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Adapting to Industry 4.0 in Manufacturing

Three Meraki solutions accelerating digital transformation

Two men and a woman working on laptop in a factory

Prior to the pandemic, manufacturing as an industry was well on the way to transformation with the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies such as robotics, automation, AR/VR, additive manufacturing (3D printing), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Nonetheless, the disruption of supply chains we’ve seen as a consequence of the pandemic has only reaffirmed the need to compress the timeframe for digital transformation. How manufacturers adapt—and how quickly—will differentiate the survivors from the rest. With that in mind, let’s take a look at three ways the Meraki platform helps facilitate this transformation for our manufacturing customers.

Harness Wi-Fi 6 for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

One key component of digital transformation that smart factories are embracing is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), where everything from robots to forklifts to tooling carts are being connected to networks. This connectivity centralizes control, increases visibility, and leverages analytics to improve efficiency, reduce downtime, and make smarter predictions. With so many wireless devices requiring network access, providing a strong Wi-Fi 6 foundation is critical to ensuring consistent and high-performance IIoT deployments. Also known as the 802.1ax standard, Wi-Fi 6 has the potential to increase average throughput per user by a factor of four, thereby granting manufacturers the raw material (throughput) they need to fully harness the promise of IIoT.

Monitor smart factories with MT environmental sensors

Sensor technologies have allowed manufacturers to take advantage of big data to improve manufacturing processes, predict failure, and ultimately improve the efficiency of modern smart factories. We recently grew our platform to include environmental sensors as a standard component of network deployments. Meraki MT is a family of environmental sensors (indoor temperature/humidity, indoor leak, door open/close) that provide real-time remote visibility and monitoring to help protect assets and facilities 24/7. We imagine this technology to be initially deployed in IT closets, ensuring that critical infrastructure uptime is maintained, but there’s no reason to stop there. Wherever manufacturers need to monitor environmental conditions, we can help by simplifying the set-up process—MT environmental sensors can be provisioned in seconds, as they are battery-powered and use Wi-Fi 6 wireless access points and MV smart cameras as gateways to connect to the network.

Become adaptable with ecosystem partners 

To thrive, the modern manufacturer needs to be able to innovate and scale against the backdrop of a complex global supply chain. They must also be able to respond to a diversity of disruptive external pressures, and do so quickly. The Meraki platform makes it easy to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. With the help of open APIs, paired with a community of technology partners, Meraki can support a huge array of potential use cases outside traditional “networking” arenas. For example, one such ecosystem partner, Arista Flow, has an asset tracking app that gives the real-time location of everyone in a facility using Bluetooth tags and Meraki Wi-Fi 6 access points, allowing any employees left behind in an emergency situation to be identified and quickly located.

The network has always been about providing connectivity. Without a strong foundation of connectivity, manufacturers will be slow to adopt Industry 4.0 technologies.

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