Industrial automation is a topic of conversation that manufacturers all over the globe are discussing on the shop floors of production facilities and in board rooms. Industrial automation is no longer an optional component of manufacturing industries. In order to remain competitive, industrial automation must be considered to maintain a level of competitiveness in modern manufacturing scenarios.

What Is Industrial Automation?

As far as an Industrial automation definition is concerned, the concept can be defined as completing an operation or procedure without human assistance by utilizing control systems, such as computers or robots, and information technologies, like ERP platforms and EDI, for handling different processes and machinery.

Types of Industrial Automation

There are several types of industrial automation in use today. They can be broken down into four main categories:

  1. Fixed (Hard) Automation

  2. Programmable Automation

  3. Flexible (Soft) Automation

  4. Totally Integrated Automation (TIA)

These types of automation are leveraged in different scenarios, some data-driven and some production-driven. We’ll go into that a little later.

For now, it’s important to understand that industrial automation technologies and concepts can be applied most readily to data collection, data processing, and predictable physical work, such as welding, soldering, painting, food prep, packaging, and materials handling.

Fixed (Hard) Automation

Fixed automation refers to the use of special purpose equipment to automate a fixed sequence of processing or assembly operations.

an image of fixed (hard) automation in industrial automation

In this example, the application is usually simple and will involve a process or assembly that is dictated by programmed commands. It is relatively difficult to accommodate changes in the product design in a fixed automation process, which is set up with one purpose or process per application in mind.

Fixed (Hard) Automation Examples include:

  • Mechanized assembly
  • Machining transfer lines
  • Automated material handling

Fixed (Hard) Automation Advantages:

  • High production rates
  • Low unit cost

Fixed (Hard) Automation Disadvantages:

  • Relatively inflexible in accommodating product variety
  • High initial investment for custom-engineered equipment
  • High vulnerability to failure
  • Obsolescence

Programmable Automation

In programmable automation, the production equipment is designed with the capability to change the sequence of operations to accommodate different product configurations.

an image of programmable automation in industrial automation

Programmable automation is used most often when manufacturing products in batches. It allows for customization and frequent changes throughout the manufacturing process.

In this case, the operation is controlled by a program of instructions that are read and interpreted by the system. New programs can be prepared and entered into the hardware to produce new products at any time.

Programmable Automation Examples include:

  • Computer Numerical controlled (CNC) machine tools
  • Industrial robots
  • Programmable logic controllers (PLC)

Programmable Automation Advantages:

  • Flexible and able to deal with design variations
  • Suitable for batch production

Programmable Automation Disadvantages:

  • High investment in general purpose equipment
  • Lower production rate than fixed automation

Flexible (Soft) Automation

With flexible automation, several machine tools are linked together by a material-handling system, and all components of the system are controlled by a central computer. This configuration offers rapid and smooth changes to products and processes.

an example of soft (flexible) automation

Utilizing multiple tools that are linked by a material handling system, like this rotary indexer, a flexible approach to automation is capable of producing a variety of parts with virtually no time lost for changes in the configuration. The same is true when reprogramming the system or altering the physical set up.

Flexible (Soft) Automation Examples Include:

Robot arms that can be programmed to assume multiple tasks, such as insert screws, drill holes, sand, weld, insert rivets, and spray paint objects on an assembly line.

Flexible (Soft) Automation Advantages:

  • Continuous production of variable mixtures of products
  • Flexible to deal with product design variation
  • Offers Medium production rate

Flexible (Soft) Automation Disadvantages:

  • Requires High amount of investment
  • High unit cost relative to fixed automation

Totally-Integrated Automation (TIA)

More of a philosophy pioneered by Siemens Automation and Drives than a tangible system, TIA includes several core concepts:

  • A common software environment
  • A common data management system
  • A common communication method

 TIA implementation is ideal for many industries, including:

  • Automotive
  • General machine construction
  • Special-purpose machine manufacturing
  • Standard mechanical equipment manufacturer, OEMs
  • Plastics processing
  • The packaging industry
  • Food, beverages and tobacco industries

