Tech Talk: Industry 4.0

By Labtalk Staff

For this installment of TechTalk, we asked industry leaders to provide insights on how labs should prepare for the next generation of manufacturing—Industry 4.0. Here are their responses:

The “One Thing”

Ian Gregg
VP Sales Operations and Product Management
Satisloh North America

The foundation of Industry 4.0 is data, so being able to gather that data and channel it to the right places is critical to fully leveraging its power. As our industry embraces this latest production revolution, there will be many challenges to go along with tremendous opportunity.

Unlike other innovations we have seen in the past 10 years or so—digital production and automation, for example—the concepts of Industry 4.0 can, and should be, leveraged by all production facilities of any size.

The most important thing to consider as we move in to this new age is how it affects your workforce. Increases in efficiency will mean lower labor needs—but a different skill set will also be required. This doesn’t mean you should rush out and hire a PhD in computer science; most of the heavy lifting will be done by software that, once set up, will collect the data and present it in ways that are meaningful to you. It does mean, however, that you will need team members who understand networks and how they operate and are comfortable with concepts like “Internet of Things” and “If This Then That.”

Now is the time to begin the process of identifying and recruiting key personnel who will be willing and able to help with this transition.

3D in 4.0

Guido Groet
Chief Medical Officer

A disruption in ophthalmic is on the way through 3D printing. Several industries have already been taken by storm—for example, hearing aids, aerospace and medical implants. In our industry, we have seen 3D printing in frame manufacturing and now also in lens manufacturing.

The benefit of 3D printing of lenses is of course that a lens can be created on the spot without a semi-finished blank as a starting point. It allows for simplified manufacturing, lower inventories and less handling and waste. In addition, and this is where the biggest benefit shows, the bandwidth of products that can be manufactured is enormous. Within the current lens products, a lab will be able to offer its customers many products that today are difficult to manufacture. In addition, an entire range of new products will become available—for example, lenses with different refractive indexes, integrated sensors or electronically switching sunglasses.

3D printing is a truly new-generation technology where from a tablet with a few clicks a custom lens can be created matching the exact needs of the patient. Through remote connectivity, new products can be easily added to the portfolio of both the lab and the optician.

Preparing for way for Industry 4.0

Kevin Cross
Vice President Sales, North America, Schneider Optical Machines Inc.

As today’s lens manufacturing moves more towards Industry 4.0, we want to prepare ourselves as best we can to be ready to make the necessary changes that keep us in the game.

The one major change we can get a head start on is DATA. Data, our use of and access to it, will drive the functionality and efficiency of our labs going forward. We want to make sure we are in a position to use that data, in real time, to our advantage.

You can start by making sure that as you look at new systems and machines that they have the features in them today that you can use tomorrow and beyond. All too often, we buy a smart device or machine and by the time we get it in production it’s become obsolete! So, before you make any machine purchases ask your vendor: Are your systems and machines “Smart Machines?” Will the machines alert me to process drift and upcoming maintenance needs? Are they able to extract and show process data in real time? Can I access this data in an easy-to-view-and-process format like a production dashboard? Can I change what data is being shown based on the needs of the person viewing it?

This is critical since you want the right data to get to the right person in the lab—you want your maintenance team to view maintenance related information, you want your lab management team to be able to see capacity and utilization and other production based numbers… you get the point.

Start making sure that you are collecting data, processing data and storing it. This will get you on the path towards becoming the production lab of tomorrow—today.


Labtalk June 2020