Industry 4.0 in Manufacturing: Is the Metals Industry Ready For It?

Metals manufacturing and the subsequent distribution of products derived from that process has been a staple industry for centuries. As with any industry, the businesses doing their business have had to evolve to stay relevant and accessible. Moving into the phase coined as "Industry 4.0," it's important to understand what that title means and how your company can keep up with the current new wave.

You Are Now Entering ‘Industry 4.0 in Manufacturing’

Humans like labels. They help us organize the vast variety of complex, different things in our world to help us not be too overwhelmed by it all. Since the Industrial Revolution ignited the world in the late 18th century, experts have categorized each phase of the manufacturing industry's evolution. Now that the internet has become integral to modern business processes, the name of the game is efficiency, quality, flexibility, and waste reduction. Manufacturing and distribution practices are being augmented through automation, data analytics, cloud networking, artificial intelligence (AI) integration, machine learning (ML), and several other ways. The industry has officially entered the Fourth Industrial Revolution or the era of Industry 4.0 in manufacturing.

Ready for the Revolution

As with the end of any era, things must change or be left behind. Savvy businesses in metals manufacturing and distribution have survived by adopting the latest best practices and leveraging newly developed technologies and methodologies to thrive. When it comes to Industry 4.0 in manufacturing specifically, however, many businesses still seem to be lagging, feeling unprepared, or jumping at new technology for the sake of it. If you're going to prepare your company to adopt Industry 4.0, you need to know what problems need solving. Globally, the 2022 market size of Industry 4.0 sat around $146 billion USD, because of the various industries investing in technology & tools to stay relevant and maintain compliancy. That year, manufacturing transformed the most compared to other industries, with about 31% of global investment into Industry 4.0. From investment into technology harnessing the Internet of Things (IoT) and necessary upgrades to equipment, to training plans to implement for new systems, demands to ensure customer needs are met fast, and concerns about data being handled securely, there are a lot of factors driving further growth of Industry 4.0 in manufacturing.

iMetal & Sage Intacct United

Our team at Equation Technologies partnered up with Jonas Metals Software (JMS) to create an ideal solution for the metals industry that facilitates its modern, advancing needs using iMetal and Sage Intacct. JMS saw their software covered the broad needs of manufacturing and distribution for metals businesses but lacked secure, cloud data management and streamlined accounting, so they turned to us. Together, with our combined experience working with the metals industry, we've crafted a new, optimized technology solution. At a glance, the integration of iMetal with Sage Intacct has created a reliable, flexible, accessible system that allows the metal industry to work efficiently and act fast to get their clients the products and answers they need. This solution combo allows metals manufacturers and distributors to step into Industry 4.0 at a foundational level that can support modern business practices. 

AI Takes the Pressure Off

Since 2022, Sage Intacct has been leveraging and improving its use of AI and ML to save financial teams’ precious time. Through automation, the ERP solution can make the most of centralized digital data, allowing for faster analysis, pattern-tracking, and insight extraction while making it simpler to spot anomalies and reduce your friction points. Here are a few of our favorite highlights: 

Simplified Banking

AI now handles repetitive manual tasks like bank reconciliations. Automations download bank info and will auto-match payments with related bank statements. By removing manual reconciliations between systems, your margin for error drops dramatically.

Streamline Vendor Relations

An AI-powered digital assistant can scan vendor bills for you and match them up appropriately. On top of drafting bill records, it can also weed out duplicates. Using connections with digital banking, Vendor Payments can link vendors to payment processing through your bank and automate your US and multi-national payments.

General Ledger Accuracy

Outlier Detection for General Ledger (GL) uses AI to flag errors for review. Any entry that breaks transaction patterns is labelled an outlier, so errors can be corrected quickly and confidently. The AI-powered Outlier Assistant also makes the feature accessible to anyone beyond users who route journal entries for approval. The GL can also be customized so that journal approval routing can go back to the originator to be fixed first. Sage Intacct is the first mid-market cloud-based solution to offer this invaluable feature that dramatically reduces reporting errors.

Whether you're ready or not, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has begun. Thankfully, there are tools out there, like Sage Intacct and unique industry-specific integrations like the one we’ve created with JMS & iMetal, that offer an easier step toward readiness. The path is clear for businesses that stress innovation and a top-tier customer experience looking to grow with this new wave of modernization. Make a plan, know what actual problems in your organization need solving, and position yourself to be flexible. As we mentioned, we have a team of experts very familiar with all facets of the metals industry, so reach out to us with questions. We'd be happy to help your business become Industry 4.0 compatible.

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