As advancements in Industry 4.0 surge ahead, the pace of development and sheer scope of technology often leaves small and midsize manufactures without the expertise and resources to forge a clear path forward.
Industry 4.0 is normally discussed in terms of large operations with budgets and staff dedicated to implementing advanced manufacturing technology. By comparison, many small and midsize manufacturers lack the dedicated staff to even begin their Industry 4.0 journey and come away from their research with far more questions than answers.
To aid small and midsize manufacturers in beginning their Industry 4.0 Journey, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center – West (The Center-West) has partnered with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Automation Alley to offer a free Industry 4.0 Opportunity Assessment. The assessment — the costs of which are underwritten by the MEDC — identifies key bottlenecks in a manufacturer’s operation and provides tailored advanced manufacturing solutions that make business sense for each company’s specific needs.
“This is literally a brass-tacks conversation,” said Justine Burdette, regional director of The Center-West and vice president of technical services at The Right Place Inc. “This is not all about robots and automation. We are bringing a more holistic approach to this.”
For Copemish-based M R Products Inc., the assessment allowed the manufacturer of plastic chains, plastic stanchions and other products to explore technology it otherwise would not have had the time or capacity to access.
“For us, Industry 4.0 and all of the new technology is a little bit beyond our capabilities,” said Ryan Schultz, COO of M R Products, who until a year ago also served as the company’s sole IT person. “We never had the capabilities in-house to really go after the next step. What this assessment did was identify the weaknesses that are most important to us and how we can attack those weaknesses.”
The Industry 4.0 Opportunity Assessment consists of two parts. First, manufacturers answer a set of questions pertaining to their business and manufacturing process, such as cost of goods sold, run time, number of employees and other similar questions. The second portion of the assessment includes an on-site walkthrough by two experienced members of The Center-West staff who tour the facility and analyze each company’s processes and procedures.
“They’re really getting a feel for not only your processes as a manufacturer and where you’re at in your manufacturing journey but also where you are at in your Industry 4.0 journey,” Burdette said.
Following the assessment, The Center-West issues a comprehensive report, customized to the individual manufacturer, which identifies specific pinch-points in the manufacturer’s operation. The report then offers recommendations for which specific Industry 4.0 and advanced manufacturing technology are best suited to address those issues. Most importantly, the assessment also provides cost breakdowns and estimated ROI figures for the manufacturer depending on what solution they choose.
For M R Products, the assessment identified solutions for inefficiencies in production data tracking. Previously, the company created large, complex spreadsheets that would go through several rounds of data entry and review with different employees before a report was issued — often the following week. This led to data that was out of date and lagged current production conditions.
The Center-West identified several solutions to this bottleneck through the assessment and followed through with connecting M R Products to the appropriate vendors. Now, M R Products uses tablets and software to collect and review production data. Instead of week-old data, the company has easy access to daily reports that they can then use to immediately address issues as they occur.
“I’m thrilled with the assessment,” Schultz said. “It was a little scary going through it. No one wants their faults picked out. … We knew we were low in some areas, and they definitely told us where we needed help. They really put it into perspective what it was costing us by not moving forward.”
Please contact The Center-West to schedule a free Industry 4.0 Opportunity Assessment with the information below.
Address: 125 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 450
Grand Rapids, MI 49503