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Antony Bourne

Global Manufacturing Industry Director

If I had a krona for every time anyone mentioned internet of things (IoT) or digital transformation at this conference, I’d be very rich. Is it all hype? No, but it’s not a single step. It’s a journey and evolution. It’s a gradual process and you can decide what steps you want to do.

03 - Industry 4.1

Internet of Things (IoT)

Our new IFS IoT Business Connector is great, but what does it mean for you as a manufacturer? Well, maybe you want information coming straight from machines into IFS via the internet so you can do more predictive maintenance. The sensors you can put on machines these days are the power of IoT. That’s nothing new. Someone has a new term for what we’ve been doing for years. What it develops into is you providing equipment to customers that you can communicate with. For example, there as a UK customer who found a customer of theirs with unusually high servicing needs – because the machine was being run twice as much as it should have been – in secret. They only found this by visiting the site. The IoT could solve this.

50% of IoT solutions will be spent on integrations. That’s a hell of a lot of money. It’s far too much and that’s why we created the business connector. Those who have done IoT projects have done three on average and plan on doubling that by 2019. We can make that cheaper.

M2M – Machine to Machine

Machines can talk to machines but can that information be more useful if it’s combined with something already in IFS?

3D Printing

Most manufacturers are still just using 3D printing for prototyping. In the future, rather than just having your traditional shop order in IFS, you could right click and select, “print product.” We’re not quite there yet but we’re ready for when the demand is there. Aerospace and defense (A&D) are ahead on this because you can create the same strength of panel such as metal – but lighter – which is what they’re obsessed with. Quality is improving. Speed is improving.

The 3D printed products and services market grew by 26% last year, although some of it was driven by jewelry and medical. We’re moving from hype to proper production. LITE-ON has just installed a set of 3D printers in a Guangzhou factory.

This is the fourth industrial revolution: the connected industrial age.


NEC has been using IFS for 18 years and are live with 185 customers. We have 5,375 users in seven factories. We do made to stock (phones), build to order (embedded systems) and engineered to order (both partial and full). As supply chains get more complex and integrated, we have quality, costs and data challenges to meet. We use IFS as our manufacturing system – we wanted to use it for the 5Ms:

  1. Man
  2. Machine
  3. Material
  4. Method
  5. Measurement

Using edge computing, we want to bring all data together in one place, and start doing predictive analytics, and various forms of AI informed by the data. For example, we “digitally fingerprint” boards in a system. That makes for more accurate identification than tagging – less prone to human error. We use voice reporting in noisy situations. Hands-free reporting unlocks efficiency.


We started with IFS Application in 2006. We have 290 users every day, with plans to upgrade to version 9 next year.

We have lots of production and test equipment all over the world, and a server in Germany collects data from all of them. The problem? All of the machines have a different idea of how to write their data. We’ve tried to get it all into one format. We take their data, combine it with IFS data, and put it in our data warehouse. It gives us an early warning system we can act on.

There are challenges. We create wireless controllable LEDS – but they don’t have space to store data, the computing power to analyze it, displays to show the results…

3D Printing? We are far from mass production. We have one printer in our R&D department.

Antony Bourne

86% of executives know digital transformation is important. 40% have a strategy in place.

Eight important areas:

  1. IoT – can you embed sensors in your products and make them more reliable?
  2. 3D Printing – there will come a time where we can print spare parts, components or finished items.
  3. Wearable tech – in maintenance, could be useful.
  4. AR/VR – can we allow central controllers to “see” what is happening at every site?
  5. Drones – not convinced it will have a big manufacturing impact, but big for inspections.
  6. Machine learning – learning what’s happened from the past.
  7. Cognitive computing – use the above to predict what will happen.
  8. Cloud – security concerns are reducing. You can’t 100% secure the cloud but you can make it as secure as possible and plan how to deal with issues.

This all looks great but who is going to do this? There’s already a shortage of digital skills in manufacturing right now. Who is going to do this for us? One company has built a training college to provide them. Personally, I’m a big believer in apprenticeships.

Go away and do a self-audit. Work out what you need to do and then look at these technologies and see which are relevant. Which ones will give you a competitive advantage?

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