Totally-Integrated Automation (TIA) Defining Characteristics:

  • Facilitates shorter time-to-market
  • Higher productivity
  • Lower life-cycle costs
  • Reduced complexity
  • Greater security of investment

Industrial Automation With ERP And EDI

In the past, ERP software has served, in large part, to automate traditional business functions and record-keeping activities. Today, IIoT technologies extend those automation capabilities to the production floor. Taking into account the vast amounts of data production processes, robotics, and edge devices provide to centralized ERP systems, maintenance schedules, demand planning, and reporting can all be completed without the need for human intervention. By setting conditions and responses within the ERP system, users can monitor facility operations to expend energy or resources only when conditions warrant. The results are a more connected, streamlined business from the shop floor to the top floor with less waste at every level.

EDI further optimizes operations by eliminating manual communications between trading partners that used to take the form of faxes, phone calls, and emails. Electronic Data Interchange is an ERP agnostic technology that communicates critical order and shipping details instantaneously between digital devices. Standardized document formats, ensure that your logistics are in sync. Data exchanged through EDI is kept secure end-to-end and remains easy to interpret for both active orders and historical records.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is an ERP consulting firm and Epicor Gold Partner that offers professional services in business consulting, project management, and software implementation. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems or addressing the emerging challenges in corporate and operational growth, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. As experts in identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.

Top 10 Benefits Of IoT For Manufacturers

Chances are you have come across the terms Internet of Things (IoT) or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). These are networks of connected devices that communicate data to a central system in order to make sense of it all. These networks consist of connected edge devices, terminals, and machines in an enterprise. The data captured through this network provides an understanding of what is successful and what is not in terms of operations and processes. The system that helps you interpret the captured data is, more often than not, your company’s ERP system. Read on to learn how you can leverage the top 10 benefits of IoT for manufacturers in your facility.

Internet of Things (IoT)

When it comes to everyday devices capable of the connectivity we are talking about, the numbers are staggering. Billions of devices exist with this capability. In fact, it is estimated that there are roughly 7 such devices for each person on the planet, totaling roughly 50bn devices by 2020.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

When it comes to IIoT devices, the vast majority reside in manufacturing, followed closely by healthcare and retail industries. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) puts a focus on this interconnectivity and data provided by the terminals, sensors, and other systems on the factory floor. These data-fueled factories become “intelligent” environments, which are capable of informing enterprises from the top down. They provide visibility regarding the efficiency of factory processes and performance both in real-time and over time. In short, the data enables manufacturers to refine and improve operations with relevant and up-to-date data.

an image of IIoT statistics top 10 benefits of iot for manufacturers

Source: Accenture

So, how can your organization stand to benefit from making the investment in IoT connectivity? Here are the top 10 benefits of IoT for manufacturers.

1. The Connected Factory – Blindspots Begone

IoT enabled machines and endpoints are capable of communicating operational information to personnel both inside and peripheral to your organization. That includes machine operators, managers, field service personnel and even partners like suppliers, subcontractors, and OEMs. This connectivity delivers mission-critical data and information to operation managers and factory leadership on-site and out-of-office. The power to control operations and manage factory activity on a remote level increases opportunities for process optimization and automation. view the Connected Factory In Action infographic at Manufacturing Tomorrow.

2. Production Visibility – Identifying Bottlenecks And Improve Processes

When it comes to production, the continuous monitoring of processes that IoT connectivity provides will enable improvements to be made on a rolling basis. Hangtime in assembly and manufacturing operations gain particular benefit when bottlenecks are identified and adjustments can be made in nearly real-time to realize better approaches to production management and the reduction of operational costs. Additionally, part waste is reduced alongside fewer resources tied up in inventory and better overall product delivery. For some organizations, IoT connectivity will lead to a 15 percent productivity increase in delivery and supply chain performance.

