Vincent Borgraeve - Co-Founder of FloWide | 17 June 2021
Digitalisation is often seen as a complex challenge in manufacturing. That’s what we at FloWide are setting out to change and why I fell in love with this project. Simulation, coupled with indoor location data, is a simple, safe, and affordable way forward towards industry 4.0. At FloWide, I’m working to help UK companies find their flow, using FloWide technologies.
One thing I’ve learned from trail running is that plan all you want; you will find yourself in situations you never expected. This realisation has been at the core of my work ever since. It defines my thinking about the need for continuous improvement and agility. Even in manufacturing, we must constantly adjust our plans to how things turn out. Sometimes, an overhead view could give us all the information we need to make the best decisions but at others, we need heaps of in-depth data to truly understand what’s going on.
Ever since I finished my degree in mechanical engineering, I’ve focused on processes and making them more efficient. The first question is always, how can industrial operations be transformed into a value-added process. For example, when hand-made small-series manufacturing transitions into volume production. At times, the solutions lie in changing existing practices, at others, in upgrading machinery.
However, I soon realised the many potholes of current optimisation efforts. For example, running around a shop floor, trying to draw up a spaghetti diagram manually is time-consuming, and sadly, inexact work. As a result, stakeholders will often feel that lean engineers are changing existing process based simply on their opinions, resulting in push-back.
This is how companies can have the best methods and most modern machinery theoretically available and still be lacking profitability. Things aren’t actually happening as observed or as laid out in an action plan. I have seen the frustration this can cause throughout my career, and in recent years, I have been searching for a solution.
What started as a stream early on, grew into a river. One that eventually became a tributary to FloWide.
FloWide is solving the challenges above in two ways. First, we are making industry 4.0 and IIoT accessible. This means the solution is easy to implement, trial and use. Building the technology on the foundations of existing tracking solutions and simulation makes it inherently scalable. New sources of data or new areas of the manufacturing plant can be added easily. This scalability is also supported by the fact that beginning work with FloWide does not require a significant up-front investment.
Currently, most huge digitalisation projects are extremely complex, filled with software development and ownership challenges that shopfloors are simply unequipped to handle. FloWide simplifies these by ensuring that manufacturers remain the owners of any simple python-code apps they create and their entire digital twins. The platform offers an easy-to-use, visually appealing UI that employees will be more open to relying on.
Even a small FloWide installation can automate time-consuming portions of the optimisation process, like drawing the above-mentioned spaghetti diagrams. Furthermore, it can help engineers prove that decision-making is data-driven. Simulation even allows them to build a clearer picture of the possible gains and illustrate these to stakeholders more effectively.
Beyond FloWide addressing a major challenge that I have faced throughout my career; other personal factors also drove me towards this new adventure. I have always enjoyed working in smaller teams, where I can have a 360-degrees view of the organisation and make the most of my international experience. While I’m currently based in the UK, I have friends, former colleagues, and acquaintances throughout Europe. I know several of them face similar challenges and believe FloWide could help them in their everyday work. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
First things first, I want to help FloWide grow in the UK. Brexit and the Covid pandemic have shown just how important manufacturing is for this country. Relocating production is now more urgent and vital than ever before. However, the UK cannot compete with the lower labour costs in Eastern and Eastern-Central Europe, let alone those in Asia. Other solutions must be found to entice new players to open up shop here, one of them being highly efficient manufacturing and state-of-the-art technologies. These are two aspects that FloWide solutions can support and why I believe in the solutions we are building.
Simplifying IIoT and industry 4.0 is vital to ensuring the long-term sustainability and profitability of the manufacturing industry in the UK and around the globe. At FloWide, our work in the UK will be the testbed for our future efforts. I hope to be an integral part of this story, here in Europe and someday, worldwide.
Reach out to our team if you have any questions, are facing a problem you think we can solve, or just want to learn more about how we do what we do!