By Ashok Subramanian
Industry 4.0 is characterized by nine advances in technology — as a Boston Consulting Paper indicates. They are Big Data and Analytics, Robotics, Simulation, Horizontal and Vertical Systems Integration, Industrial Integration of Things, Cyber security, Additive Manufacturing, Augmented Reality and Cloud. These technology advances summarily advance production — interaction, integration and intelligence among various component of the manufacturing ecosystems.
The key success factor, however, to achieve the 3-Is, is being connected. The earlier approach to manufacturing was to take up each of the functions — good receipt, warehouse, production, dispatch et al and optimize them. This meant that processes like TQM, Kaizen, Just in time were applied to each functional unit of the assembly / manufacturing line, and in many cases, automation was used to achieve better results.
However, Industry 4.0 envisages a fully connected factory — which enables same concepts being applied on the complete manufacturing value chain — thereby enabling higher levels of efficiency. This is possible through modern technologies where each function can exchange real time information between each function.
What is key here is that there are various systems that might be in silos— for example a warehouse management system might be found wanting in terms of actual inventory available versus a production planning schedule that might want a dynamic change in inventory due to various factors ù in some cases, changes in temperature may affect the density / viscosity of a particular raw material, and that in terms will affect the input conditions of a mixer.
If the systems are interconnected, the warehouse management system could alert the warehouse operator to plan a real time change and respond to the production plan. This helps in avoiding down-the-chain errors and thereby increasing better quality of output and helps meet production schedule as well.
While the fact that this can be achieved real time reinforces the factor prima facie that each of these individual functions need to be connected and enabled to interact. This is one of the key facets of Industry 4.0
Ashok Subramanian is an entrepreneur, growth hacker, business strategist and a technology evangelist. He runs consulting, investment and incubation businesses for startups. He is an engineering graduate and alumni of IIM Calcutta specializing in Marketing and Strategy.