Industry 4.0 is top of mind in the tire manufacturing space. As competitive pressures continue to heighten, the need to tighten and improve the manufacturing process also rises. But does future proofing mean having to adopt all new technologies and overhauling your entire workflow? The good news is that through utilization and expansion of existing barcode infrastructure, you can quickly realize wins within your facility.
Through our conversations with customers, we’ve uncovered 3 common trends as it relates to the perception of Industry 4.0 within the tire space, which should be kept in mind when approaching 4.0 planning. Below, we’ll discuss each of these perceptions and how utilization of barcode technology coupled with automatic label application can support a more robust data connectivity strategy.
1. Industry 4.0 & improved data exchange strategies are priorities
If you’re a competitive player within the tire space, the question really isn’t IF you’re going to improve, but rather a means of WHEN. With fewer ways to differentiate and reduce costs, continuous improvement is simply a necessity. Industry 4.0 strategies can sound complicated, but in reality the overall objective is simply to make data work better together for improved processes and information-based decision making.
When thinking about connecting and utilizing data, its important not to bypass the seemingly small things that already hold and capture data – like barcodes. If you’re an organization that’s utilizing bead barcode labels for WIP tracking, you’re already ahead of the game in your ability to streamline information. Leveraging that existing infrastructure and process to automatically generate and apply tread labels closes the loop on the identity and data associated to each individual tire, thus removing an opportunity for impaired data!
Continuous improvement strategies on existing technologies, infrastructure, and processes are a more feasible place to start as it relates to implementation of a 4.0 plan. Beyond tread label automation, here are a few other barcode & label considerations that could lead to quick wins:
- Leverage bead barcode labels to track each tire through manufacturing
- Incorporate color dots or stripes to bead barcode labels for added ease of identification
- Consider bead label applicators (at either pre or post vulcanization stages!) to reduce manual errors
- Still need to manually apply barcodes? Utilize barcode dispensers to maximize throughput
2. Expectation is often greater than execution
We hear it from folks within the tire manufacturing space all the time: “I need to plan for an implement an Industry 4.0 strategy.” In reality, that simple statement could take years or planning, investing, and documentation. Yes, future-proofing your process and planning for the long term objectives of your organization are extremely important, but so is the realistic expectation that an Industry 4.0 strategy simply isn’t a quick project.
Connectivity of data throughout a complex manufacturing, distribution, or warehousing process often involves a variety of hardware that may or may not talk to each other, databases that store various bits of information along the way, and manual processes that aren’t tracked in real-time. These three elements are simply the reality to almost all tire manufacturing processes. While it may be tricky to bridge the gap between Industry 4.0 and the seemingly simple barcode, optimizing your label strategy often provides quick wins that improve manual processes, data connectivity, AND support future plans.
It is also important when continually improving and simultaneously working towards an Industry 4.0 strategy to keep the checklist below in mind. Ideally, every decision should support the following tactics to ensure you’re not reworking processes later:
Automation > manual labor. What 5 factors need to be considered when thinking about automation? Check out our article
Equipment and data should integrate
Information should easily flow
Systems and info should be protected and secure
Throughput and efficiencies should be improved
Keep things simple and operator-friendly
Ensure systems are compatible for future plans
3. Labeling processes and automation have historically been disjointed
Traditionally, label automation has been a bit of a silo as it relates to the overall tire manufacturing workflow process. Traditional label automation (especially that of tread labels) typically came with a whole host of issues including: hand application, material difficulties, patchy integration, silo systems, lack of overall strategy & visibility, and proven to be error-prone.
An independent process that seemed to add a step, historical label automation was a break in an otherwise connected chain of events. Today, there is label automation technology that integrates straight into manufacturing lines and keeps pace with the speed of production. Such technology opens the door to improved data management and communication strategies. Hello, streamlined process!
By adding label automation to your existing process, you’re taking advantage of already-utilized and understood barcode technology. A robust label automation system will scan the data provided by the tire bead barcode label and then produce & apply the corresponding tread label, all while the tire is moving down the production line at the speeds your facility needs to maintain. The ability to automatically scan and verify data after label application is also important to ensure accuracy before the tire moves along to the next step in the process.
Adopting an Industry 4.0 strategy can seem overwhelming when we start to incorporate concepts like ‘cyber physical systems’, but in reality, achieving productivity wins through the use of label automation and existing barcode infrastructure can be fairly easy. Choose a company that provides service options, training, and support. A partner that understands your needs and goals and can tailor a label automation solution will likely provide the best option for your specific requirements.
Ensuring you’ve fully leveraged your existing investments and infrastructure is an economic way to lay the foundation for a future Industry 4.0 strategy. At the same time, label automation allows you to easily and quickly realize benefits associated with labor reduction, label placement accuracy, data management, and throughput.