System integration in Industry 4.0: a competitive advantage

System integration is already (or should be at least planned) a reality for all industries working in the innovative scenario of industry 4.0. This so-called fourth industrial revolution is based on the operation of real-time data, thus contributing to agility in decision-making situations within factories.

It is in this industry 4.0 connection with the agility of decision-making that system integration comes in.

The math here is simple: if you cannot make your processes and systems perform data integration real time, in a clear and straightforward way, you will lose market share.

Or, if you have difficulty connecting the different hierarchical levels of the industry to the same goal, this is also a problem to be dealt with urgently.

In this post you will learn about the importance of different system integrations so that you can make the best decisions based on real and reliable information. In addition, you will understand what benefits, advantages, and challenges this can bring to you, your staff, and the industry as a whole.

What is system integration?

System integration is one of the pillars of industry 4.0 and aims to connect the different areas of an industry in order to extract data and information that will be used to make continuous improvements throughout the manufacturing process and related support areas.

Over the years, it has been possible to realize that big technological advances are happening in the industrial sector. Industries become more intelligent every day, and so that all the information generated can be processed the integration of systems becomes essential.

What is the importance of System Integration?

Let’s think about the following scenario: you are ahead of a manufacturing process and the factory you operate has great equipment technology and time optimization of employees and machines.

So far so good, but following the process, you realize that there are many parts of it without connection, generating a lot of information that could be used strategically, but since there is a lack in system integration, the data cannot be used in an intelligent way.

It is possible to see that something is missing. Decisions are being made slowly and without assertiveness, and it is precisely to fill this gap that system integration exists.

Max Boller cites in his article about the importance of system integration that there are a number of advantages in using system integration in industry, including:

  • Improving the quality and reliability of an integration project;
  • Knowledge of how to manage project risks;
  • Determining the best hardware and software for the desired application.

There are many advantages, and having people and teams trained to turn theory into practice is imperative.

Considering this, there are two different ways of integrating systems in an industry: horizontal and vertical integration.

Horizontal x Vertical Integration

As mentioned before, the integration of systems in the industry happens in two different ways: horizontal or vertical. Later you will learn the differences, opportunities, and challenges of these two forms of integration.

To be honest, you should know that the path will not be easy. If today there are already many challenges for communication in simple systems, when we move to an environment where the entire supply chain is connected, these challenges grow as well.

However, the good news is that the expected results in system integration include decreased rework, errors, and waste, resulting in increased productivity.

Horizontal integration

 In industry 4.0, horizontal integration is associated to the connection between the factory and the entire external value chain, through a carefully designed and integrated workflow.

This connection comprises communication between the entire supply chain and so those who are already adapting, studying and getting ready to perform these integrations will have a much bigger chance of success in the future.

Among the benefits of having horizontal system integration is the possibility for industries to see opportunities for innovation because they have access to information from the operators, which previously would not reach the managers.

The same happens with customers. When the industry starts to monitor several preventive indicators from information and data collected in real time, the service provided or manufactured product tends to be of higher quality, thus increasing customer satisfaction.

Vertical integration

In order to complement horizontal integration, vertical integration allows all levels of the factory to be connected from a hierarchy, from the operators until the executives.

One can say that horizontal system integration is a line, whereas vertical integration is a pyramid that acts as an information collector. This information is then transformed into reports, systems and processes that turn into opportunities for improvement.

The hierarchical levels of vertical integration are:

However, we cannot only think about the problems and challenges, we must use this moment of innovation and transformation as an opportunity to improve the business.

Below we have listed some classic difficulties you may face in your industry and it is possible to understand how horizontal or vertical integration can help (a lot) to solve these problems.

1. Too much paper:

It is still necessary to have a lot of physical documents for storing information, and there are regulations that require this. However, at many times you end up storing printed reports and minutes of meetings, study materials, etc.

All this could be optimized and digital, so that the information is more agile and not bureaucratic.

2. Indicators Analysis

Without integration of all stages of your production process, it becomes dull and difficult to perform the analysis of industry indicators. Through the application of these structures, the data will be clearer and will open doors for innovation and continuous improvement.

3. Traceability

Is the raw material that is entering your industry traceable until it reaches the final consumer? This is an essential aspect of industry 4.0, as technology increasingly helps industries deliver higher quality services.

If your final consumer needs to make a complaint, it is imperative that you are able to identify where that problem began. Thus, your process becomes much more assertive.

4. Control of production and equipment

How many times has your production stopped today? How many minutes have your machines stopped working due to mechanical or electrical problems?

System integration together with industry 4.0 technology allows you to pre-evaluate possible machine failures, thereby reducing downtime during production.

8 benefits of having integrated systems in your industrial plant

Once you understand what is, and how an industry with integrated systems work, you have probably thought of the many benefits that this change can cause in your factory.

In order to improve the decision-making process, applying these structures is essential so that you have more autonomy and confidence when deciding on a path.

Here we have selected the greatest benefits of system integration (horizontal or vertical) to help in production management:

1) Increased productivity;

2) Cutting expenses;

3) Increase in project quality and trust;

4) Increased collaboration and control of final deliveries;

5) Better management of time and resources;

6) Knowledge and risk management;

7) Flexibility to meet new demands;

8) Incorporation of IT in a strategic way.

CONCLUSION

Having in mind all these points, we consider system integration to be essential, and for us, it is the central pillar of industry 4.0. The connection of the whole productive chain will take the industries to a new level.

If today there is already great progress and innovation, with relevant and real-time information used in a collaborative and agile way, imagine what we can achieve in the future with the development of these systems, all integrated.

Are you already working to adapt to this new reality? Share with us your experience with system integration, we look forward to hearing about the benefits and challenges you are facing or have already faced!

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