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Today, machines and plants are already intelligent almost without exception. They exchange data with each other and make decisions independently on the basis of the information. This is how comprehensively networked smart factories are emerging. The result: much more decentralised and flexible decision-making that takes operational efficiency to the next level.

But networking machines and software components is not enough. For the full potential of Industry 4.0 to be realised, people must also be seamlessly integrated into the digital exchange of information. This is the main area where small and medium-sized enterprises have failed so far.

Case study: This is where networking reaches its limits

The basic technology of the Internet of Things (IoT) enables the networking of all operational resources in real time. Our example is already a reality in many companies:

It is about the processing of a fault message in customer service. The message arrives directly on the service technician's smartphone from a machine in use by the customer. The notification not only contains information about which machine is affected. Without having to change the platform, the employee also has access to the machine's master data, maintenance history and a detailed description of the fault. At the same time, he can check whether the required spare parts are available by sending a request to the warehouse management system.

But what is missing? Up to now, employees have mainly been networked with the organisation on a task-related basis. When it comes to communication between employees, the limits are reached very quickly. If a service technician wants to consult a colleague in the head office directly at the site, it is easy to reach for the private messenger service on the smartphone. Photos or documents can also be transmitted. In response, the technician receives a solution suggestion. Valuable information has thus left the internal system world. Back at the company, for example, paper-based leave requests are not uncommon. This means that even simple workflows lose considerable efficiency potential. The only remedy is a central communication platform. It brings together the operational processes with the communication from employee to employee.

Communication platform provides the necessary integration

This platform must be flexible because it integrates automation solutions for machines with different communication protocols. At the same time, it connects software from all relevant business areas such as sales or production to the data exchange. It grants the human factor access to the network via a variety of terminals. The business or private smartphone has established itself as the lowest common denominator in communication.

The smartphone with the corresponding app for industry makes it possible for the first time to integrate a large number of non-desk employees on an equal footing. Colleagues in production, in the warehouse or in maintenance now have access to real-time information that would otherwise only reach them with a considerable delay. This can be fault messages or other machine-generated notifications. But management can just as well use the app for crisis communication. Employees receive the latest information via the news section of the app. In hardly any other case is it so important to address all colleagues at the same time. Of course, routine workflows such as a leave request can also be handled fully digitally via forms stored in the app.

In our MEXS blog, we keep you up to date on how a digital all-in-one solution with an app for industry can really network all operational resources comprehensively. Only then can you fully exploit the possibilities of Industry 4.0. Convince yourself at one free trial our communication platform.

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Thomas Teufel, Executive Board Member at UMT AG MEXS-Messaging Plattform - Effiziente Abläufe und transparente Kommunikation