Quick manufacturing choice in the IndustryWeek library



Third part of a series.

Obviously, Industry 4.0 can only work if the following conditions are met:

1. Fully reliable and interchangeable machines very quickly

Each product is manufactured individually according to the customer’s requirements and moves itself – based on its digital twin information – through the factory from one machine to another. The machine may require a different setup between each product, so the machines should be ready instantly.

Measuring thousands of machines, in my experience the vast majority of machines have a mean time between failure (MTBF) well under eight hours. Time-honored and proven total productive maintenance techniques, including stand-alone and preventative maintenance, only become more important as equipment becomes more complex and vulnerable. Most of the equipment I know of can hardly be configured in a single cycle and with a vertical rise / fall. Thus, One Minute Matrix Exchange (SMED) will simply need to be a built-in feature of the process and will have to evolve into SCED: Single Cycle Matrix Exchange.

2. Fully reliable production processes.

In the 4.0 concept, there is absolutely no time to check the products, let alone correct them. It is perfectly possible to produce zero defects, but then all the processes must be perfectly mastered.

Henry Ford already saw the need for standardization in his day to a large extent, and W. Edwards Deming taught using statistical process control (SPC) to find and distinguish between normal and abnormal deviations. Without SPC, it’s hard to say. Where many manufacturers today are happy with 95 +% quality figures, the question will be whether we are going to maintain sufficient throughput in a dream 4.0 environment with 99.99% quality.

3. Fully reliable internal processes

In addition to the production processes, all other business processes must also be reliable. In measures of Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), many times the causes of machine disturbances lie somewhere in an office. My preferred method of getting administrative and support processes on track is Makigami process improvement.

However, it is done: the workshop can no longer be the place where faults in other processes must be corrected.

4. Completely reliable supply chain

What applies to business processes also applies to supply chain processes. Neither the products themselves nor the time of delivery can disrupt the flow of value. It’s easier said than done. True 3.0 manufacturers that we know in some cases, they know the processes up to Tier 4 as well as theirs and are convinced that they are just as well mastered. As long as buyers believe that quality can be achieved through (entry) checks, “reasonable doubt” should be in place.

Whenever any condition of the above four preconditions is not met, it will become visible in the OEE measurement (when properly implemented). OEE is therefore an essential indicator for moving towards controlled processes.

5. Anything can communicate with anything

a. A significant detail to make 4.0 work: all transport and conversion devices must be able to communicate with each other as well as with a central controller. Most of the machines that I come across in mainstream factories are decades old and were never designed to communicate with their environment (nor, for that matter, to be able to change in a single cycle and have very high reliability and availability. .)

b. This communication must be fed by the digital twin. Therefore, for all product, it must be recorded in detail without error what the product looks like, what are the specifications and tolerances, how and where it is produced, etc. In my experience, product specifications and certainly tolerances are poorly recorded for many products. This is especially true for process parameters.

I would dare say that these requirements would be very useful in any production environment anyway. In a well-organized 3.0 environment, this will certainly be the case to a large extent. When things go wrong in a 3.0 factory, the self-regulating ability of the well-developed people who are present in the process day in and day out drives things forward and uses such events to further improve the process. I don’t see how this could still be the case in a 4.0 environment.

Has anyone tried it yet?

Fiat, Volkswagen and more recently Tesla have tried to some extent. All three gave up. All three learned that you don’t “solve” complex processes with even more complex solutions. Most importantly, they learned how important people’s self-regulatory and problem-solving skills are. All three applied a high degree of automation, but the human factor was brought back into the process and they learned to experience the beauty of 3.0.


There seems to be a tendency to solve problems by “automating” problems and evacuating people, which sometimes costs billions. It makes much more sense to go the other way:

  1. Troubleshoot issues first, tidy up the process, then automate it
  2. Instead of eliminating the human factor, to incorporate and use its unique features

Automation is a great solution for quantitative tasks. But when there are quality issues, it is much more effective to simplify things first; know the real value streams and master them instead of trying to “organize” the underlying problem with complex technology. This only compounds the problem.

What is ALWAYS needed?

Whatever the preferred manufacturing concept, certain things are always beneficial or even essential:

1. People who know exactly what they are doing, why and how.

Only when people know what they are doing and why can we ensure that humans can master their technology and react appropriately to unexpected situations, which will always be present.

2. Immediately visible and corrected deviations.

It is only when we know and can see that something is deviant that we can react to it and possibly stop or correct it before it is too late.

3. An improvement system that eliminates the root causes.

The bigger and more complex the manufacturing process becomes, the more things can go wrong. It is only when we are able to turn every mistake into an improvement that we can grow.

4. Extensive standardization.

It’s only when we know what’s the best way to do something and make sure it’s always done that way that processes can be under control. By assembling complex products from standardized components, complexity is much more manageable.

5. Machines and processes are reliable.

The above points form the basis for reliable processes and machines. A reliable process is the cheapest, fastest, safest, most programmable, etc.

Arno Koch has over 25 years of experience in process improvement and control. Its improvement objectives are defined in terms of “halving” and “doubling”. He teaches process improvement at CETPM at a German university, is a partner at OEE Coach BV and owner of Makigami BV, and has written three books on OEE and two on Monozukuri (“the art of doing things”).


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