The conceptual model of Industry 4.0 is: create the Internet of Things, network all machines and products, additive manufacturing and involve people. With this, one can create a low-waste production system. This means, machines will take care of themselves; in the Internet of Things (IoT) parts communicate with each other independently. However, this cannot be achieved without this: sizing of the production system, managing the inter-processes, anticipating variations in processes etc. It might work if all these are aligned and coordinated well.
With keywords like digitization, data analytics, communication, internet of things etc., one gets a perception that Industry 4.0 is a software package solution. Many organizations have started investing in this digital future hoping to resolve all issues. This is a MYTH. This happened with SAP too. Where did the SAP fail? It organized the processes by functional departments instead of value stream. Any software package has a tagline – GIGO – Garbage in Garbage out. Let us remember that. Processes are dynamic and these software packages cannot accommodate this dynamism hence OE practitioners pitch in there.
Few of the questions that keep coming up whenever Industry 4.0 is mentioned
- Can the use of pen & pencil be minimized in Production environment?
- I have more than enough data - how to transform into information?
- I spend too much time on analysis yet am not fully convinced?
- Communication with external service providers on real-time can this happen?
- Can I reduce my spare part inventory (and related working capital) by 3D printing?
- How to capture all knowledge of my expert technicians who will soon retire?
- Can I get the history of similar machine in the network to minimize reinventing the wheel in resolving a problem?
- Can the machine self-declare the life of the spares & its condition?
Quality – SHE:
- How to improve quality compliance between different factories/regions?
- Is there an alternative for the safety folder everybody has to sign, but nobody reads in order to increase safety awareness?
- Can I have a micro-sim-chip in my KANBAN card that when I placed in the post, it communicates to the supplier on replenishment requirement?
- Can I have system wherein the stocks at multiple locations are made visible to all at a time making it easy to choose from where to pick?
- Which skills do my present and future employees need in an Industry 4.0 environment?
- How to become the preferred employer for young technical people?
- How to create a "fun place to work"?
Earth is flat now. We live in a world that is connected in all aspects on real-time basis. In our daily processes, tons of data is generated. Hardly, one has time to go through the entire data, as to transform them into information that is value added. Technology assists us to do this smart analysis of data, suggest action courses, maintain too. With evolution, we might expect something more than this too. Quality management, Energy management, condition based maintenance are few areas, this internet of things (IoT) would chip in to support.
Accessibility, Availability & Communication are more important in data collection and transformation. “Someone should say that our brain too is an app so people would start using it..” The generation is all about “apps”. So why not put this into use? Days are gone where we had the hard-copy check list with pencil and paper, going around the gemba and completing the task. The present day employees are bombarded with procedures, standards, check-lists and hardly had they put them into proactive use to anticipate or predict problems. What is the problem and what exactly is the problem has difference? Wearable provide the answer for “Exactly”. Imagine using an app that creates our own digital registration document and we can fill in anywhere. All are logged automatically (time, location, content, machine,) and trends can be monitored very easily. Right information, right place, right person – all can be achieved with wearable – say Google glass, smart watch (to count the steps walked) etc.,
All of these are based on one fact – Subtraction manufacturing. You take a sheet, cut it to the size of the part and scrap the rest. However, Industry 4.0 thrust on Additive manufacturing meaning there would not be any waste? Imagine a mall having 3-D printer and making toys the kids want and hand-over! Sooner, Industry 4.0 will be taken over by Manufacturing 5.0. KaizenÔ or Lean has to evolve.
3D printing: Imaging water is taken out of a 3D printer? sounds “sci-fi”ish? Yes, but days are not too far it to become a reality. A boon, familiar for around 3 decades, additive manufacturing is one of the most promising technologies present. In the recent past, it has matured from simply prototyping to bigger series of production. Customers’ demands increasing, personalization of products are on the rise, more and more materials are possible and printers are becoming more performant, - all of these drive one thing clear – that 3D printing will be seen as an alternative to regular production equipment. Small, critical spares required for maintenance, parts with complex geometry and complex processes are the areas where this can pitch in.
One would agree, executing a collaborative innovation initiative is no different from any OE project. Guiding the process, providing the infrastructure, keeping all members engaged, real-time communication, change management – all are required here too. Innovation is not something new; it is part of the OE mind-set to always question the status quo
Industry 4.0 has not yet taken over. It might sound like an Utopian dream but this is possible. Industry 4.0 will provide lots of added value in industry. The technology is capable enough to achieve this. As it matures day by day, opportunities will loom large. All we have to remember is, this is not a ready-made solution. This will have its own set of problems – OE experts have to identify and remove them.
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