3. Better Inventory Management – Find It Fast, From Anywhere

With technologies like RFID and IoT connectivity, personnel tasked with managing inventory can leverage automated asset tracking and reporting through ERP to avoid the costly mistakes that come with working within antiquated inventory tracking systems. This connectivity allows items to be tracked and the data recorded to the ERP system automatically. These performance management capabilities made possible through IoT connectivity and ERP can help organizations reduce the number of working hours committed to inventory management each month and reduce the probability of human error. Track your stock from shop to dock with IoT technologies in your facility.

4. Build A Safer Work Environment

While there are no doubts that IoT connectivity and ERP improve production on the factory floor; these technologies can also help create a safer working environment for employees. This can be in the form of vision and spatial awareness systems for human-machine interactions or wearable safety technologies your staff keep on their person throughout the day. There are several safety concerns in any manufacturing facility. IoT connected devices can communicate to larger systems within the organization of aberrations, such as too much vibration or heat being exhibited from a machine or pressure loss within piping segments, and even gas leaks that might be otherwise undetectable to human perception. Staff moving through dangerous parts of your facility can signal to connected machines that a human is in close proximity and appropriate action can be taken automatically. An employee that sustains an injury in a remote location of the facility or even off-site can receive faster care with the inclusion of IoT-connected safety equipment. These are only a handful of examples of how IoT for manufacturers can improve safety in your facility.

5. Secure Your Facilities

With a growing number of bad actors participating in malicious attacks on manufacturers across the globe, manufacturing facility security is a topic of conversation every organization should be discussing. When it comes to security, IoT provides manufacturers with a way to monitor their data coming into the system as well as going out. Terminals and end-points can signal foreign devices being connected to infrastructure, large amounts of data being moved, and individuals accessing data they otherwise shouldn’t have access to. Leveraging IoT for manufacturers can help guard against security threats to vital hardware, software, and cloud-stored data. You can even manage devices and policies throughout an enterprise from a single point using IoT connectivity. For more information on Practical Security for the Internet of things – view the infographic from Entrust.

6.Predictive Maintenance – Minimize Machine Downtime

Predictive maintenance identifies the condition of equipment while it is in-service and determines the optimal service interval. It saves time and money by completing maintenance activity only when necessary. A special focus has been placed on predictive maintenance, as opposed to preventative maintenance, more recently. This is because it allows longer periods of operation between maintenance tasks, resulting in less downtime for essential machinery. When coupled with technologies like IoT for Manufacturers, everything from vibration, voltage, temperature, and other performance indicators feed into sensing tools attached to machines. This information is interpreted and visualized by intelligent software solutions, such as ERP platforms, into updates, warnings, and alerts. Your teams can use this information to evaluate the situation and take the most appropriate action. Intelligent and connected devices assist in setting data points that indicate when a part is reaching end-of-life, too.  Automated systems can be directed to order replacement parts if none are on-site and schedule the replacement or repair in such a way that minimizes unplanned production downtime, which can cost manufacturers as much as $300,000 an hour.

an image of iot for manufacturers and the tools predictive maintenance delivers to manufacturers

The Volvo group provides one real-world example of how an IoT-based predictive maintenance solution can predict damage to spindles, as well as identifies cracking and spalling of rotating equipment, gearing, and motor defects. The resulting improvements to OEE saw a 70 percent reduction in diagnostic time and a 25 percent reduction in repair times.

7. Predictive Forecasting – Real-Time vs. Historical Data

Today’s global economies move too quickly for manufacturers to rely on historical data to forecast demand. Weather events, materials shortages, and a host of other environmental factors can influence demand for any given product at any given time. Accurate forecasting is critical for manufacturers that want to sell as much of a product as possible without oversaturating their markets.

Take, for instance, a widget. A consumer buys a connected widget, which in turn collects data about usage, wear and tear, and overall performance. The relative data is then sent back to the manufacturer to determine what adjustments need to be made to the product for more predictable forecasts of future demand. If the product is satisfactory for customers across a wide range of environments and uses, then the average life-cycle can be taken into account and manufacturing volume can be adjusted to match. The result is more accurate demand forecasting, fewer wasted resources and stock tied up in inventory. What follows is an increase in overall customer satisfaction based on quality and deliverability when consumers return for a replacement part.

