The emergence of the smart factory is upon us, and it’s changing how we think about manufacturing.
Barry Brunetto has made his career in information systems, and as a technology leader in the manufacturing industry, he is part of the so-called fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0. The term, coined in 2011 at the Hanover Fair, refers to the computerization of industries such as manufacturing and the widespread adoption of the Internet of Things. Some experts believe the age of the “smart factory” is upon us and that the majority of manufacturers will have adopted interconnected machinery within the next five to ten years.
How these developments will ultimately shake out is still in question, which is why, at the start of this year, Brunetto launched 4thRevolution Consulting to help companies navigate these changes. He brings to the table seventeen years at Blount International, a manufacturer of forestry, lawn, and agriculture equipment. His work there gave him firsthand experience with the trends changing manufacturing.
Prepping For Industry 4.0
At Blount, Brunetto led three initiatives to enable the capabilities of smart manufacturing.
An Interconnected Enterprise System
Brunetto developed strategies that allow access to the system using anywhere, anytime, any-device parameters. Tools like SAP Persona and SAP MII (Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence) can enhance user interface without the need to customize the software.
Putting Big Data to Work
Blount is interfacing data from its production machines into SAP MII to capture real-time data to improve the production process. This allows easy access to user insight via the Internet and social media, which can lead to new and improved products and services.
24-7 Customer Access
In 2009, Blount contracted with Corevist to provide its US distributors and European dealers real-time access into Blount’s SAP system. Dealers can now place orders, see the status of their shipments, and print everything from packing lists to invoices.
Several aspects of the revolution interest Brunetto for the way they will impact the industry. One is the role of customization. Consumers don’t simply want a phone anymore—they want a device that makes calls, holds all of their favorite apps, is encased in their favorite logos, and remembers all of their personal details. The days of consumers buying a mass-produced product and using it as-is are slowly coming to an end. Brunetto references a recent article in the Wall Street Journal to offer McDonald’s as an example: millennials shun the franchise in favor of Chipotle, Panera, and Five Guys—all chains that market types and combinations of food that can be matched to each diner’s preferences. This is the generation that drives the tech industry, Brunetto adds, and that attitude is not limited to food. Customization will be increasingly important to manufacturing companies, which are just beginning to explore new ways to tailor the consumer experience for each individual or group. While at Blount, part of Brunetto’s job was to envision ways for the company to follow this trend and create a better user experience.
Brunetto also sees exciting potential in the development of smart items. The Internet of Things is becoming the norm for individuals and could become the norm for companies as well, drastically improving efficiency as different machines, departments, and processes interconnect and work together. “The remote control of some of the things happening in our nation’s factories is huge,” Brunetto says. “It will definitely change the way we work.”
The final aspect of the revolution that interests Brunetto is the development of smart devices and analytics. Sophisticated sensors are being built into everything from car engines to factory machinery. These sensors will eventually be able to send information to large databases, which can then be analyzed by predictive analytical software that can measure performance and longevity. But the use of big data will not be limited to internal operations. Outreach to consumers will help a company to create better consumer experiences. This could be extremely important for manufacturers like Blount, as most of such company’s products are not sold directly to the consumer but through distribution channels. By tapping into the voice of the end user, a manufacturer could have access to previously unheard insight and use that knowledge to boost performance.
Many of these developments are in the works and are years away from deployment—some experts believe these trends are ten to twenty years away from being the norm. Brunetto is focused on keeping manufacturers apprised of the latest developments in the tech industry by looking beyond the technology itself and trends to evaluate what it means for the manufacturer. In every presentation, Brunetto emphasizes that changes in technology are driven by generational differences, and understanding the different priorities and mind-sets of consumers, be they baby boomers or millennials, is key to understanding how another industrial revolution might emerge. “I was at a conference and the speaker showed a video of his one-year-old daughter playing with an iPad, using her fingers to move the screens,” Brunetto recalls. “Then he gave her a regular magazine, and she just stared at it. She tried to move it like she had the iPad and couldn’t figure it out. [The speaker’s] daughter has been rewired by Steve Jobs. No matter what business you’re in, you’re going to feel that impact.”
In his e-mails, Brunetto uses the tagline, “Businesses that do not know how to do business in the future will not be in business in the future.” With his new consulting firm, he will help companies address this challenge and pave the way for the fourth industrial revolution.