Manufacturers need to ensure buy in from across their organization in order to achieve success with their digital manufacturing efforts.This article was first published in the Summer 2016 issue of The Record Magazine.

I hope the title of this piece got your attention. D of course stands for ‘digital’ and IIoT for the ‘Industrial Internet of Things’. Digital manufacturing, the digital twin, whichever way you look at it, we cannot avoid the fact that when we talk about manufacturing there is always a physical product.

When we forget that there are real, physical products using real physical production processes and not everything is virtual then I think we can safely say that D+IIoT = IDIOT. As we work diligently towards industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing we will need the board of directors at manufacturing companies to approve spending. They ask uncomfortable questions and have little tolerance for fuzzy answers. Their investments have to be backed up by hard return on investment calculations.

This is one of the dilemmas for the advancement of industry 4.0. It’s not easy to forecast benefits for smart manufacturing methods and concepts. For instance mass customization, making products interesting and unique for an individual. How do we know that people will buy more or pay a higher price than for the standard mass product? The official industry 4.0 report suggests that buyers will pay approximately 10% more and there is a potential revenue stream from the Internet of services that can add even more value.

The Manufacturing Operation Management Institute (MOMi) runs a number of events for manufacturers to provide a platform to discuss actions which can be taken today:

Singapore | ATS Applied Tech Systems |
11 – 12 October 2016
| Register
Sydney, AU | ATS Applied Tech Systems |
26 – 27 October 2016
| Register
Coventry, UK | Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) |
02 – 03 November 2016
| Register

On the cost side, manufacturing lines have to be built quite differently – product to machine communication (P2M) has to be introduced etc. We could probably estimate the investment costs with some degree of accuracy if we knew exactly the type of technology we will need. This is the key to the investment dilemma, with so many technologies to choose from which one is the right one?

My view is straightforward to avoid the IDIOT syndrome: build an internal innovation team. Mix the team up with IT and operational technology experts, as well as those from sales and marketing. Design systems securely and remember this: in the end it’s the physical product that is being sold, not the IT.

Mike James, ATS
by Mike James
Group Managing Director, ATS Global B.V.

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