I think at the end of the day one of the opportunities in Industry 4.0 is trying to find off-the-shelf solutions for analytics that might be complex internally but are simple and explainable to people on a factory floor.
— Tim Burke, APEX 2023 panel “Planning your digitization and automation roadmap”
At the APEX Expo IPC 2023, an industry panel came together to discuss how SMT manufacturers can plan their digitization and automation roadmap. Tim Burke of Arch joined three other leaders in digitization for manufacturing; Jeff Peabody of Critical manufacturing, Michael Ford of Aegis software, and Peter Bollinger from ITAC Software AG.

The thirty minute conversation is a valuable one. In this short time, the panelists cover a great deal of ground, but return again and again to the manufacturer’s needs to surround and connect with data collection.

It is striking how unified the panelists are regarding how to bring about further digital transformation in manufacturers; provide customer-centric insights that use industry best practices to give the control of the manufacturing to the managers.

Starting with Tim’s survey of the Arch reference machine data architecture for industry 4.0, the panel gets into lively interchange on the path forward.

They agree that it is not just data that is needed but also expertise from the industry delivered to the right people. “You need to build a bridge from that knowledge and to the factory floor,” said Peter.

Michael noted that the digital transformation experience comes when the data is brought into a realm of industry expertise. “With Tim’s [ArchFX] technology especially you can start to analyze things and you learn about problems that you didn’t know you had… This is where the kind of sharing of data and ecosystem approach works because things may appear to be symptoms and if you spend too much effort to solve them you end up losing the bigger picture of what is actually the cause,” he said.

All members of the panel also agreed that while industry best practices can be built into solutions, it is vital to understand the customer’s needs. Jeff noted that “this is not an IT project, this is not a data project, this is a culture change for the company.”

There is a lot more in the conversation, including how testing has evolved into a data collection tool and how the line has been drawn between proprietary knowledge and industry best practices. It is a fascinating and important conversation… or at least the beginning of a conversation. As the moderator, Trevor Galbraith notes at the conclusion, “This debate is going to go on for a long, long time to come.”