Collaboration is the Glue to Hold Industry 4.0 Together
26 March 2018
By François Monette, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Cogiscan

There has been so much talk about connecting machines and software systems, and while that’s important and very close to our hearts, we’re even more passionate about connecting people. The industry has finally realized that no single vendor, or even group of companies, can provide all the parts to the Industry 4.0 puzzle.

Many have tried, and failed, to deliver the one-stop smart factory solution. The realization that a single vendor risks compromising the potential outcome, be they hardware of software companies, has brought us to a point where even the most protective companies are now opening their systems, protocols and communication channels to achieve the best result for the eventual user.

I’ve talked a lot about the importance of collaboration and about how we at Cogiscan consider it to be essential and a core part of our DNA. As a result, we find ourselves ahead of the curve in this sharing economy and positioned ideally to deliver the glue that holds the various elements of an Industry 4.0 together.
We’ve been developing trusted partnerships for years, having realized at the outset of the Industry 4.0 trend that our job was to bring together the best-in-class domain knowledge and connect it to new and legacy equipment.

Having the best domain knowledge is essential. We wouldn’t dream of telling a thermal process company how to generate oven or profile data, or a Solder Paste Inspection (SPI) company how to get the perfect image. They know how to do that and that expertise allows them to compete in their category. What we can do is collaborate with those domain experts to help take that “good data” and make the best use of it in a holistic ecosystem where the voice of every machine process is shared and intelligence is derived and used to improve overall performance.

So, what is needed to collaborate for success?

First, it isn’t enough just to be the glue for all the component parts. What’s needed is a glue that has flexibility and the ability to adhere to almost anything. Connectivity is what we do, and we’ve been doing it for long enough, with enough different partners, to understand how it works.

It all starts with defining and aligning objectives. This can go as far as aligning product and technology roadmaps. For the customer, this means looking at existing partners, identifying their areas of expertise and their willingness to partner. It also means looking at legacy equipment and systems. Industry 4.0 can rarely be a “start from scratch” strategy. It needs to account for the systems and machines in place, deciding which work well and which should be replaced. Even older machines that do not feature any specific interface should not be dismissed out of hand without properly exploring how they can be connected through simple low cost additions. In our experience, most machines and software applications can be connected and their data normalized to create an intelligent solution.

Once objectives are defined, the next stage is to build the dream team that will create the solution. That means making sure everyone is on the same page, focused on the customer’s goals and willing to do what it takes to deliver the best outcome.

Integrating all these parts is hard, but that’s what companies like Cogiscan specialize in. When you select the integrator, check with all the vendors that they are not just willing to work with that integrator but that they have a relationship and a level of open trust. The solution should not force process modifications to fit the software, but should provide a flexible system that meets the process demands now and in the future.
We’ve been partnering since the start of Cogiscan, in fact we’ve built a team focused exclusively on partnerships and collaborations. We’ve learned that collaboration goes beyond talk! Successful partners align business cultures, technology roadmaps, aspirations and much more. Collaboration comes from a place of openness, trust and honesty. This type of relationship takes years to develop.

Many of the collaborations we participate in are with individual companies, but some go beyond the individual companies with consortia or associations getting together to create aligned solutions to specific challenges. Industry standards has been an area that has really shown the industry’s ability and willingness to work together for a common, mutually beneficial objective. It has been impressive and gratifying throughout 2017 to see so many companies putting their needs aside to drive something that will help everyone.

Whether you call it collaboration, partnership or simply teamwork, it’s clear that together we can achieve so much more for our customers, and for the industry. Look at the ‘partners’ page on the Cogiscan website, where you’ll see dozens of our collaborators listed. On the video pages you can hear them talk about their experience with us.

Our view is simple, we believe in partnership and we believe that together we are better.
François Monette formed Cogiscan in 1999 with André Corriveau and Vincent Dubois in Bromont, Canada, and is currently Vice President of Sales and Marketing. A manufacturing engineering graduate of McGill University in Montreal, François started his career at IBM, and worked at contract manufacturer, C-MAC (Solectron), before joining Universal Instruments as a senior sales engineer. When François isn’t helping clients achieve their smart factory goals, he can be found cycling or running on the trails close to his home and Cogiscan headquarters.

This article was published in I40today.