Data analytics in Industry 4.0: creating the foundations for advanced manufacturing

The manufacturing industry has progressed at a remarkable pace with new digital tools and solutions that have enhanced productivity, output, sustainability, and more. These improvements are critical in today’s business landscape; the focus on increased transparency, optimal production, and greater agility is key to meeting constantly changing consumer demands, as supply chain disruptions brought about by geopolitical conflicts have put a great deal of pressure on manufacturers to do more with less.  

The renewed focus on green initiatives and sustainability efforts have also raised the profile of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing, prompting manufacturers to adopt environmentally friendly practices, many of which are enabled or supported by digital tools. Technology has been leading the way, and many industry leaders believe there is still greater potential for growth.  

Research has shown that 93% of companies are looking to tech solutions to increase operational efficiency for new product development [1], and 75% of leaders believe there’s room for improvement in the way engineering and supply chain teams collaborate [2]. Projections of the global digital manufacturing market expect dramatic growth, from US$276.5 billion in 2020 to reach US$1,370.3 billion by 2030, a compound annual growth rate of 16.5% from 2021 to 2030 [3]

However, advanced functionalities come with more intensive resource requirements. Not only do workers that manage these systems need to stay up to date, but the network and data infrastructure itself also needs to be adapted so it remains efficient and flexible, free of bottlenecks. 

So, how should manufacturers build the right foundations and develop a suitable network infrastructure to maximize their potential? 

Digital and data tools can unlock the potential of Industry 4.0

Advanced digital tools like data analytics, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and more have become invaluable in manufacturing. By providing deeper insight into operational processes, this allows workers to track, monitor, analyze and improve their efficiency, while streamlining and reducing waste, often in real time. 

To achieve optimal data analytics, the way that data is captured, stored, transferred, and computed must be constantly upgraded and optimized. This requires constant enhancements to existing infrastructure to ensure that its capabilities are up to task. Those manufacturers looking to embark on Industry 4.0 transformation are cognizant of this fact. One Gartner forecast estimated the manufacturing sector would increase its spending in IIoT communications by 11% a year in the decade from 2019 to 2029 [4].  

In other words, Industry 4.0 and IIoT transformation are driving manufacturing enterprises to invest in industrial networks to improve communication of operational data. This will support technological solutions that are being tested and implemented on the shop floor. 

Why should manufacturing enterprises invest in network and data infrastructure?

Without the right network and data infrastructure investments, manufacturers risk degraded performance and data bottlenecks that will significantly impact their network performance and create process disruptions [5]. Network bottlenecks can occur due to insufficient bandwidth, devices, or server overload, as well as outdated hardware or software. 

Besides the issue of network bottlenecks, memory needs have also increased as a result of big data use and increased data flows [6]. As data lies at the heart of Industry 4.0, without the right memory and data storage, the read/write and reliability of data will be impacted. Therefore, maintenance of data storage and handling will be an additional recurring cost that cannot be skimped on. 

To keep up with technological advancements and new network capabilities like private 5G networks in cloud computing [7] and edge computing [8], key decision makers within enterprises need to keep the right providers in mind when determining how to invest in advanced network infrastructure. Only by doing so can they ascertain the cost of investment against their potential returns and extract the best value while gaining a competitive advantage through better operational efficiency.   

Additionally, manufacturing enterprises who don’t readily keep up with Industry 4.0 and IIoT transformations risk lagging behind competitors and impeding their ability to optimize and enhance business processes cost effectively. 

The future of advanced manufacturing: beyond Industry 4.0

It’s also about preparing for what’s coming – there is no point architecting for 2023; you need to engineer for 2026 and beyond.  

The rapid digital transformation of the manufacturing sector is not slowing down. Many manufacturers have already embraced new technologies, but they must think beyond the present and plan for what lies beyond Industry 4.0.  

Manufacturers need to strike a balance between investing in ‘hardware’ – such as in underlying infrastructure, cybersecurity, and virtual network and network analysis – and investment in ‘software’, which includes upskilling and reskilling workers with digital skills to make full use of the new hardware [9]

More R&D investment is also inevitable; manufacturing enterprises still rank among the highest spenders [10]. This includes growing investment in advanced solutions like additive manufacturing, 5G networks, virtual reality, and augmented reality, as well as enhancing supply chain technologies [11].

Looking beyond these, all eyes are on the prize of Industry 5.0, which will focus on human-robot collaboration and synergy. While Industry 5.0 is still a concept, it will be enabled by Industry 4.0 and will rest on stronger network capabilities [12]. As manufacturing moves from Industry 4.0 to Industry 5.0, the shifting focus on human-centricity, sustainability and resilience means realigning goals and reconfiguring data needs [13]

Ultimately, digital transformation, be it Industry 4.0 or even Industry 5.0, is powered by the constant flow of data. In this digital age, data flows have increased exponentially, placing immense strain on current data infrastructure. To keep up and deliver results, manufacturers must continue investing in their networks. In this vein, having a provider or partner that can deliver the right network services and solutions is critical for manufacturers to stay ahead of the competition and reap a substantial return on investment. 

Coevolve can provide custom-made network solutions, ensuring a robust and reliable data infrastructure that is well-suited for industrial needs. Contact us today to learn more.