Ireland is poised to underpin its position as a globally competitive manufacturing base as more Irish-based firms use Industry 4.0 to foster innovate interconnectivity of devices in their production chains.
Jeff McCann, director of the Customer Solution Center Innovation Labs at Dell Technologies Ireland, says Irish-based companies are increasingly seeing the value of interconnecting sensors and other devices on the production floor to monitor equipment, measure temperature and ensure quality control.
Last week, Irish-based manufacturing leaders, notably pharma, gathered in Limerick for a Dell conference looking at how emerging technologies and the power of data are accelerating the development of smart manufacturing in Ireland.
The conference discussed how the fourth industrial revolution (or “Industry 4.0”) is reshaping production lines with the use of Artificial Intelligence, Edge Computing, Digital Twins and 5G.
Jeff McCann said: “The power of data is underpinning a radical transformation across manufacturing. From Edge and 5G through to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, data is revolutionising manufacturing, and is already helping forward-looking enterprises to supercharge productivity, optimise their supply chains and accelerate innovation.
“As a global manufacturing hub for the pharmaceutical and med-tech sectors, Ireland stands to gain significantly from using this tool correctly. In doing so, Irish firms can realise the full promise of Industry 4.0 and maintain the country’s status as a competitive manufacturing base into the future.”
Mr McCann said the explosion in the growth of connected devices is enabling manufacturers to process data at the Edge rather than the data centre. Sensors and other devices can be used on the production floor to monitor equipment, measure temperature and ensure quality control.
“The shift to Edge Computing that is now evident is helping companies to access new information that can ultimately improve efficiency within the manufacturing process, minimise waste and become more energy efficient,” he said.
Dell gave the visiting manufacturers insights into how accessing data from sensors and devices allows organisations to drive productivity on the factory floor, ensure quality control and increase energy efficiency at every step of the production line.
Dell’s cybersecurity experts, however, also warned that as manufacturers become more connected, they also become more vulnerable. They outlined the strategies to strengthen the cyber resilience of Ireland’s pharma and medtech sectors.
With over 227,000 people employed within the sector, Ireland has emerged as a global manufacturing hub for the pharma and medtech industries. The government’s Industry 4.0 Strategy aims to position Ireland as a leader in innovation-driven manufacturing by 2025.
A recent Dell survey found that 89% of global manufacturing IT executives expect Edge-powered real-time automated decision-making to be a reality in three to five years.
“Irish firms have no time to lose in this,” said Jeff McCann. “The recent explosion in 5G technology has the potential to transform connectivity across a manufacturing facility. With its low latency, 5G is ideally suited to manufacturing applications where analytics drive real-time decision-making.
“Even better, 5G connections require only a simple radio and interface, saving power by reducing multiple compute endpoints, power supply, etc., thereby helping to manufacturers to meet growing environmental impact commitments.
“Artificial Intelligence is also helping to drive greater sustainability within the sector. By forecasting energy demand and providing insights to reduce the need for heating and cooling, AI is helping to drive energy efficiency in production facilities.
“For example, Digital Twin technology is enabling swifter innovation and the ability to respond promptly to changing customer demands. With a digital representation of something in a virtual environment, whether it’s a machine or a process, you can make changes or improvements with a complete digital picture of the impacts down the line, reducing downtime.
“In vaccine development, twins can evaluate the performance of each process in real time. If a deviation occurs in a process, the digital twin not only anticipates it, it uses Machine Learning algorithms to steer control back to optimal production.”
Mr McCann said that real-time control and intelligent decision-making in automated machines, together with smart human interfaces like AR, VR and neuro-haptics, are improving worker safety and efficiency. He also stressed the need to focus on security.
“Amidst this shift from traditional factories to more connected systems, there will, of course, be added security risks,” he said. “That’s why it’s crucial that even as manufacturing leaders embrace smarter ways of working, they also integrate security architecture into the process from the very beginning.
“By integrating security in this way, the sector will be better placed to harness the full potential of technology, while protecting their data from the mounting threat of cyber-attacks.
“Ireland’s manufacturing industry can make better, data-driven decisions with the help of new technologies. By working in partnership with manufacturers, together we can realise the opportunities of Industry 4.0 and further enhance Ireland’s role as a competitive and innovative leader in the manufacturing space.”