This Month in SMT007 Magazine: Business Practices Drive the Smart Factory, Not the Other Way Around (Part 1)


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In Part 1 of this conversation, Sagi Reuven— business development manager at Mentor, a Siemens Business—makes the case that smart factory implementations must start with traditional process analysis and improvement before the data capture process is useful. He also covers how sometimes the key to utilizing Industry 4.0 comes from a change in mindset rather than a drastic change or investment in new equipment or processes.

Nolan Johnson: Sagi, the topic we’d like to explore is this: How does a PCB manufacturer or an assembly house adapt to a smart factory environment in their existing facility without shutting down to do so? What are the strategies and steps, and how does Mentor/Siemens envision their customers taking this approach?

Sagi Reuven: It’s a great question, and you touched on the point that we are concerned about. We’re having the most issues whenever we approach a customer, even after they start the deployment. The first thing that we have to understand is that you work with manufacturers. We have two product groups, more or less. One, in particular, is focused on design and engineering. In that sense, implementing a new software solution is much easier. Customers can do that step-by-step; they don’t have to shut down production, turn the machines off, or do it over the weekend. If there is a mistake or a bug in the code, it doesn’t mean that the machine in the line or the conveyor will stop. You can continue to work with another machine, so it’s much easier compared to anything you do on the shop floor.

We have two challenges. Challenge number one is the fact that, overall, we see that the executives and operators, bottom-up, are all fully convinced already that you need to go digital. You have to digitalize everything that you do. We have stats from various market studies, and many of the executive staff are fully convinced to the point that they already started doing something about digitalization. However, we also have statistics saying that 44% of the executives are still in the mindset that it’s not improving the profit. They are sold on the technology and the fact that they need to do it, or maybe it’s coming from a customer requirement.

Customers—especially from automotive, for example—say they need to have full traceability. Everything has to be digital and fully documented, and they want to have it in the cloud for the next 15 years, so manufacturers do it because they must. But how do we convince them to move into that era because it improves their business capability, agility, and ability to deliver faster? How do we convince them that it can improve the profit?

For example, even if we managed to close some kind of a deal that they will digitalize the shop floor and they try to implement this, we still have to struggle to support the customer through the process of training the people to use the system to maximum advantage. It’s not as easy as we would assume, even if the customer decides to buy it and go for it.

To read this entire interview, which appeared in the March 2020 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.

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