Southco Gets Fit for Industry 4.0 Growth

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In his Autumn Budget speech, Chancellor, Philip Hammond said he wanted the UK to become a hub of enterprise and innovation.  He announced investment of over £500m in a range of transformative technologies from Artificial Intelligence (AI), to 5G and full fibre broadband to 'form the backbone of the global economy of the future.'


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Posted by David York, RVP, UK & Ireland


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In the age of the fourth industrial revolution, known as Industry 4.0, digital technologies are linking physical and digital worlds. Forward thinking manufacturing businesses, like Epicor customer and manufacturer of engineered access hardware solutions, Southco, are deploying smart technology with connectivity. This in turn delivers greater productivity, improved utilisation of assets and enhanced decision-making by linking operations data with smart manufacturing technologies.

In contrast to commonly held perceptions, the introduction of smart technologies and Industry 4.0 does not need to involve a revolutionary change to the business and its processes. As demonstrated by Southco, when working with a trusted supplier, businesses can take steps towards creating a fully connected smart factory. 

By implementing manufacturing executing software, Epicor Mattec MES, operations teams at Southco can seamlessly blend data and production, optimising every machine and production run to deliver superior products. Operations teams are transforming facilities into "smart" factories by connecting software with processes to increase efficiency whilst reducing defects, downtime and waste.  

The initial introduction of the Mattec system, over ten years ago, marked the beginning of Southco's global transformation in the way it manages production and process control through the use of smart technologies. 

SouthcoGetsFitforIndustry4.0GrowthSouthco now uses the software to create a visual factory. Extracting data from a host of different sources, the Mattec system organises all of the information into a dashboard which helps to support the improvement in manufacturing processes through continuous analysis. By observing both production control and process control simultaneously, the business can constantly improve the quality of work. For instance, before a plastic injection mould opens, the system alerts the operator to whether the end product is good or bad. This translates into a better product for the customer, as quality monitoring is built directly into the process (rather than having to manually inspect each batch). Having more efficient manufacturing production processes has enabled the business to improve all aspects of assembly and has actionable insights from data analytics.   

Building smart technology into the facility allowed Southco to better understand its products and processes while enabling the workforce to be more accurate with deliverables. 

Smooth progression
Southco has experienced a smooth progression towards Industry 4.0 by embedding its smart technology right at the heart of its manufacturing facility, rather than treating it an add-on. The system links with other businesses systems, with the exchange of information between the two systems providing vital benefits. 

By linking to an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, tooling can be allocated almost immediately, meaning new production can commence with limited down-time. There is no human intervention, which in turn reduces the risk of human error too. 

Better decision making
Having systems in place that work together allows internal teams to identify where operational inefficiencies lie. Being able to more easily locate and analyse the data helps senior management to develop strategies for continuing to meet their Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) standard, with 85% OEE being the world-class standard1  Southco, which is currently operating at 75% OEE, has seen a marked improvement to its performance since implementing the Mattec system.

Revolution or evolution?
For many manufacturers, Industry 4.0 understandably brings up as many concerns as perceived opportunities. Investing in the future and making gradual but focused continual changes offers many benefits. Manufacturers can benefit from what Industry 4.0 has to offer by adopting smart technology that enhances specific areas of their operations business. In this way, manufacturers can build in technologies that support their long-term vision for process improvement, better quality products and business growth.  

Industry 4.0 has been described by Hammond as the fourth industrial revolution. However, as Southco's experience shows, manufacturers will benefit by seeing it instead as part of their continued evolution. Those that do will be getting fit to contribute their part when it comes to creating 'the backbone of the global economy of the future'.

1Defining World-Class OEE - https://www.oee.com/world-class-oee.html

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