There is so much talk about the ‘foundry of the future” and so many want to see the concept happen but struggle to get a plan together to implement the process because it is a daunting task and you have to be committed with funds, time and energy. The fear of the unknown and the change from ‘this is how we have always done it’ or the change of routine, is also a challenge to get through.
Industry 4.0 and ‘Smart’ manufacturing facilities encompassing Foundry 4.0 are the hype words that are associated with the trend that is revolutionising the way companies manufacture, improve and distribute their products. Manufacturers are integrating new technologies, including the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and analytics, AI and machine learning into their production facilities and throughout their operations.
There are some very important aspects though that need to be addressed before you embark on the journey of joining your staff with the new technologies that are available to you. While your ultimate goal is to enhance quality and consistency, and more importantly save on costs and prevent any disastrous shutdowns or stoppages, in other words keep your customers happy, you have to be absolutely certain that your staff will buy into your objectives. Automating and collecting data on processes and operations in the foundry could be an embarrassment to some. It has to be stressed that there will be new opportunities that will arise and everybody has to respond to them appropriately so that the company can grow and allow for quicker changes and quicker innovation.
Seeing the bigger picture is critical in this period of change and transformation. While you cannot question experience and knowledge, the older generation of foundrymen/women are the ones that are going to have to prepare for change. Changes will happen and adapting your skills, career goals, network and industry knowledge is more important as you age in the workforce. Teaching the next generation of leaders and co-workers within your organisation is admirable and clearly separates an employee as a leader and a valued participant. Generational teaching within the company is a way to learn new skills from younger employees and build inter-generational connections between employees.
There has never been a time in our history where so much depends on electronics, connectivity and systems impact. The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent when compared with previous industrial revolutions. The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity and access to knowledge, are unlimited. And we all know that the younger generations have adapted passionately to the new age.
Like the revolutions that preceded it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world. To date, those who have gained the most from it have been consumers able to afford and access the digital world. Technology has made possible new products and services that increase the efficiency and pleasure of our personal lives, with it being very evident during the pandemic lockdowns.
It is also refreshing to note the younger generation that are starting to make an impact in our foundry industry. Most have been in the industry since virtually leaving school or completing their studies and most are working in family run businesses. They are now in positions of authority and can make qualified decisions with years of experience attached to them. They want to see change and are prepared to ‘disrupt’ the norm and introduce the new technologies. More importantly they are prepared to invest to improve, something that the older generation that they have taken over from were not too willing to do.