IoT for Manufacturers in this sense can go far beyond demand forecasting to include the entire supply chain with traditional forecasting, statistical bottom-up forecasting, and ship-to forecasting. Zara is one retailer using IoT to forecast demand and minimize waste.

8. Increased Energy Efficiency – A Smaller Footprint

If you didn’t already know, industries like discrete and process manufacturers are responsible for the majority of energy consumption worldwide. In fact, industrial manufacturing is responsible for consuming 54% globally delivered electricity. This leads to pretty sizable operating costs. fortunately, IoT for manufacturers can significantly increase energy efficiency in a number of ways.

initially, managers can easily identify hardware and devices that use the most energy. This information can be used in creating advanced operating profiles that tell machines when to power up and operate or power down and conserve energy. Systems draining too much power, or more than they should be, can be a sign of malfunction. IoT connectivity can highlight these abnormalities right away and address problems more immediately than if the power consumption of machinery were not being monitored. This capability keeps machines operating at peak efficiency and capacity without draining resources unnecessarily.

Beyond this, IoT connectivity can give you an energy profile of your entire facility, or many facilities. The data can then be used to create the most appropriate and efficient back-up systems to keep operations running smoothly despite adverse environmental factors. As a result, you can keep operating during tight deadlines and production schedules despite outages.

9. Improved Quality – IoT For Manufacturers’ Process Improvement

Quality can mean many things for manufacturers and their partners. Internally, improving processes through IoT devices can come from something as commonplace as alerting operators when there is too much material buildup on a machine’s end effectors or internal mechanisms. The addressing action would lead to improved machine performance, better output, and an improved process. in a temperature controlled facility, aberrant tempt reading could be the result of a door left open, poor insulation, or a faulty HVAC system component. All of which can be identified and addressed with the help of IoT connectivity.

Alternatively, connected products and goods used in the field can relay valuable data that might not have been previously tested. This can include machinery performance when used in a cold, dry climate versus the humid tropics. Even phones that fail in freezing or sweltering temperatures can tell designers and engineers what components are of substandard quality, leading to improvements in future products manufactured with those conditions taken into account.

10. Increase Operational Efficiency – Maneuver Like A Tesla, Not An Oil Tanker

IoT connected devices allow manufacturing operations and executives to utilize data flowing through their facilities to make smarter, more informed decisions. Using the information available enables the connected enterprise to undertake proactive, continuous improvement initiatives that create a more agile and stable future through both insight and action.

Truly, the benefits delivered by IoT-connected assets go beyond operational efficiency. The connected enterprise represents the next level of organizational maturity. It encapsulates predictive maintenance, higher quality products, more focused leadership, and overall organizational health. Overall, IoT for manufacturers allows staff throughout a company to work smarter, not harder, today. over the long term, cost benefits are realized many times over as upsets and disruptions in operations can be avoided entirely.

Epicor ERP IoT For Manufacturers – Workflow

Monitor equipment, assets, environmental factors, inventory locations, and their corresponding IoT data. Events and data—such as sensor and machine telemetry—flow into the Azure IoT Hub. From there, the data propagates to the IoT module of your Epicor ERP solution. Epicor IoT has an advanced rule-based engine that can detect patterns and raise alerts and notifications that propagate into Epicor ERP where they can be used to trigger business process changes like raising a maintenance suggestion when equipment degradation is detected.

Here are just some of the benefits realized when you implement Epicor ERP IoT for manufacturers:

  • Identify issues such as potential breakdowns before they happen
  • Optimize supply and reduce costs by monitoring events across your supply chain
  • Improve overall workers safety and security in the plant by monitoring the KPIs of health and safety
  • Improve decision-making by providing real-time, actionable information
  • Increase customer satisfaction and efficiencies and lower costs
  • Gain insights into the usage patterns and handling of product from customers
  • Predict issues and reduce inventory by tracking materials, equipment, and product as it moves through the supply chain

Contact Encompass Solutions, Inc. to learn more about implementing Epicor ERP IoT for manufacturers using the link below.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is an ERP consulting firm, NetSuite Solution Provider and Epicor Platinum Partner that offers professional services in business consulting, project management, and software implementation. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems or addressing the emerging challenges in corporate and operational growth, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. As experts in identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.

