From smartphones to electric vehicles, digital technologies continue to reshape everyday life at breakneck speed. But one of the most important transformations is happening in a place most consumers will never see: the factory floor.
The use of digital technology in manufacturing has given rise to the “smart factory,” a fundamental shift in how companies work often called the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0 (I4.0). A smart factory depends on highly sensitive analysis, measurement, and control instruments to build near real-time connectivity between process data and decision-making. The increase in data transparency and control can be used to power I4.0 applications like the industrial internet of things (IIOT), machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI).
INFICON Inc. is a publicly traded company that manufactures many of the technologies that a smart factory demands. It supplies a range of sectors, including the refrigeration equipment, automotive, optics, and semiconductor industries, with instrumentation, critical sensors, and advanced process-control software. These products are especially valuable to the manufacture of optical thin-film coatings, flat-panel displays, solar cells, and industrial vacuum coatings.
In 2021, INFICON joined Rochester Institute of Technology’s (RIT) Industry 4.0 Transition Assistance Program to accelerate its own digital transformation. RIT’s program is designed to help small- and medium-sized manufacturers across New York State take advantage of digitalization. Beginning with an in-depth assessment, RIT specialists work with a company to map out how Industry 4.0 can lead to increased efficiency, productivity, and, ultimately, return on investment.
RIT’s assessment identified several opportunities for leveraging I4.0 to increase the overall efficiency and productivity of INFICON’s operations. The company engaged RIT to pursue one of those in February 2022, which was to transition INFICON’s work-instruction system to a digital platform. Modernizing INFICON’s work instructions was one of more than 160 recommendations that RIT made following its digital maturity assessment.
To learn more about the assessment and INFICON’s larger I4.0 journey, we sat down with Scott Walker, who is the vice president of INFICON’s U.S. headquarters in East Syracuse, New York.