Industry 4.0 is a trending term, originating from a project in the high-tech strategy division of the German government to promote the computerization of manufacturing. As a general principle, it envisions a “smart factory” with cyber-physical systems communicating and cooperating real time with the software and humans that drive the production. Until recently, however, factory management tools and automation have been some of the only driving factors in production throughput.
While onsite with clients, I often ask what they envision for the future of their manufacturing and where they picture their shop floor in five or ten years. Invariably, the answer is always "with automated production.” So what does automated production actually mean and where does Industry 4.0 fit in? In all cases, automation is only a single piece of the puzzle. A huge aspect of manufacturing that is relatively overlooked when talking about Industry 4.0 is the human workforce.
Internet of Things
When looking forward, and keeping lean manufacturing and Industry 4.0 in mind, everything will need to be interconnected and feeding large data sets to track any analytics behind the scenes. The Internet of things, or IoT, is not a new concept but is only recently becoming a reality for most factories. The same can be said for the manufacturing workforce and operations. The key is building tools that are efficient and easy and enjoyable for the workforce to use, that will feed back all these points of data to monitor analytics. By capturing and monitoring this data, implementing changes and making continual improvements are much easier.
The Workforce & Industry 4.0
As manufacturing becomes more automated and digital, the workforce is expected to perform more and more complex tasks in a shorter amount of time. However, most tools that people roll out to their workforce are analog: things such as paperwork instructions, travelers, manual calipers and unintelligent visual inspection devices are incredibly common. We envision simple to use interactive tools that will help the human workforce make their jobs easier and do them better and more efficiently.
For the past four years, Tulip has been developing and implementing digital manufacturing apps to do exactly that, facilitate workforce data capture with automation driving it behind the scenes. Things like digitally distributed work instructions, intelligent connectors and sensors and even pre-programmed digital tools can be ran with Tulip. If you’ve been watching Tulip, you’ll know the general principles behind it: Tulip is a digital platform pioneered by MIT as an IoT-enabled platform for the shop floor. They’ve had lots of success running factories at companies like New Balance, Merck and Jabil already, and have been working to develop many manufacturing specific apps for the companies that are using it. They also recently launched a Factory Kit that would be a small scale, fast way to get Tulip onsite and up and running.
Tulip Factory Kit & Manufacturing App Library
Thanks to the success of the Factory Kit, there have been many new developments and use-case scenarios at Tulip, and they’ve been able to leverage that to everyone who uses it. Standard apps that have been developed by process engineers in the field to solve everyday problems like defect tracking, rework management, machine setup and maintenance, quality analysis and even employee training have all been developed by people using Tulip in the field. Tulip has decided to release these to the public. They’ve developed a Manufacturing App Library, similar to the App Store. The Manufacturing App Library is extensive and growing continuously, and can be leveraged into anyone’s factory floor setup. It’s meant to put the power of data and software driven manufacturing in hands of process engineers, and do it very quickly and easily.
Tulip has the potential to change the way you look at Industry 4.0 and seriously enable all of the data tracking and analysis that you would ever need for enabling your workforce to interact seamlessly and easily with a digital interface. If you haven’t seen Tulip yet, you should check out the sample, and consider picking up the Factory Kit to get started with digitally connected devices for your workforce today.
Interested to learn more about Tulip and manufacturing apps? Watch our On-Demand Webinar, Driving Digital Transformation with Self-Service Manufacturing Apps.