Manufacturers are implementing technological advancements to enhance automation processes every day. We call this latest wave of rapid development Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution. While modernization presents numerous opportunities for growth and process enhancement, experts are increasingly aware of their need for heightened security in an increasingly insecure digital landscape. Manufacturing and other industries are taking a closer look at cloud-based ERP and unified systems to address vulnerabilities.

IIoT Network Security Threats And How To Protect Operations

Over the last 10 years, system control integrators and industrial automation thought-leaders have sought to address what they’ve identified as the chief IIoT network security concerns. Manufacturing operations in the US and abroad have suffered a significant increase in disruption due to cyber threats and the trend appears to be steadily increasing. In 2013, of 257 total cybersecurity incidents, critical manufacturing comprised 15% of all attacks. That number rose by 12% in 2015, and another 6% to 33% of all incidents in 2015.

A picture of digital devices on a table connected through a chain of paper clips.

Manufacturing And Other Industries Are Taking A Closer Look At Cloud-Based ERP And Unified Systems To Address Vulnerabilities.

The proliferation of cyber-attacks, as evidenced in Triton, WannaCry, and Petya events, have left the executive suite on edge. According to a recent global survey, conducted as part of the Kroll Annual Global Fraud & Risk Report 2017/2018, 86% of executives put cybersecurity among their top anxieties, which the report refers to as a “new normal”. Seven in 10 of those surveyed in the manufacturing sector reported such an incident, either in the form of information/data theft, fraud, loss, or attack, has taken place within their operations over the last year. The report paid particular attention to organizations’ workforces, which routinely emerge as either paramount security assets or threats. This only highlights the importance of adopting comprehensive approaches to securing resources, equipment, and operational capabilities.

Cyber Arms Race: Cybersecurity IACS/IEC 62443-4-2 Certification

Among the reported incidents over the last 12 months, virus/worm infestations and email phishing scams topped the charts, at 36% and 33% of total incidents respectively. Examples of modern cyber threats, along with how they can be avoided, have been acknowledged by system integrators and cybersecurity professionals in a recent release of training resources from WoMaster, a networking and computing solution provider. Among the topics addressed are accidental unauthenticated access, common attacks experienced by system integrators, and intentional access by hackers who utilize specific skills and tools rank among the most critical concerns. Among these tools and skills are IP Source Guard, Dynamic ARP Inspection, DHCP Snooping, Denial of Service, and Distributed Denial Of Service exploits.

a picture of a hooded individual working at a desktop PC.

The Proliferation Of Cyber-Attacks, As Evidenced In Triton, Wannacry, And Petya Events, Have Left The Executive Suite On Edge.

The series seeks to educate critical manufacturing operators on the nuances of modern cybersecurity, the importance of adopting strict cybersecurity procedures, and conforming to the standards outlined in Cybersecurity IACS/IEC 62443-4-2 Certification. Such standards-based certifications offer economically efficient means of maintaining best practices when it comes to cybersecurity along with tangible benefits to operators and peace of mind for anyone whose data is stored in targeted digital systems.

How Cloud-based ERP Systems Address Security Expenses For SMEs

Cloud-based ERP systems are being relied upon by enterprises of every size more and more as time goes on.  Cloud-based security is perhaps one of the biggest topics surrounding the efficacy of modern ERP systems.

A picture of coworkers in a boardroom around a table.

