Janine De Fence, Strategic Development Manager at NPL Scotland, looks at the significance of measurement and data confidence for manufacturing businesses to realise the value from industry 4.0.
The government’s Made Smarter Review published in October 2017, sets out an ambitious plan for UK manufacturing, seeking to create a world-leading innovation ecosystem to accelerate industrial digitalisation across the UK manufacturing sector. Measurement and data confidence will be key to delivering this and for manufacturing businesses to realise the value from embracing digitalisation.
Industrial digitalisation can offer great benefits to both large and small companies, and throughout the supply chain. Fundamental to achieving the aims of the Made Smarter Review is a robust, relevant and reliable measurement infrastructure. From the smallest ball-bearing to the largest aircraft, good measurement is vital to ‘right first time’ manufacturing, as well as efficiency, cost and time savings, and better compliance.
As new technologies are developed and implemented, good measurement infrastructure will become yet more important; in assessing their performance, integrating them into the production line, and in harnessing the vast quantities of data that they create.
Data sits at the heart of industrial digitalisation, through its connections, analysis and interpretation between source and end user. In order for the benefits to be truly felt, the user needs to have trust and confidence in the data, starting from sensors and flowing through to the, often-automated decision-making. To ensure trust in the data you need to understand the quality of measurements generating it and where appropriate link to internationally accepted standards, often through legacy equipment or challenging manufacturing environments. To instil confidence, you need to understand what the data means and where it came from, thus generating business cases for faster technology adoption and creating traceable data through manufacturing supply chains. Achieving this will require new and innovative measurement and data integration techniques, as well as an ability to accurately trace data to primary measurements and internationally-accepted standards.
The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is the UK’s National Measurement Institute, a world-leading centre of excellence in developing and applying the most accurate measurement standards and practices for advancing UK science and engineering capabilities. We conduct high-quality measurement science and provide products and services that enable businesses and public organisations to make reliable measurements and have confidence in the decisions they make based on them. NPL is also helping to enable data-confident approaches to technology insertion across manufacturing applications and sectors. It is working on the first ever data measurement standards and running regional pilot projects to deliver digital data validation through its Digitally Enabled Supply Chain Programme. NPL is already investing into these projects with industry and its colleagues in other research organisations to ensure that its work is relevant and applicable to real world demands.
We welcome contact from those looking to develop digital capabilities and data confidence.
In order to ensure the productivity gains that this progress offers, it must be built on solid measurement infrastructure. By doing so, we can pave the way for a more productive, efficient and competitive era of UK manufacturing.