It turned out that these questions are harder to answer than they first appear. With this in mind, we put them to our panel of experts at MESA International. The Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association is a global organisation of manufacturers, software suppliers and system integrators. MESA’s Smart Manufacturing Committee, forgive the pun, is made up of more than 35 very smart manufacturing experts globally. As a member of this committee, I watched, listened and contributed as we produced our first whitepaper over a period of nine months (with a second coming out shortly).
We looked at the smartphone with its primary characteristics being: an IoT device; fixed hardware; updatable software; and wonderful functional flexibility through apps. Could we ever imagine something like this on the plant floor? Industry 4.0 calls for the individualisation of mass produced products, so creating a smart factory – and therefore smart products – is definitely necessary. Much like a smartphone, a factory could be changed overnight with new software. But is that enough?