SMEs Should Take Advantage Of This Highly-Secured Environment To Allow For More Focused Efforts On Growth.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which may not have had much experience with cloud-based software, are typically the most skeptical. This is not to say that security risks don’t exist in the cloud. Security risks are always present. Handling security issues for cloud-based ERP is a challenging and complex process, not to mention costly. However, Cloud ERP providers, such as Epicor and NetSuite, spend hundreds of millions of dollars erecting formidable security apparatuses and maintaining and updating these safeguards regularly. That said, large, international manufacturers tend to keep their ERP systems on premises, despite ERP providers offering high-level security for their cloud solutions. Solutions that SMEs are generally unable to implement themselves. As a result, it is advisable SMEs to take advantage of this highly-secured environment to allow for more focused efforts on growth. This way, SMEs can more readily compete in a marketplace where they are still considered the underdog.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.

The common misconception about automation is that in the long term it will cost more jobs than it creates. The fact of the matter is that this is simply not true. Automation, working alongside effective ERP systems, provides workforces the freedom to become more specialized and efficient. Automation works in tandem with ERP to conserve resources and take the mundane and repetitive tasks out of the picture.

As a result, the human component of businesses can take on more logical, critical thinking-oriented tasks. This adds value to the business by strengthening the quality of care customers receive and nurtures the satisfaction employees receive when they occupy more critical and appreciated roles in their careers.

Automation And Job Creation With ERP Systems

While the technology and machinery associated with automation and ERP systems assume easy roles it the workplace, the more agile and adaptable human is still required to run and maintain them.

A photograph of a specialized factory worker at an MES interface tied to ERP systems

A Specialized Worker Ensures That The Factory’s Automation Equipment Runs At Peak Performance.

Cotton mills are a prominent example of how technology replaced human labor in the textile industry. While unskilled labor, such as cotton picking was replaced by the cotton gin, the process of refining the picked cotton still required a human touch. Loom operators found their jobs replaced with automated machinery, but those machines too needed to be run and maintained by skilled labor. A loom couldn’t craft a shirt on its own but made the process infinitely more simple and the results were less cost prohibitive for the consumer. This translated into higher demand for cotton goods and more weavers were required to address the demand.

Over the past 150 years, the labor force has thrived alongside the implementation of automation technology, rather than having been hindered by it. The article Automation Technology and Anxiety, featured in Economist, focused on the example of cotton and detailed how the textile became easier by a factor of 50 to produce following the advent of automation technology in the industry. As a result, the cost of cotton plummeted, making goods derived from the textile easier to afford. This increased consumer demand led to a demand for more skilled labor. The article states, “In America during the 19th century the amount of coarse cloth a single weaver could produce in an hour increased by a factor of 50, and the amount of labor required per yard of cloth fell by 98%. This made cloth cheaper and increased demand for it, which in turn created more jobs for weavers: their numbers quadrupled between 1830 and 1900. In other words, technology gradually changed the nature of the weaver’s job, and the skills required to do it, rather than replacing it altogether.” The main takeaway from the passage should be that while the production of coarse cotton became radically easier to produce, job growth in the sector grew by 400 percent in a 70-year period as a result.

A more modern example can be found in Amazon’s headcount statistics. While the company’s fleet of robots has doubled over the last two years, the labor force has only increased over the same period.

Automation And ERP Systems

ERP Systems functions much in the same way, working alongside automated systems in manufacturing. In terms of data management, ERP systems take over repetitive processes and assume these otherwise mundane roles associated with enterprise data to reduce waste and free labor to take on more mission-critical tasks. These streamlined processes end up saving businesses substantial costs in the long term and facilitate growth that scales alongside the pace of Industry.

an image of food and beverage manufacturing controlled by erp systems

Automation Takes The Form Of Machine And Digital Processes.

Independent Labor Sources Develop

The independent workforce is another segment of global labor that shows increasing promise in the face of automation, with highly-skilled, highly-educated, and experienced professionals increasingly being sought after by companies that have adopted automation to a high degree. Software engineering, product management, and application development professionals are among the most sought-after independents. Automation plays together with the independent workforce as companies look to supplement their automated systems with independent workers to fulfill highly-specialized roles. Factories may not need the workers they once did thanks to robots and automated assembly, but the gaps in operations, maintenance, and planning leave more than enough room for a more specialized workforce to step in.

