It’s no secret that Industry 4.0 technologies have had a profound impact in transforming the face of traditional manufacturing. However, when it comes to the defense supply chain, the full benefits and potential of Industry 4.0 advancements are still being uncovered.
Given that this sector faces constant pressure from timeframe, cost, and compliance, the ability to capitalize on improved production is hugely enticing for anyone working with, or supplying to, the defense sector.
While many defense primes and OEMs understand that advanced manufacturing and Industry 4.0 could change their supply approach, the initial investment and move towards new systems can prove to be a roadblock.
At a time when traditional manufacturing processes are facing competition from those who have already made the switch to digitization, the advantage of Industry 4.0 applications for defense suppliers cannot be underestimated.
Supplying to the defense industry demands efficiency, deliverability, and accountability; key measures that can dictate the success of a project before it is even completed. Being able to better manage assets and respond faster in an ever-changing supply relationship is one of the key benefits of Industry 4.0 applications.
Benefit 1: Greater efficiencies via data collection and analysis
All levels of the defense supply-chain can benefit from Industry 4.0 technologies. Being able to decipher key operational data provides defense primes or OEMs with the opportunity to optimize production.
Through this technology comes the ability to improve product-to-market speed in places where digital design and simulations can enable mapping of an efficient, digital manufacturing process. When you make use of automation and delivery of actionable insights from the simulation, production costs—such as labor—can be lowered and efficiencies gained.
Benefit 2: Improved quality management and production using a digital twin
Defense primes can take advantage of this to streamline the manufacturing process to meet deadlines, make rapid changes, and provide accurate documentation.
A digital twin can also be applied to operations where a digital version can be created to enable predictive maintenance.
Benefit 3: Reduced risks via digitalization
For any end client, one of the greatest benefits of Industry 4.0 is the ability to collate and utilize data across their operations. Through this collection of data comes the ability to identify potential problems earlier, enabling improved efficiency and decision-making to prevent negative outcomes.
For enterprises supplying to the defense industry, this can equate to reduced risks in all stages of production. As information can be integrated from different sources and locations, it enables improved forecasting and planning as well as production. For example, integrating sensors that gather production data enables enterprises to make better planning strategies and production programs.
Benefit 4: Improved asset management with predictive maintenance
Defense, like many industries, is plagued with aging equipment and systems that require constant maintenance and periodic obsolescence upgrades. Industry 4.0—specifically predictive maintenance and machine learning—offers an answer.
Through Industry 4.0 technologies, condition-based monitoring has helped to provide real-time insight into equipment health. In the transport industry, sensors are used to monitor conditions such as vibration trends. A system alert can be put in place to highlight when maintenance is required, reducing the risk of equipment failure and increasing its lifespan. This same principle can be applied to the defense industry to provide insights into the health of defense assets.
Improving defense offerings through industry 4.0
While we may not have the complete picture of Industry 4.0 technologies yet, the potential is already being unlocked by numerous defense industry suppliers. Increasing applications of these technologies is essential for Australian Defence Industry partners, particularly with increasing global competition in this space.
Although initial investment in this technology can be a stumbling block for many, the benefits of shorter production lead times, more efficient planning, and optimized maintenance schedules have the potential to far outweigh costs in the long term.
Paul Johnson is the general manager for defense at SAGE Automation, a SAGE Group brand. SAGE is a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about SAGE, visit its profile on the CSIA Industrial Automation Exchange.