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November 18, 2021 . 4min read
Infrared is a cutting-edge technology powering an increasingly wide array of applications in countless markets. The number of organizations that have carved a foothold in the IR technology market has nearly doubled over the last five years. This trend has led to a surge in demand for IR experts. They know only too well that if companies want to continue delivering products and services geared towards their customers' needs, they have to strive for operational excellence. To achieve this aim, the sector expects them to constantly stay ahead of the innovation curve and pursue a digital transformation strategy.
The roadmap for excellence involves a combination of ramping up the company's industrial performance, improving working conditions for employees and enhancing customer satisfaction. Digital transformation should therefore be rolled out as an overarching project touching every area of the business.
How are IR experts currently engaging with the Industry 4.0 movement and what are they getting in return for their efforts?
This article offers a review of the elements that can help companies embrace the digital revolution, including a few explanations on how the French leader in developing and manufacturing thermal and IR sensors is fully committed to moving the revolution forward.
A strong commitment driven from within the company
The decision to engage with the Industry 4.0 revolution tends to stem from a company's need to maintain a sharp competitive edge and represents a long-term strategic ambition for the company. The process must be supported by an identified team with a clear set of roles, objectives and initiatives. Once these critical foundations have been laid, project sponsors can trial their ideas, obtain initial feedback and results, and then forge ahead with their new digital processes.
But Industry 4.0 also promotes the ideal of a company that powers its development by harnessing its human assets. The aim is not to replace employees, but instead improve their working conditions. Therefore, the challenge boils down to finding the digital technologies that can assist them in their jobs, make their work easier and increase their efficiency.
LYNRED, the French expert in manufacturing infrared sensors, has managed to roll out its digital transformation strategy by setting up a project committee featuring representatives from most of the company's divisions. This participative approach ensures that all employees can submit their ideas, which are subsequently analyzed, tested and actioned. This means that each division takes part in the innovation strategy and brings its own vision of the needs of the company's internal and external customers in a bid to deliver a stream of tangible, practical and long-term solutions.
Actively empowering and engaging employees has proven instrumental in promoting the initiative among the executive committee and convincing members of its benefits.
Long-term insights and continual improvement
Companies heading down the Industry 4.0 highway need to acquire long-term insights into their ecosystem, the different uses and their customers' needs. They roll out continual improvement processes to deliver new solutions that will bring a number of benefits, but which also require significant investments. In other words, it is vitally important to check that those needs are real, that the project is realistic and that the company possesses the tools, conditions and/or partners to successfully lead the project.
Industry 4.0 often talks about PoC (proof of concept) when looking to confirm whether a digital project is feasible, but LYNRED prefers using the term PoV (proof of value). The French IR expert believes in demonstrating the project's economic value and how it will benefit its employees' work before giving the green light for implementation. Key objectives and success indicators are defined from the outset to guarantee that innovations are future-proof and economically viable.
Harnessing emerging digital technologies
Adopting Industry 4.0 also means exploiting and fine-tuning emerging technologies to suit the company's own production assets. Such emerging technologies encompass artificial intelligence (AI), which gives machine tools a voice and allows them to interact for the purpose of improving performance and raising production quality.
AI also supports the decision-making process for employees by allowing them to weigh up a given situation more clearly and quickly. Finally, it ramps up production performance by saving time and injecting greater reliability into the production processes.
Augmented reality is another emerging technology fueling the Industry 4.0 movement. One of its advantages includes the ability to conjure up a virtual machine or even an entire production line in an empty room. Such virtual factories can be used to deploy production units and carry out testing before they even exist. For IR experts working in cleanrooms, augmented reality could be a game-changer for testing the remote troubleshooting solutions for the tools that are specific to this industry. Using augmented reality in Industry 4.0 promises to save both time and money.
Lastly, 3D printing is another technology that has caught the attention of the Industry 4.0 revolution, especially when it comes to designing product prototypes that can be shown to customers or producing temporary parts for maintenance.
Constantly keeping a close eye on the most recent technologies, incorporating the latest-generation equipment and focusing on industrial excellence are an integral part of the digital revolution, which includes sensing where the markets are heading, prioritizing innovation and anticipating how new digital projects could meet the needs of your industry and its customers.
Such are the prerequisites and skills that IR experts, like LYNRED, have acquired and actively nurture every day.
When talking about the digital revolution, it is important to mention labeling schemes, since they can put certified companies in the spotlight and promote their efforts to engage with Industry 4.0. These schemes offer companies the ideal opportunity to demonstrate the performance of their industrial facilities, operations and human capital.
Labels include the "Industrial Showcase of the Future" [possible link to site: https://vitrinesindustriedufutur.org/], which pays tribute to exemplary digital transformation strategies. In other words, it rewards companies that have developed an innovative people-driven approach to organizing their production processes. LYNRED actually received this award following an assessment process lasting several months. The award bears testament to the company's ongoing digital transformation strategy, reflected in a host of projects incorporating artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality and 3D printing.
Embracing the Industry 4.0 revolution is not an end in itself, but a way of improving quality and boosting a factory's production performance, while enhancing working conditions for employees. Digital projects may call for considerable efforts and require an initial outlay to cover research, organizational and potential investment costs, but they end up paying dividends by generating tremendous savings. The digital revolution may be focused on helping industry up its game as a whole, but it mainly involves improving employee efficiency.