The Pains Of Transition

While it’s true the application of automation upsets work roles and employment demographics within the industries where they are applied, the real pains are felt in the short-term transition process. Bhagwan Chowdhry, professor of finance at the University of California, Los Angeles, details what he sees as a necessary shift in paradigm between learning and working to maintain a qualified workforce as automation assumes what has been traditionally referred to as blue-collar jobs.

A photo of a CNC machine cutting metal shapes and forms where data is fed from ERP systems.

Modern Automation And Processes Require The Transition Of Workforces from Un-Skilled or Low-Skilled to Highly-skilled.

In an interview with the BBC last year, he offered his thoughts on how to address the need for more specialized labor in the face of automation, “The distinction between work and learning might need to become more amorphous. We currently have a dichotomy where those who work not learn, and those who learn do not work. We need to think about getting away from the traditional five-day working week to one where I spend 60% of my time doing my job and 40% learning on a regular basis.” In short, automation and robots, particularly collaborative robots, are increasingly filling a complementary role alongside workers, rather than one of replacement. The safest route, in terms of ensuring humans have a future in the workforce, is to scale skillsets alongside the technology that enables them the increased time to learn about most technical concepts and roles.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.

in Industry 4.0, Manufacturers and distributors have access to data on a scale that has never existed before. The two are leveraging the insights gleaned from that access to pursue new innovations in automation and systems that are reshaping the face of these industries. Pairing innovations like these with a robust ERP solution is the most effective way to ensure your business is prepared to address emerging technology trends that can reshape your industry overnight. Learn more about emerging technologies in manufacturing and Industry 4.0 to remain to be the competition, rather than simply competitive.

Industry 4.0

First, there was industry 1.0, the emergence of mechanization, as well as water-, steam-, and fossil fuel-powered systems. This was followed by mass production of goods, assembly line manufacturing, and electricity powering it all in Industry 2.0. With 3.0 came computers and automation using robotics. Today, we’ve reached the next milestone in revolutionizing Industry. Connecting established trends and emerging technologies between automation and data exchange in manufacturing is Industry 4.0. Also referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, it is focused on bringing cyber-physical systems into the mainstream and placing them at the forefront of the manufacturing industry.

The first Industry 4.0 conference was held last week by Troy, Michigan-based Automation Alley (AA), a non-profit tech and manufacturing business association that connects industry, academia, and government to accelerate innovation in manufacturing. During the conference, a report outlining what AA and industry experts see as the next wave of industry tech to influence innovation emerged. In the report, a roadmap outlined several core technologies that professionals and researchers agree will direct the trajectory of manufacturing in the coming years.

Noting the biggest challenge of innovation on the manufacturing floor as supply-side participants being able to keep up, executive director of Automation Alley Tom Kelly remained optimistic, stating, “The world (of manufacturing) is changing so fast, we can’t assume any company really knows where it’s headed. But based on what’s possible, we hope to help them turn this into action instead of stagnation.” Industry 5.0 has already appeared on the horizon with technologies that are only now being conceptualized and brought into existence.


a picture of a welder at work welding part of a steel frame structure

New Manufacturing Technologies And The Next Industrial Revolution Are Here


The full report on AA’s research into industry 4.0 will be released in April 2018 for those who were unable to attend last week’s conference centered on deconstructing the “siloed thinking” of manufacturing in its current state and nurturing the “smart factory” megatrend of connecting machines, workers, and factory systems through the internet and cloud computing.

The Industrial Internet Of Things

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) utilized relevant information and completes essential tasks through smartphones, tablets, and other edge devices. Businesses can use this performance data in real-time to adapt and change their operations into a more streamlined process internally and externally for both short-term and long-term gains. This superior connectivity facilitates faster response times from all departments and brings with it improved agility for operations of every size.

An image displaying introducing Industry 4.0 technologies.

Emerging Technologies Are Ushering In A New Industrial Revolution – Industry 4.0



As robots become smarter, cheaper, and more efficient in their roles on the factory floor, these entities will command a greater presence in shaping the manufacturing industry. Advances in robotics technology allow these machines to take on more complex traits, including machine learning, heightened dexterity, memory, and the ability to collaborate more effectively. As a result, robots will usher in a new set of standards that every manufacturer will need to adopt to remain relevant.

