The need for Industry 4.0 is ubiquitous. From healthcare to manufacturing and environment to smart cities, Industry 4.0 has taken many shapes and forms. Therefore, it is hard to arrive at a definition that truly encapsulates what Industry 4.0 is all about.
A method that has helped me understand such terms is through an application. Just like how we improved our vocabulary by making assumptions on what the world could imply in the context of the sentence, I hope to build a conversation through a series of blogs on the application of Industry 4.0. This blog is a starting point to lay the foundation of what Industry 4.0 is and why businesses should be looking towards using it.
Click on the image if you are interested in a bit of a history tour of how the Industrial Revolution started in a kitchen
To start, let’s understand why Industry 4.0
Across the world, there is a decline in GDP growth percentage. The problem is worse because the rate of decline is more in developing countries, leading to a gap between the technology haves and have-nots. Also, there is a broad-based decline in productivity worldwide, and COVID 19 only accelerated it. With a combination of a skills gap, a slump in the working-age population, and geopolitical crises causing changes in the supply chain, the growth projection has gone in reverse gear. But of course, you can argue that everything is not about net GDP, wealth, and prosperity.
Secondly, we are experiencing a reverse trend situation with the way manufacturers work. Traditional industries targeted scale and efficiency. This mentality was ideal back in the day as it helped the industries like the Fords drive the industrial revolution. However, to the current day, market demand organisations are shifting the focus towards a customer-centric mindset. Customers are becoming more environmentally conscious and want made-to-order products. This demand would require them to move production closer to the customer and handle customised orders.
Finally, The COVID 19 has hit industries hard enough that now business owners have different priorities. Businesses’ top priorities are agility to meet market demand changes and the flexibility to meet customer needs. Only then do factors like productivity, cost, and time to market come into the picture.
Therefore I believe that the three factors – decline in growth, a reversing trend in the way industries work, and a shift in priorities – are a good impetus for Industry 4.0.
After the why the what comes.
Industry 4.0 (the fourth industrial revolution) is fundamentally altering the way we work. With technology developing rapidly, the fourth industrial revolution is merging physical, digital, and biological worlds. With new technology industry 4.0’s application spreading across multiple sectors, the rate at which innovation is growing exponentially.
At face value, Industry 4.0 is about intelligent factories, manufacturing networks, a new method of engineering, and machines that think autonomously. A combination of this allows businesses to have greater visibility of their impact on the customer and the environment. Organisations can also develop more meaningful products that span across all communities and ultimately improve lives.
The nuts and bolts that drive the industry 4.0 transformation are as shown in the image below:
Data is the oil that drives the analytics engine. You have connectivity, data, and computational power that comprise everything to do with sensors, IoT, blockchain, and the all-encompassing cloud technology. Through this transformative power of the engine, we see the application of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.
The basic level at which humans and machines can interact has transcended. With immersive tech and chatbots getting used more, we are comfortable having a machine answer us back. And in the background, so many processes are getting automated thanks to RPA.
Engineering has become advanced. With Additive Manufacturing, nanoparticles, and renewable energy, we are stretching the laws of physics (literally). To even get a grip of head and tails, we need to unlearn what is achievable and redefine the art of the possible.
Where is the value for businesses?
The why for Industry 4.0 aligns with businesses goals and visions as well. Organisations are looking to have the capability to be agile in meeting customer demands and resilient to market-demand changes.
With the nuts and bolts in place, businesses can now take a control tower approach to have data feed from different locations into one central data lake and then define several activities. Starting with planning for operations to warehousing, the central system in having data to fed through can change the way businesses run. As the change is so widespread, planning relies not only on history and veterans’ expertise but also on current data from across the supply chain. If you are lucky, you might be able to know what the future is with AI. This gives businesses the true benefit of being agile yet sturdy to meet market demands and be resilient to the volatility of the environment.
Silos are broken down, allowing for greater collaboration and innovation. Businesses soon realise that it is not a competition but a collaboration that would stay ahead of the innovation curve. And it is not just with innovation; even the way businesses utilise assets are being maximised.
So hopefully, these changes can change the curve a little bit. Productivity and GDP to go on the rise. This section of the article definitely requires more exploration. Which I will be doing through more blogs in the future. As I said, the dialogue has started. Now it is time the rubber hits the tarmac.