The advent of Industry 4.0 marks a transformative change in the manufacturing landscape, presenting abundant prospects for enhanced efficiency, personalized solutions, and groundbreaking innovation. This latest industrial revolution is defined by the incorporation of digital technologies, data analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and automation across diverse facets of manufacturing processes. In this Q&A, Will Trogdon, vice president of Partner Ecosystem at Critical Manufacturing, explores some of the implications of Industry 4.0 and how understanding your business objectives is key to implementing advanced manufacturing.

Achieving a smart manufacturing environment requires not only automation but also structuring data in a way that it can be analyzed. (Credit: Marco/Adobestock)

MDB: Many manufacturers understand the value of automation and going paperless, but there are costs and transitions that present obstacles. But what about small medtech manufacturers? What can be done to break down those barriers to move toward Industry 4.0?

Will Trogdon: It will be important to align with partners that can consult and provide a path forward for smaller medtech manufacturers, so they can identify what the migration path is to get to a 4.0 paperless factory. Because it’s a validated environment and there are priorities that need to be in place, a partner can provide that guidance with their experience. It’s not a rip and replace. It’s more of an introduction and a path, a journey forward. Having a good partner that can guide the customer through that is essential.

MDB: What is role that the manufacturing execution system plays in the bigger picture of creating smart manufacturing?

WT: The manufacturing execution system is really the backbone because it’s all about predictability. It’s about efficiency. It’s about analytics and leveraging the data that’s gathered through the manufacturing process. But it’s taking a look at more than MES. It’s manufacturing operations management. So, it’s a raw materials coming in, finished goods going out, and everything that happens in between in that environment. Again, from a partner perspective, it's outlining with the customer what the key business objectives are to be achieved in the manufacturing process. And then taking Industry 4.0 methodologies and critical manufacturing. functional aspects and applying them to meet those business objectives.

MDB: To leverage the benefits of smart manufacturing, what are the key drivers going forward?

WT: It depends on the maturity of the manufacturer and their operation. For example, it depends on how highly automated their manufacturing process is. The drivers will depend on what is needed to evolve that that manufacturing environment. If systems are automated and structured, and data is being gathered, then you can leverage the data. It’s important to make sure the data is structured in a way that it can be analyzed. Do you have the foundational automation? If you’re collecting data, then is the data structured enough that you can then apply analytics to it? If so, then you begin to get the value out of the data that’s being collected and that feeds back into optimizing the manufacturing process.

MDB: Does industry 4.0 in represent a true paradigm shift for industry? What will happen to companies that are behind the curve and adoption?

WT: It is a paradigm shift because it’s all about connectivity, it’s about data, and its about efficiency. It’s a priority for companies that want to compete and move forward. They have to adopt these methodologies, these concepts around Industry 4.0 to be competitive, to be agile, to be responsive to the marketplace. For manufacturers, it’s all about new product introductions, customization, and quality. And you can only do that when you have a very automated, structured environment where you’re gathering data and you can leverage the data to improve the overall manufacturing process.

MDB: Do you have any other insights that you can share?

WT: I’ve been in the industry for over 30 years, and it always comes down to people and their knowledge. It’s important to align the company culture and help the people who will be using the system have that passion.

For more insights from thought leaders on MES and Industry 4.0, visit MES & Industry 4.0 Summit .