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As manufacturers enter the Industry 4.0 era, data stands as their biggest and best strategic weapon to accelerate digital transformation. It's also their Achilles heel.  

Manufacturers produce massive amounts of data, which could lead to tablet-enabled control of the factory floor — the holy grail of manufacturing automation use cases. They're challenged, however, to access or extract the data to make it happen. 

One of the key barriers to bridging that gap is connectivity.  

Part of the reason why IoT hasn't been as impactful to the manufacturing sector to date is because it's missing that key element:  secure, scalable and stable connectivity that can produce real-time, actionable insights that tell them how to save money or be more efficient in the next five minutes.  

A wave of next-generation applications and services made possible by an array of critical technologies that are reaching peak maturity, such as cloud, edge, IoT and others, will do just that and help manufacturers process and make sense of data on the fly in order to unleash the elusive factory of the future. 

These new apps, supported and powered by modern connectivity, will enable manufacturers to be more agile, aware, connected, efficient, intelligent, safe and sustainable.  

You may be familiar with the famous quote by boxing legend Muhammad Ali: "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." It's a fantastic analogy for how Industry 4.0-enabled manufacturers will be able to operate: as massive, heavy organizations that can move at the speed of a startup while maintaining their brut market strength and complex internal needs.  

There's another part to that Ali quote, though, that is less widely known: "The hands can't hit what the eyes can't see."  

Which brings us back to manufacturers' initial conundrum: How can manufacturers activate Industry 4.0-enabled use cases most effectively? How can they aggregate the data being produced by those uses cases into practical and actionable insights that can make an immediate business impact?  

What makes up an Industry 4.0 approach? 

Industry 4.0 has the potential to revolutionize the production environment, providing real-time actionable data points to allow for smart decisions. This drive for increased productivity requires a transformation of technology infrastructure that converges IT and OT, including industrial controls and SCADA systems. 

Impactful Industry 4.0 solutions will incorporate the following:  

  • Cloud: Once considered "off limits" by manufacturing leadership, cloud-based solutions are now becoming an increasingly mainstream component of many Industry 4.0 strategies. 
  • Edge: Integral to any cloud strategy, edge computing bridges the gap between non-real-time cloud solutions and the production systems that require real-time processing, analysis and visualization of data. 
  • Endpoint devices: The prolific growth of wireless devices, coupled with costs and technical challenges associated with physically connecting legacy production systems, is driving significant demand for wireless infrastructure. 
  • Edge and IoT applications: Deep sensor networks that enable predictive maintenance and boost asset performance via prescriptive actions, robotics that act and make decisions in real-time.

Private LTE vs. Wi-Fi 

The proliferation of connected machines, devices and people in the factory is putting tremendous strain on traditional networking solutions, such as Wi-Fi, and forcing manufacturers to explore new ways to handle the massive bandwidth demands. 

Industry 4.0 initiatives exacerbate this demand on the network.  

For some use cases, Wi-Fi will be more than adequate. But if you consider the sheer volume of use cases manufacturers are looking to leverage through Industry 4.0 initiatives, using Wi-Fi could lead to all sorts of hiccups and create disastrous business consequences or, worse yet, inhibit safety.  

Private cellular networks, such as private LTE or private 5G as it begins rolling out mainstream, will be true enablers of Industry 4.0 and digital transformation in the manufacturing industry. 

Private LTE networks are, as one may assume, privately owned and managed locally with dedicated equipment for local coverage that is optimized for specific services as required by the entity deploying the network.  

Broadly speaking, benefits fall into three buckets:  Coverage, cost and control.  

  • Cost-effective: The long-range capabilities associated with private LTE are attainable with minimal infrastructure footprint, thereby leading to reduced deployment costs. 
  • Security: More layers of information security inherent in LTE architecture. Cellular-based security for both SIM and non-SIM credentials, locally routed traffic for privacy. 
  • Speed: Private LTE delivers reduced latency to support high bandwidth applications, such as HD video surveillance. 
  • Capacity: Low to high data rate applications, large number of devices. 
  • Reliability and lower latency: Industry grade reliability, customized quality of service, guaranteed latency. 
  • Future proof: Rich LTE roadmap and evolution to 5G, including ultra-reliable low latency communication; offers configurable quality of service which is ideal for mission-critical lifeline and production-critical automation use cases. 
  • Interoperability: Global standard and certification enable interoperability between suppliers. 
  • Seamless mobility: Seamless handovers, high mobility devices, service continuity with WAN. 
  • Coverage: Superior range, both indoors and outdoors. 

What to consider when diving deep into Industry 4.0 

Manufacturers know they have the data — and that more is on the way through Industry 4.0 initiatives. They need help finding the data that matters.  

Many manufacturers make the mistake of compiling data as the starting point. While organizations can make this work, the more efficient route is to start with the use case before moving into the definition of data acquisition, data analysis and data integration strategies.  

Follow these key principles of a transformation strategy to drive Industry 4.0: 

Start with the end in mind: Transformation is purposeful change over a short period of time to obtain or maintain a competitive advantage. It is intense and fast paced and can be overwhelming if not well thought out and implemented. Understanding your business objectives and desired outcomes are crucial to staying on course. 

Align stakeholders: IT and operations can often speak different languages and have different goals. Bringing both sides to the table to align goals is critical to avoid stalling or failing completely. 

Gain visibility: Manufacturers produce a staggering amount of data from hundreds, in some cases thousands or tens of thousands, of endpoints. Having a firm grasp on systems used and current infrastructure deployed is therefore needed to avoid unexpected surprises further down the road. 

Build a team of teams: Transformational projects require not just the right people, but the right mix of people. Selecting the right combination of personalities is also important to ensure collaboration and productivity takes place without conflict. 

Agile delivery: An outcome-based approach should establish final business objectives, but not the way you get there, which enables flexibility and agility in how value is delivered. By delivering value iteratively — from solution validation to pilot to implementation — you create a unified approach that solves for real business challenges and builds credibility and momentum to continue along the transformative path. 

Scalable execution: Industry 4.0-enabled solutions will be deployed by the tens of thousands in the field as opposed to once in the cloud or data center. In the end, digital transformation is only as good as your supply chain. Industry 4.0 solutions are rendered meaningless if they can't be delivered last mile. 

Transformation is the destination. 

While the term Industry 4.0 has been around for some time, manufacturers are just now buying into the hype. What hasn't changed is their priorities: 

  • Increased production availability, yield and quality.
  • Decreased production costs and time to market.
  • Increased security and integrity of production systems.

Industry 4.0-enabled solutions, underpinned by private cellular connectivity, will help drive those outcomes.  

Need help getting there?  

Industry 4.0 enablement
WWT combines strategy and execution to drive and enable Industry 4.0 solutions.

While most companies solely operate in either digital or physical spaces, we excel in both. Our unique understanding of the manufacturing landscape, paired with an unparalleled expertise in network infrastructure, positions WWT as a leader in Industry 4.0 initiatives. 

  • Accelerate decision-making and delivery of business outcomes. 
  • Optimize infrastructure to align with business goals. 
  • Modernize your end user experience. 
  • Align business and IT leadership to generate tech-enabled innovations and operating models. 
Ready to get started on Industry 4.0?