Steven Anderson is the President of Port CNC, Inc. a machine monitoring and data connectivity firm with offices in Wisconsin, Missouri, and Illinois. The company initially focused on communication between machines and later began working on machine monitoring in the late 1980s—long before most discrete manufacturers thought they needed machine monitoring.

Steven’s firm is a partner of Data Inventions and can help discrete manufacturers better utilize the power of a manufacturing intelligence platform. Steven was kind enough to sit with Data Inventions staff and answer a few questions about how discrete manufacturers can prepare for Industry 4.0.

We know many readers are familiar with the term Industry 4.0, but some may not be. Can you explain a bit about Industry 4.0?

Nowadays, the manufacturing industry is trying to get a better handle on what is happening on the shop floor. Many of the manufacturers our firm and Data Inventions works with are learning for the first-time what industry 4.0 means. When they see the data, they see for the first time how much money and opportunity they are leaving on the table.

That’s what Industry 4.0 is. It is a technology and connectivity-driven look into how your shop floor is functioning and using that data to create actual results. That might not be the technical definition of Industry 4.0, but it is the one that matters most on the shop floor. Once people see that data, they want to be part of Industry 4.0.

Are most manufacturers prepared for Industry 4.0?

One thing we find is that communication between machines often occurs via laptop, thumb drive, or some other manual method. That might sound cumbersome and rudimentary, but it is still a communication system. So, something is better than nothing—but we can immediately improve on and build that system into something that brings the shop floor fully into Industry 4.0.

If you do not have a connected shop floor—meaning your machines are not Internet-abled through either Wifi or Ethernet—you are not prepared for 4.0. So, I would say the first step IS to recognize that your profitability is impacted by that. Once that recognition occurs, we can prepare you to implement Alora on your shop floor.

It is all about getting your shop floor to a place where you can use data to create results—but a shop floor is like just about anything else. You can’t fix your problem until you know there is a problem, and you won’t know there is a problem until you practice good communication.

How quickly do customers see ROI on connectivity?

Our clients typically see a positive return in as little as a week. An investment in better connectivity and monitoring is one of the best and easiest ways for shops to see an immediate boost in productivity and financial performance. We see immediate, substantial improvements in utilization rates and several other key metrics.

Investing in manufacturing intelligence is a differentiator. Better connectivity and using manufacturing intelligence platforms are almost always cheaper than more machines and more people.

What can discrete manufacturers do to prepare themselves for a more connected job shop?

The emphasis on monitoring is completely different now than it was five years ago. However, if you haven’t started, I would strongly recommend beginning with a few machines. Port CNC and Alora both have pilot programs where shop floors can see what the gains in productivity would look like if the entire floor were better connected and using a manufacturing intelligence platform.

That pilot program almost always makes a believer out of management. They see immediately how substantial the return on their investment will be. That is my best piece of advice. Every discrete manufacturer can see immediate gains from a more connected shop floor, and they can start just a little at a time.

Steven Anderson is the President of Port CNC, Inc.