Consumers nowadays want to buy personalized commodities to suit their particular needs. This means production runs have to be shortened or new settings phased in while the production lines are still underway.
At the end of the 19th century, Sakichi Toyoda, founder of the Toyota Group, began to champion the lean way of thinking, which would eventually develop into the full-fledged lean manufacturing methodology. This was a new production management model that set out to streamline production systems, cutting out or cutting down all activities that add no value for the end client in the production process. In 2011, the fourth Industrial Revolution kicked off, a new concept of the hyper-connected industry in which new, groundbreaking technologies boost the efficiency of production processes.
Let’s take a look now at how Industry 4.0 and its technologies might round out the main lean principles.
Perfect quality at the first time of asking
Here is where artificial vision techniques applied to the inspection of finished goods really come into their own. These techniques, combined with AI and deep learning, will help pinpoint faulty patterns, thus flagging defective goods before they move on to the next production phases. Moreover, in combination with cloud computing, we will be able to carry out complex calculations that help us identify any quality leaks and tolerance-margin shrinkage early enough to head off the corresponding defect beforehand.
Application of automation techniques and, above all, collaborative robotics, will enable us to reduce production-process waste generation. For example, collaborative robots that can enable plant space to be shared with people without needing to cage in the robots.
IoT- or IIoT-based monitoring of process data, or even the state of machines or persons, will enable us to improve maintenance tasks, switching programmed maintenance processes to predictive maintenance tasks and also improving workers’ quality of life by monitoring working conditions or their own safety by means of wearables.
New consumption models, such as the Amazon Dash Button or mobile apps, together with cross-selling techniques based on consumer trends and drawing from big data techniques like customer segmentation make it possible to bring clients closer to final production.
The application of collaborative robotics as the basis of automation, instead of the development of highly productive but un-reconfigurable machine tools, makes production processes much more flexible. In combination with control system virtualization techniques based on virtual programmable logic controllers, this will also make production systems much more flexible.
These are only some examples of how lean manufacturing and Industry 4.0 are not in fact different trends, rather are they two sides of the same coin. Applied shrewdly and within a proper cybersecurity framework, they have been conceived to coexist and mutually complement each other in the interests of improving the products and services we offer our customers.
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