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Guides Operations 3 whales of a Smart factory: IIoT and other business automation tools of Industry 4.0

3 whales of a Smart factory: IIoT and other business automation tools of Industry 4.0

Published on 08/23/2017 | Operations

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Margo Geras

. Ведущий копирайтер студии "Гермес"


Nowadays, every field, process strives to be more efficient, having high-quality results for less time or making more for the same time. Once, Henry Ford has implemented a conveyor that impacted on a manufacturing process and turned manufacturing business upside-down. Spying this idea at a meat factory he decided to apply it to manufacturing cars, thereby making the first step to business processes automation. By the way, his principles formed Fordism, further regarding mass production of cheap goods with high wages for workers can be also considered as evolutionary methods on the way to improvements in business processes. Nevertheless, Ford was a thinker turning ideas into reality.

A century later, automation has been covering all fields of our life. We see a machine-to-machine world where a human becomes just a consumer and doesn’t take part in the process, the artificial intelligence technology teaches a machine to create things that only inspirited people were able to make before.

However, today, according to the research, lots of factories are not efficient. Their average OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) starts at 60-70%, but world class OEEs should be around 85%.

Reasons why factories should go this way

Today, industrial systems become a part of the IoT when the factory faces a need to smooth its processes thoroughly. As we see, IIoT helps to improve factory’s processes through follows:

·         Declining human working resources in favor of robotization;

·         Revision of manufacturing methods and their efficiency;

·         Increasing performance and optimization equipment throughput;

·         Enhancing products’ quality via precise compliance of technological processes;

·         Workforce reducing and periodical growth of profit.

One more idea why factory automation systems are so important was born from a once-heard story about how a small factory automated its manufacturing in the way that only 2 persons worked there; they were operators controlling the system and shifting each other by turn. Large automotive companies have also come to reducing human resources. This fact changes the world much, because recently, companies tended to move manufacturing into the Third World countries as China and India. However, now, they feel a cheaper way to develop a factory automation system and use it continually as opposed to employing thousands of Chinese workers for the same matter. The thing is for sure that automation defeats employment.

By the same token, one more research of the field reveals that IIoT development and entire improvement of all industrial processes are just unavoidable.

Industry 4.0 approaches building business models

Indeed, business automation can be different. It depends on the approach it uses. Let’s recall the aforementioned conveyor. Wondering if there were some other ways to do the same thing. What if it wasn’t a conveyor but would be another equipment leading to the same results?

CRM and ERP systems as corporate autopilots

Main idea: to control a whole process as a system

Custom relationships management system (CRM) or Enterprise Resource Planning systems (ERP) could automate corporate activity much, but this is not the only way.

CRM systems are mostly applied to setting tasks. This enables to manage the workflow, controlling participants’ actions. They could be your coworkers or clients. So, CRM allows to control deadlines, avoiding fuss and overwork, normalize the workflow, retain the information about clients and projects, automate team work, organize the process within your personal time management because the system notifies you about tasks and deadlines. That is why CRM system is often called as a virtual office.

Actually, CRM is one of ERP modules. The difference is Enterprise Resource Planning systems cover a huge range of company’s fields. For instance, there are product planning, marketing strategy planning, a manufacturing process with all the documentation, shipping, payment, and much more. Using an ERP program business focuses on quality results instead of terms, numbers and intermediate milestones.

Industrial Internet of Things as a uniting force

Main idea: to reduce expenses via reasonable low-cost supplying

Just look around and observe many innovative technologies. The Internet of Things is widely used for fast and efficient automation. On agenda, the Internet of Things penetrates into our life ubiquitously. Having hardware devices wherever, we can build a personal the Internet of Things net, giving birth to any smart technology – smart home, smart office, smart city, smart chair, smart toothbrush – from small to large one.


The IoT within a Smart factory concept forms IIoT and has a variety of implementations – from the connected equipment with a center controller to even ordinary bulbs. In other words, any system of devices can present the IoT. We call it the Internet because the system has a connection method based on the Internet as a Wi-Fi protocol or cell set channel.

Sharing the experience of industrial IoT developments, let’s mention a case developed by one of the industrial IoT companies for a German factory. The idea was aimed at building a smart lighting system. The German factory successfully applies the innovation. The interior light is switching on at the moment when a worker appears nearby. The factory has significantly reduced its outcomes for lighting and managed to consume so far energy as they need in fact.

Augmented Reality development as a chain

Main idea: compliance of standards within a working process


We just mention one interesting case developed for a construction company. The mobile app for Android and iOS presents a tool measuring and testing standards compliance in a building process. Here, in the case, the AR application helps to supervise and measure required parameters through the mobile camera. The foreman can draw right on the screen of his smartphone and make notes, then quickly send captures about abnormalities, for instance, in the roof building or in door montage. The approach significantly reduces time for detecting inaccuracies and relieves from much paperwork.

Wondering if AR could be also used in factory automation. As you’ve guessed, the aforementioned case wasn’t related to a factory. But why shouldn’t we bring the idea to manufacturing automation? It sounds closely and could apply to a similar system.

Using a holistic method combining different technologies smart factories could automate a whole chain of manufacturing from scratch to sales. It even includes not only a production phase but also logistics and retail.

Margo Geras

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