The 10 levers of Industry 4.0
HUB Institute industry expert Alexandre Lacour summarises the challenges of digitising industry, of rationalisation levers and productivity gains, and also of transforming products and the customer experience.
1. Products As a Service
In this new era machines are becoming increasingly smart and connected. They are able to give information on their state of health in order to prevent or predict damage. Machines can generate data from inside an industrial process, thereby helping both the manufacturer to customise and improve products, and the user to control costs and improve operational performance. This trend is becoming more and more accessible to many manufacturers through technological advances in sensors, processing capacity and on-board electronics.
2. The Data
Data analysis increases output from equipment and production lines, particularly through predictive maintenance which improves production quality and reduces costs. This ability to collect, store, process and analyse data has already proved itself in other domains via cloud computing. However in industry this trend is developing towards decentralised processing and carried out as close as possible to the point of use. Fog or Edge data processing thereby opens the door to new and diverse industrial strategies, giving numerous players an opportunity to develop their market position.
3. The convergence of OT and IT
The convergence between Operation Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) is a crucial point in this industrial transformation. As relative newcomers to this industrial and processing segment, the IT majors bring their experience of robust infrastructure, analytics and business applications. The establishment of standards, skills and data portability between these two worlds is one of the major challenges that manufacturers have to face.
4. Digitising operational methods
The digitisation of technical documentation through augmented documentation (particularly augmented reality), virtual reality or simply the digitisation of processes are all ways of transforming a cost centre into a profit centre. How to save time on these daily operations, capitalise on knowledge transfer and safely accelerate team up-skilling, those are some of the challenges of Industry 4.0 in working towards continuous improvement and operational excellence.
Offering a bespoke product, customised yet produced.in bulk. An unusual approach that nevertheless is already available in many sectors.
5. Mass customisation
Offering a bespoke product, customised yet produced.in bulk. An unusual approach that nevertheless is already available in many sectors. New technology such as robots, scanners, additive manufacturing (3D printing), and hybrid manufacturing (material removal mixed with 3D printing), should accelerate this phenomenon. It's a trend affecting many business operations, from marketing to production by way of design and testing. We're on the road to a decentralised production cycle where certain components will be produced closer to the equipment.
6. Towards a data-driven factory and its digital twin
From the automated factory to the smart or "data-driven" factory: the age when process automation reflected expertise in business logic and a reliance on knowledge and experience is now turning into an era of autonomous intelligence. The role of AI in future factories raises new challenges. By coupling the digital twin to the data and adding the simulation, we will be able to virtually test and experiment with processes, flows, etc, thereby reducing costs and risk-taking.
7. The human at the heart of the factory of the future
Building collaboration between robots and humans offers ways to free us from repetitive tasks and improve accuracy and repeatability. Transport around in the factory is simplified and autonomous. The human can thus focus on tasks with greater added value. This approach however means anticipating how jobs will change and what role humans will play in tomorrow's factories.
8. Towards a knowledge economy
Beyond the technology, digitisation is leading manufacturers to contemplate a future economic model based on knowledge and know-how. Technologies like smart glasses and virtual and augmented reality allow know-how to be digitised, making it simpler, faster and more accessible. A technician or operator can be "augmented" with instant expertise. As well as knowledge transfer and training, savings can also be made in the maintenance and management of operational processes.
As our industrial systems gradually become more and more cyber-physical, based on hyperconnectivity and automation, new security challenges come to the fore. Industry 4.0 gives us the tools to develop ever more efficient, smart and robust machines. In a world of hyperconnectivity, choosing the best technologies for building a future economic model is a major challenge.
10. The Blockchain
This technology brings increased security to the industry through the storage and transfer of transparent and secure information which guarantees the trackability of components and operations. Already present in different sectors such as logistics and energy, its use is spreading and fits well with the IoT. There remain obstacles in fully adopting this technology but smart contracts are reinforcing the Industry 4.0 trend towards simplifying the monetisation of services.