Cogiscan’s Chief Sales and Marketing Officer François Monette connected with EMSNOW for an interview about his company’s vision and what is in store for Industry 4.0 in 2019.
EMSNOW: Cogiscan is a Canadian company founded in 1999 to enable the Factory of the Future. I was around in 1999 before Industry 4.0 was a thing, and really before the internet was even that big of a deal. How has your company’s vision been a factor in your success?
François Monette: This vision was the key to start the company in the first place. It takes a great deal of confidence to quit a stable job to create a startup from scratch with no guarantee for success. Over the past 20 years that vision has kept us closely aligned and focused on the right path, always leading the industry with innovative solutions to address ever-growing challenges.
EMSNOW: You have been at the leading edge of Industry 4.0 implementations and technology solutions. This has been a topic in the industry for years. Your approach is to focus on those things that really make a difference. Please explain how you determine what areas will really make a difference in these implementations?
FM: Because of our background as manufacturing engineers we are very pragmatic people. Technology by itself brings no value if it does not contribute to solving real business issues. The fundamentals of electronics manufacturing industry are still related to producing a quality product, on time and at the lowest cost possible. Any new product that we develop must enable our customers to achieve this better than the traditional alternatives.
EMSNOW: Please explain how Track Trace and Control helps manufacturers reduce cost?
FM: First, our connectivity and data management solutions collect complete and accurate real-time data from the manufacturing floor. This data is shared with various enterprise systems to improve their overall efficiency. Cogiscan also provides its own applications for material control, traceability and analytics. This superior level of visibility and automation enables significant savings in material cost, labor and asset utilization to name a few.
EMSNOW: How does your solution manage component inventory when certain components go into allocation? Does your solution help mitigate risk of line shut down from missing parts?
FM: Component inventory management is a subset of our global material control solutions and clearly the most important piece due to the cost factor. Our approach is to serialize every individual item, in this case reels and matrix trays, to enable precise tracking and control of each component lot at each step of the process, from receiving to the warehouse, to allocation, kitting, all the way to the final placement and reflow. When we combine this tracking of individual reels with machine connectivity, we track the real-time consumption and remaining quantity, triggering low-level warnings to avoid line shut-down. This type of system is more and more frequently combined with automated component storage systems to further enhance the overall material flow while reducing human intervention.
EMSNOW: How important is machine to machine connectivity to the success of your solution and how do you see that moving forward in 2019?
FM: M2M connectivity is becoming more and more important even though in practice only a few customers are actually using closed-loop solutions on a limited scale. One of the limiting factors is the fact that closed-loop solutions have been developed as custom integration projects between two machine vendors. It needs to be re-invented over and over again for each new vendor combination which is not efficient. We contribute to solving this issue with our Co-NECT machine interface which is vendor-neutral and that can support any protocol, including legacy and upcoming industry standards such as CAMX, SECS/GEM and CFX.
EMSNOW: Which end markets do you think are further along in implementing Industry 4.0 currently?
FM: The level of implementation varies greatly based on company size, region and product type. The concept and name Industry 4.0 originated in Germany, and Europe in general has been a leader in factory automation for years. China is quickly catching up due to a serious commitment and financial support from the government. Historically the high reliability product segments such as automotive, telecom, aerospace, defense and medical have also been leading the industry in terms of data collection and process control.
EMSNOW: Do you see OEMs requiring more documentation for traceability in the future? What would be the drivers of that?
FM: This has been a clear trend for many years in the high reliability segments mentioned above. Large OEMs like Cisco for example are constantly increasing the quantity and variety of traceability and manufacturing data that they require from their EMS partners. This is driven by the belief that additional quality and process control upfront will reduce the number of defects down the line which will translate in reduced costs.
EMSNOW: How does your solution address the issue of counterfeits?
FM: Counterfeit components are a critical industry-wide issue. Recently the SEMI association launched a major initiative called “Single Device Traceability Task Force” whose charter is to create new traceability standards. Their objective is to enable complete traceability of individual components throughout the supply chain and it will be a major step forward to eliminate or at least reduce the counterfeit market. As always, we will follow this development closely to make sure that we are ready to offer off-the-shelf solutions to help our customers and equipment partners comply with the new standards when they are released.
EMSNOW: What do you think are the industry’s biggest challenges going into 2019?
FM: We will continue to see a great deal of confusion around Industry 4.0, the smart factory and IIoT. Machine and software vendors, as well as other stakeholders including industry associations, are working feverishly to position their products and services in this broader context and the marketing promises often sound too good to be true. Manufacturers will need to proceed carefully as they establish their IT roadmap since there will continue to be a lot of changes and new technology coming from established as well as new vendors in the years to come. The worse approach is to put all your eggs in one basket as no single vendor can provide a complete Industry 4.0 solution. The best approach is to stick with fundamentals, rely on proven solutions, keep your options and systems architecture open, do not try a Big Bang approach but instead pursue a methodical step-by-step continuous improvement process. Prioritize the projects based on business needs and insure that you have a solid ROI before moving forward with any new investment.
EMSNOW: What do you see as the key trends for 2019 that will drive growth in the industry?
FM: We see increasing investments in all aspects of Industry 4.0. However, most companies are still not very far along this journey. We expect that most manufacturers will continue to work on establishing a solid foundation to collect real-time date from the production floor. This has always been the greatest challenge in our industry and this issue still needs to be resolved before any form of data analytics, deep learning or AI can be successfully evaluated and later implemented on a large scale.
EMSNOW: Is there anything else you would like to say to EMSNOW readers?
FM: Cogiscan will celebrate its 20th year of existence in 2019. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our customers and partners for their ongoing collaboration and we look forward to the next 20 years, continuing our journey towards the factory of the future!