Director, Cedar Bay
Who is Cedar Bay? Well, my children think we’re a fun office full of nerf guns. But we actually streamline people’s businesses through better data capture.
Industry 4.0 is talked about a lot and I like it as a way of thinking about how systems will develop in the future. It’s about autonomous decision-making processes. Every phase of industry has been about simplification of parts of processes through automation. Can we get to the stage where factories can run themselves, making its own decisions? Yes, but it’s a long way off.
But we can use the internet of things (IoT) to start making those decisions. The key is that most people have a factory with some automation and some data collection. How do you get from there to where we want to be? There’s loads of research out there about where we are and where we want to be. 57% of businesses use written documentation for taking inventory, for example. That’s astonishing – so few people using technology to streamline their business.
Industry 4.0 and customers: what’s the benefit?
So, how does Industry 4.0 help out customers? Well, it helps capture the real-time data you can plug into tools like IFS. It starts with the barcode scanner, but people are taking the man out of the loop with unmanned scanning, for example. Most systems have some error-proofing built in, but taking the people and cost out are both important.
We have 75 transactions implemented in 12 countries across 60 customers. The whole focus is on streamlining the data capture in a sustainable way. Make it easy to add an additional thing, make it easy to train additional people.
Here are some examples:
- It’s usually fairly difficult to get your suppliers to deliver goods with labels that are useful to you for scanning. So, a supplier portal allows the supplier to print labels with all the right details on standard labels and equipment. It’s almost one-click. Not quite, but almost.
- Too many receiving facilities are still largely run manually with Word docs and books and photos and all sorts of things to create documents to return goods to the suppliers. Using IFS control plans, we created a transaction for a mobile scanner and a control plan, which runs them through the tests after the scan, which allows either a pass into inventory or a fail, which gets highlighted straight to the buyers for immediate replacement. All the images get uploaded to document management and then inserted into election notices to the supplier. Use this – and those receiving offices empty out, as the QA people are out of the floor scanning and checking.
- A palletizer line really needs an automated recording. The palletizer’s PLC can send a useful signal that we can take, use, transform and send to IFS. The guys who had been doing that manually can be reassigned to more valuable work.
- End of line reporting can be challenging. Have a touch screen and the end, with a single button that the worker hits when a crate is complete. It prints a label which goes straight on the case, making it trackable. When 20 crates hit a pallet, the pallet gets a label, connecting them all together. Constant visibility for very little effort.
- Maintenance people? They walk around. Why not have them walk around with a mobile device that allows them to capture information around their work orders. They can both explicitly put in data, as well as implicitly track things like time to close off the work order, costs and materials.
- Some warehouse goods need to be stored away from each other for, say, contamination risks. Using the putaway logic ability in IFS, you can track quickly and easily where things are and when they got there, which are both vital for certain perishable goods.
Offline mobility – yes, it can be done
Mobility makes even more sense outside the factory. We built a scripting engine that allows custom questionnaires with built-in logic to prevent errors and junk entry. It all works when offline and syncs up as soon as the device goes online. There are some buildings – like defense contractors – where there’s no wifi available. So you need an offline solution that’s based on device memory, that gets docked once all the inventory move transactions are recorded.
The next step seems to be location tracking – triggering transactions based on location. Only the relevant UI appears in each location – it’s a real simplification for the user. We’ve played with it in our offices. We know it works from a technology point of view, but finding the right application will be key.
A lot of it is already here. The hardware is ready. The software is ready. Smart glasses could revolutionize picking – it frees up hands while guiding the picker and allowing data capture.
Find the challenges and use your imagination – we’ll get some great new solutions.