Davide di Blasi, Global Quality and Lean Director, Hilding Anders International

What are some of the major challenges and trends that have been impacting the Internet of Things IoT space lately?

The industry is changing fast. We are entering a new era of industrial production, characterized by digital integration, that is turning factories into “smart factories”. Today’s innovations offer an incredible opportunity to build on a company’s lean efforts by enabling massive cost savings and eliminating work and processes that add no value. However, a digital transformation challenges every function, it requires new skills and investments. The traditional competitive landscape of companies is changing and failing to implement a digital strategy can determine loss of competitiveness and digital disruption. Digital transformation is changing the world of manufacturing to more “predictive analytics,” where data is used to predict performance and failures. The “big data” collected from the instruments can be used for making decisions and helping make operations more efficient and profitable, by leveraging new digital technologies

2. What keeps you up at night when it comes to some of the major predicaments in the Internet of Things IoT space?

Today, lean processes are still at the heart of most manufacturing operations worldwide and are increasingly important in other industry sectors, including distribution and financial services. However, the manufacturing industry has changed dramatically since lean principles were first adopted, especially in the areas of manufacturing technology and information management. In response, managers are starting to review their original lean strategies. Digital technologies are changing traditional realities and offer an incredible opportunity to build on a company’s lean efforts by enabling massive cost savings and eliminating work and processes that add no value. Just an example:  the gathering of multi-dimensional data (from temperature to movement, acceleration to force) via embedded RFID devices or sensors, the sharing of these data among machines, and their analysis by Cloud computing lead to machines operating in perfect harmony with one another without the need for any human intervention. Some major digital trends that may change the fundamental expectations and behaviours in an industry, leading to the so-called Digital disruption. Sometimes to have so big availability of data could be a risk due to the poor resources and skills to manage them; we potentially could only highlight wastes but without any positive impact to reduce that!

3. Can you tell us about the latest project that you have been working on and what are some of the technological and process elements that you leveraged to make the project successful?

Automation pyramid is an example of the different levels of automation in a factory, more specifically of how technology is being integrated into industry. Understanding the Automation Pyramid is foundational to most discussions about manufacturing technology, and the directions in which industry is evolving.

Implementation of a MES system and its combination with ERP was really a challenging task and still on-going.

Industry 4.0 continue to make changes in the way our factories are managed, so knowledge of Automation pyramid represents a starting point to achieve business objectives. In general, emerging technologies could have a profound effect on the current pyramid, this development and the concept of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are leading to an evolution of the pyramid. First of all, with cloud systems, data will no longer travel via wires or cables. Therefore, not all parts of the process would need to be in the same physical place. For example, a cloud system with virtual PLCs could run processes that don’t need complex, real-time control. IIoT would also support data exchange between all levels, not just adjacent layers. All these changes suggest that, with IIoT, the automation pyramid may transform into an automation pillar as seen in this image (new concept of industrial Pyramid).

In other words, the fourth industrial revolution combines the real world of production with the digital world, creating an “ecosystem” in which man and machine work together to achieve complete optimization, but this can only be fully achieved with the change in thinking and attitude, developing a new concept of production engineering and management.

4. What are some of the technological trends which excite you for the future of the Internet of Things IoT space?

Business drivers are the key inputs and activities that drive the operational and financial results of a business. In order to make internal choices about business strategy, it’s critical to gain a solid understanding of the main drivers of a business. Once the most important business drivers have been identified, it’s important to monitor the results of the business and make strategic decisions to improve performance in the future [7]. Successful Digital transformation is based on three key drivers: People, Process, and Technology, but redefined for the digital ecosystem. The future workforce will be digitally aligned to the enterprise reality as well as external ecosystem to take advantage of all opportunities. Future success as being dependent on the ability of employees to understand the true nature of the work being done in order to come up with “innovative solutions and insights.” “Innovative thinking,” in fact, emerged as the biggest skills deficit today. The challenge, therefore, is to cultivate the ‘right’ mindset and skill set that supports digital transformation. The second driver is the re-evaluation of the “process” for the digital business, this means to drive a seamless and integrated workflow in which the key metric is not just the efficiency of the process but the overall integration of data, process and decision-making. While process facilitates digital transformation, culture drives it, and people make it happen – technology is the critical enabler.

5. How can budding and evolving companies reach you for suggestions to streamline their business?

The digitally transformed enterprise will make use of tools that can make decision and deliver exponentially more value than traditional process. A holistic approach to analyze the relevant sections for digitalization across different industry segments could be the following:

Identifying the right approach to implement digitalization is fundamental in that digital movement has great advantages and companies who understand how to exploit it to their advantage can achieve significant savings, increased productivity and better insight into their data. However, we have summarized some reasons why increased focus on digitalization is an important step to company growth:

Support competitiveness.

Improve customer experience. 

Make workflow more efficient with services and increase employee productivity. 

More control and insight into processes and data as well as the tools to analyze these by using digital services.

Challenges and opportunities for all parts of the company.


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