Embracing data-driven decision making in manufacturing

Phoenix Contact is a Business Reporter customer.

As more and more organizations undergo digital transformation, it is useful to understand how data and analytics drive change and help create sustainable businesses

Imagine this – a robot walks up to your machines, asks about their performance, predicts potential hiccups and offers quick intervention to maximize performance.

While we may not be there yet, thanks to the power of real-time data, the vision is closer than ever. We are already well on our way to a world where machines communicate with each other to share their needs and potential issues, leading to improved performance, enhanced collaboration, reduced downtime and improved energy consumption.

We are living through the fourth industrial revolution, also known as Industry 4.0, characterized by increased automation and the integration of intelligent machines.

Growing at a CAGR of 20.67 percentIndustry 4.0 is the next phase of digital transformation driven by disruptive trends such as IoT, cloud, machine learning, data and analytics, human-machine interaction, robotics and advanced manufacturing technology.

We create troves of data

In 2016, Cisco Systems shared a blog post highlighting that the world's collective internet usage had crossed the “zettabyte mark”, having created 1024 trillion terabytes and thus officially entered the “Zettabyte era“.

It took all of human history until 2016 to create one zettabyte. However, in 2022 alone, global IP traffic was 333 exabytes (equivalent to a third of a zettabyte).

While we may be generating an amazing amount of data, it is of no use until we learn to use it strategically. While data can be a powerful resource, in today's information-saturated world, the value of data lies not in its volume but in how it is harnessed.

How we use data to get meaningful insights and drive actionable results makes all the difference.

Manufacturers are moving towards data-driven sustainability

Data-driven sustainability means collecting and using data to make decisions that not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also optimize supply chains, reduce waste and fuel positive change while increasing profitability.

With a focus on long-term value creation, business leaders are turning to data-driven solutions to build resilient, purpose-driven organizations that prioritize the environment alongside business goals.

Embracing sustainability is no longer optional

Climate change is a very real threat, prompting many organizations to look for ways to operate more sustainably. According to the Global Lighthouse Network Fourth Industrial Executive Survey, almost 77 percent of respondents consider productivity, sustainability or resilience as their top priority.

Manufacturers are building smart factories equipped with advanced sensors, embedded software and robotics that collect and analyze large amounts of data. This ensures real-time visibility of production data. This data from production can be combined with operational data from ERP, supply chain, customer service and other enterprise systems to create even higher value with entirely new levels of visibility and insights from previous information.

Real-time data enables various opportunities for sustainability, including:

  • Improved energy efficiency for a reduced carbon footprint
  • Predictive maintenance for reduced equipment downtime and resource consumption
  • Improved collaboration to foster a culture of effective data-driven decision-making
  • Real-time monitoring for quick and effective intervention to avoid costly disruptions
  • Increased automation to maximize efficiency, accurately allocate resources and minimize human error

This data-driven decision-making leads to improved process optimization and a new level of efficiency not possible before, helping companies achieve carbon neutrality.

Business Reporter: Phoenix Contact

Preparing your business for Industry 4.0

“On paper, Industry 4.0 and digitization make a lot of sense, but if your organization is not properly prepared, your manufacturing team may be in for a difficult transition. Digital transformation is not just about technology. It's a holistic approach that reshapes business processes, culture and customer experiences,” says Zachary Stank, Product Marketing Manager – Automation Systems and Safety, Phoenix Contact USA.

We are witnessing an unprecedented global paradigm shift. Digitalisation, networking and globalization mean that there are new market demands. Classic system structures are evolving into globally interconnected production systems.

The pace of innovation means technologies are rapidly converging and products and infrastructure are getting smarter. New engineers and software experts are shaping new work methodologies, and cloud and edge computing are enabling future-oriented industrial business models.

Many companies are considering reviewing and changing processes. This makes flexibility a pressing requirement, because an adaptable, fully networked manufacturing facility can quickly respond to new demands and volatile markets.

Traditional PLCs have been the backbone of industrial automation for decades, but as the industry shifts to a more dynamic IIoT landscape, their limitations are becoming more glaring. And proprietary development ecosystems, lack of support for modern communication protocols (such as MQTT or OPC UA), and antiquated cybersecurity measures make digital transformation difficult.

PLCnext Phoenix Contact's technology provides a powerful solution for integrating data-driven decision making into your applications, while offering a flexible solution with an open architecture. It builds a bridge between the OT and IT layers and, in addition to efficient data collection, enables smooth data exchange between all systems and devices. This is made possible by standardizing the data so that it is transparently available at all levels and can be used in the production process in a useful way.

As an open industrial automation ecosystem consisting of open hardware, modular engineering software, a global community and a digital software marketplace, PLCnext technology helps organizations take advantage of new forms of collaboration.

PLCnext technology extends the use of familiar PLCs in ways that will change the future of industrial automation.


Learn more about how Phoenix Contact US can help manufacturers make data-driven decisions to enable sustainable production.