Epicor spotlights Industry 4.0 challenges

CNME hosted a roundtable in partnership with Epicor, which focused on the ways that manufacturing CIOs in the UAE can look to digitise and automate a range of their most critical processes.

Industry 4.0 is set to have ramifications throughout the manufacturing industry, and the majority of technology experts agree that what is being referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution will also have significantly affect the distribution and retail sectors.

A host of connected technologies are advancing quickly, including high-quality sensors, more reliable and powerful networks, high-performance computing, robotics, artificial intelligence and cognitive technologies and augmented reality. These connected technologies, along with 3D printing, cloud computing, mobile devices and big data will change how products are designed and produced. Together, these technologies will have a profound impact that can change manufacturing in unprecedented ways.

Industry 4.0 is also having a significant impact on the industrial workforce, and one of the top challenges will be the lack of qualified employees both from the perspective of retraining the existing workforce and ensuring our educational systems are preparing their students with these new skills. Other key challenges include concerns around data security and the need for significant technology invest.

These challenges and more were discussed in the recent roundtable hosted by Epicor in partnership with CNME. The discussion sought to understand the main hurdles that manufacturing CIOs face in introducing technological change, as well as their ambitions for the future. Epicor’s regional vice president Hesham El Komy kicked off the discussion by framing the most pressing technological challenges currently faced by the manufacturing industry. “Digital transformation means different things to different people,” he said. “It is certain to have both positive and negative effects on the manufacturing industry, and if organisations aren’t able to react quickly enough then they are sure to lose market share and customers.”

Anish Kanaran, Epicor’s director of global systems integrators and alliances, said that factories weren’t currently “smart” enough. “Digital transformation is easier said than done,” he said. “Factories today don’t feed enough information into their back end systems. That isn’t the case with a smart factory, which needs to be the end goal for manufacturers.”

Different functions within the organisation may claim ownership and IT and engineering are common ones that may each take ownership in an Industry 4.0 or smart manufacturing initiative. However, if it is not driven by senior management teams from the top floor to the shop floor and embraced across the entire organisation, success may be limited.

Additive manufacturing is gaining momentum around the world. In fact, a number of national governments have committed sizable resources to the development and advancement of the technology. Additive manufacturing – or 3D printing is now mainstream and becoming a reality for many manufacturers. Additive manufacturing is changing the way the world makes everything. By enabling manufacturers to produce prototypes, tools and final parts directly from CAD data, additive manufacturing creates dramatic reductions in delivery times and production costs, which increase the speed of response to customer needs and reactions to changes in the market.

Recent research on worldwide growth trends by Epicor found that companies in high growth markets demonstrated a strong inclination to invest in technology to empower their workforces, drive efficiencies and increase agility. In the study around three-quarters (74 percent) of Chinese firms, for example, cited IT investment as important, compared to a global figure of 54 percent.

The survey, sponsored by Epicor, highlighted how high-growth companies embrace change. 76 percent of high-growth companies prefer constant innovation to business stability, while only 49 percent of low-growth companies do so. In an age where innovation is driven by rising customer expectations, growing companies have distinct short-term goals that embrace innovation and business change as part of a wider transformation journey for growth.

Yet transformation is different for every business. For some, it may encompass the adoption of the latest technologies – such as 3D printing, robots, sensor technology, and artificial intelligence, areas that some more traditional businesses have previously been slow to embrace. For others, their digital transformation journey will see them embrace the world of Industry 4.0, where all equipment in their production lines is online, connected, and capable of making its own decisions.


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