must be traceable and available to access when getting audited or for reference. This change of pace can cause an admin headache! It is therefore essential to ensure that as a manufacturer, you have a system in place to control documentation, procedures and processes in an easy to access, centralized format. And of course, increased digitalization across industries brings a need for increased security to protect against potential risk of any information being accessed without authorization.

Key ways in which a digital transformation can play a part in the revolution of industry 4.0 is in intelligent information management, new ways of collaborating and workforce engagement. The aim is to streamline and automate documentation processes in that the creation, distribution to all relevant people and review of important documents can be done electronically and most importantly, efficiently. This allows an element of enhanced corporate control in that management can circulate documents and updates and get acknowledgement through one centralized, electronic system, migrating the need for manual or paper-based systems - a huge time and cost saving advantage.

Risk prevention is improved as this digitalization movement introduces technologies that are able to proactively predict risk rather than reactively deal with problems after they occur. As an organization, if you are able to avoid and prevent potential risks to aspects like your supply chain or your production processes you will be able to focus on growth strategies and your customer experience much more confidently, with the peace of mind that an automated, electronic solution is serving your business needs.

Digital transformation is a journey with multiple connected intermediary goals, in the end striving towards continuous optimization across processes, divisions and the business culture during an industrial movement where building the right bridges in function of that journey is the key to long-term success.

Ideagen's Q-Pulse electronic Quality Management System (eQMS) is an effective step in the digital transformation journey for organizations, particularly with the availability to take business activity and functions on-the-go with its mobile app.

Authored by Hannah Waugh, Marketing Coordinator at Ideagen

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