Industry 4.0 Solutions Aren’t Just For The Big Guys: How Small To Medium-Sized Manufacturers Can Benefit Too

Nov 06

Imran Shafqat, Co-founder ThingTrax view on digital factory

He speaks to the majority of manufacturers and factory owners today and they are all clear that Industry 4.0 solutions are the future of their business. They may not know what that future looks like, or how they will get there, but they can see the benefits it will bring. However, the challenge our industry faces right now is bringing this future closer, especially for small to medium-sized factories and manufacturers.

Such organizations have grown organically over a number of years, acquiring machines and ancillary equipment as and when they are needed, with a strategy around purchasing equipment rarely top of anyone’s agenda. The result is that most of these factories own a diverse set of equipment that makes consistent digitization of their shop floor very difficult. They’re able to deploy a smart solution on some of their machines but not all, creating an incomplete and unconnected system which does not produce the results they hope for.

A study in May by Capgemini showed that the most successful manufacturers to implement smart solutions were those who had digitized at least more than half of their processes. They had a clear vision on where smart technology could be integrated and the hiring that would be needed to do this, from data analysts to cybersecurity specialists. Yet here’s where most small to medium-sized factories are struggling… They can’t afford to digitize enough of their machines to make training staff worthwhile, making the whole process of digitization a recurring cycle of failure.

"This is where our ThingTrax solution aims to come in. Our Smart Gateway devices - which easily connect to machine PLCs - are able to collect machine data 24/7, send it to the cloud, and alert managers to any performance anomalies in real-time. It was created from the bottom up as a plug and play system that’s wireless, doesn’t require a local server, and can be installed in less than an hour, reducing the time it takes for factories and manufactories to adopt smart technologies from weeks to hours."

To demonstrate both the challenge facing manufacturers and our solution in action, you need only look to ACP Plastics - a Liverpool-based manufacturer providing plastic injection molding, custom molding, and assembly solutions. In the past 20 years they have acquired over 30 machines from different vendors; machines that differ in both shape and size. Earlier this year ACP Plastics came to ThingTrax looking for a solution they could adopt across their whole shop floor, one that would be quick to install and wouldn’t cost them a fortune. After spending a few hours with their machines, we installed ThingTrax devices across all of their equipment and, through our online platform, we were able to immediately show ACP’s key decision makers and stakeholders the data their machines and our devices were generating.

The ThingTrax system has provided them with key insights on unplanned downtimes and, more importantly for ACP, it’s also given them access to previously unseen production data that they had always struggled to analyze and take action on. Through its machine learning capabilities, our platform has provided managers with operational recommendations based on live data, removing the need for whole teams of data scientists or analysts.

Sounds simple right?

Industry 4.0 solutions don’t have to be just for the big guys. They don’t have to be expensive, hard to install or difficult to understand. The future of smart technology is here, ready to provide factories and manufacturers with the increases in operational efficiency and reductions in cost that they so desperately need in order to keep competing in today’s world.

If you want to talk more about the above then I’ll be at the Smart Factory Expo Stand SO18 (15-16 November, Exhibition Centre Liverpool) showcasing our ThingTrax devices and platform. Come and say hello or get in touch today on