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Industry 4.0 has the potential to change the game when it comes to deploying predictive maintenance and asset management strategies across the supply chain. This was one of the main takeaways I took from reading a recent MPI Group study, conducted with manufacturers from around the globe in June and July of 2021.

The first blog of the series focuses on the overall Industry 4.0 study, examining the extent to which manufacturers deploy Industry 4.0 in their organizations, supply chains, and new products.

Now I want to delve into how manufacturers have applied digital technologies to improve equipment practices and performances aligned with effective Asset Management (e.g., safety, energy management). I will discuss the opportunities and challenges manufacturers face when digitalizing their machines and plants, and also highlight how self-described digital leaders manage asset maintenance and perform in comparison to other companies.

Industry 4.0 Connects to Asset Management

Industry 4.0 enables the capture of critical information about a machine or piece of equipment performance in real time. According to the survey, 55% of manufacturers now leverage this data to employ actionable, real-time, role-based data for asset management decision-making, with another 28% aiming to do so within the next year.

In fact, it is noticeable that among the executives describing their company’s Industry 4.0 capabilities as ‘leaders’, two thirds are currently using real-time data for their asset management. Of the companies described as ‘competitive’ and ‘catchup/no Industry 4.0’, it is significantly less. Also, digital leaders increasingly use advanced human-machine interfaces on their plant floors, which, with equipment-specific technologies, can help manufacturers digitalize the operation and maintenance of machines. As a result, digital leaders claim higher percentages of smart devices and/or embedded intelligence in manufacturing equipment and processes.

Impact of Industry 4.0 on Asset Management Performance

According to the study results, for virtually all firms, the implementation of Industry 4.0 in plants and processes, as well as its influence on asset management activities, has resulted in enhanced productivity and profitability. A large majority of manufacturers report that the use of smart devices and/or intelligent devices has enhanced their asset management performance. Again, digital leaders are significantly more likely than their competitors who are playing catch-up to report major improvements.

Industry 4.0 Asset Management Challenges

The MPI study asserts that if network infrastructures were more capable of supporting Industry 4.0 communications, the influence on asset management procedures might be much larger. However, fewer than half of network infrastructures are now capable of machine-to-machine connections (e.g., sensors in one machine activate actions in another machine) and only a third of the devices can communicate with enterprise IT systems (i.e., machine sensors send data to the company business systems).

This lack of capable networks results in many executives not receiving plant floor data. Less than half of the manufacturers surveyed report that all company executives who need Industry 4.0-enabled data actually have access to it.

Industry 4.0 Takeaways

Industry 4.0 offers significant opportunities for manufacturers to improve asset management practices and machine performance. However, according to the MPI Industry 4.0 Study, many companies aren't fully utilizing digital technologies to enhance it.

Given the range of opportunities to improve equipment safety, reliability, and productivity, nearly all manufacturers should aggressively invest in their development by:

  1. Establishing Industry 4.0 objectives based on inadequate equipment performance (e.g., downtime, excessive start-up times, lengthy changeover times).

  2. Using smart devices to give real-time data on how machines work (temperature, vibration, and energy draw), allowing asset management teams to respond promptly.

  3. Implementing technologies that provide automated, proactive machine capabilities (for example, machine learning) to assist predictive maintenance, reduce downtime, and improve performance.

To learn more — and to benchmark your organization’s digital progress — download the full MPI 2021 Industry 4.0 Study here.