An image displaying how Robotics and root systems are a significant component of Industry 4.0 technologies.

Advances In Robotics Means Smarter, More Agile, And More Efficient Robots.

Artificial Intelligence

Commonly the subject of doomsday scenario horror films, AI is nothing to discount as the stuff of science fiction gone wrong. The technology is already in our daily lives in the form of self-driving cars and industrial robotics. In manufacturing applications, the technology will become the new standard by which large sets of data are analyzed and predictive maintenance is undergone. In short, companies will have no choice but to “go digital” in order to survive.

An image a personal robot as part of Industry 4.0 technologies.

The Next Generation Of Artificial Intelligence Will Work side By Side With Humans On The Shop Floor.

Big Data

The means by which we capture data and store it is changing by the day. The even more complex and daunting tasks are how to sift through it and how to identify the relevant bits for different applications. New standards in search, sharing, transfer, visualization, querying, updating and information privacy are emerging as a result. To keep up with the data, rather than being mired in it, manufacturers will need to adopt more robust technologies than traditional data processing software, which is where specialized ERP solutions give your business the critical edge it needs to succeed. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is one more example of how automation technologies are increasing productivity and how we manage data in the manufacturing environment.

An image displaying how Big Data systems are a significant component of Industry 4.0 technologies.

With More Data To Store And Sift Through, It Will Become Increasingly Necessary For Powerful Tools To Assist In Making Sense Of It All.

The Cloud

In many circles, the cloud is considered a four-letter word. The technology is new and traditional operators across industries are skeptical of its intangible nature. It is not maintained locally and can’t be monitored, stored or secured using traditional methods. That being said, Cloud-based technology is how the companies of the future will operate as it allows in-house users and remote workforces to collaborate in real-time more effectively than with traditional data systems. The cloud approach is faster, improves manageability, and reduces maintenance.

An image displaying how cloud computing and cloud technology systems are a big component of Industry 4.0 technologies.

Data Stored Digitally Can Be Utilized And Amended At A Moment’s Notice.


As more and more operations move toward cloud-based solutions and rely more heavily on a robotic workforce, maintaining the security and integrity of these systems becomes a much larger issue. In fact, cybersecurity in the manufacturing sector is listed as the highest priority of the National Association of Manufacturers. Industrial control systems are among the most sensitive targets, which is the class of computers that help to manage the shop floor. As more manufacturers simultaneously build and integrate their systems through the industrial Internet of Things, more opportunities for threats emerge.

An image displaying how cyber security systems are a big component of Industry 4.0 technologies.

Cybersecurity Will be One Of The Most Crucial Concepts To Address As New Innovations Bring Change To The Manufacturing Industry.

Advanced Materials And Additive Manufacturing

An emerging advanced manufacturing technology, you might know Advanced Materials And Additive Manufacturing by the more common name of 3D printing. A process that used to take weeks to accomplish on a small scale, 3D printing can know construct large and complex structures, like housing, in less than a day. Organic compounds, custom plastics, and a host of other materials can be utilized in the process, harmonizing product and nature through innovation.

An image displaying how additive manufacturing and 3D printing systems are a big component of Industry 4.0 technologies.

Advanced Materials And Additive Manufacturing Utilizes 3D Printers For Projects Large And Small.

Modeling, Simulation, Visualization, And Immersion

Analyzing, manipulating, and leveraging data is essential when it comes to making decisions on the future of any business. With new forms of visualization, simulation, and interaction available at the press of a button, businesses can leverage the latest technology to more effectively review, report, and forecast using their data. 3D visualization, virtual reality, and immersion tools are just a few of the innovations available to a host of businesses that rely on massive amounts of data daily, including manufacturing, healthcare, sciences, finance, and energy. Beyond data, these innovations and associated tools help develop tech and lead teams to greater success rates with more thorough and effective preparation for mission-critical tasks.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.