Digital Transformation With Industry 4.0

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The first industrial revolution started by the end of the 18th century when the agrarian society used mechanization, steam, and water power. At the beginnings of the 20th century, the second industrial revolution saw the iconic Henry Ford assembly line with the introduction of mass production and the industrial society. In 1970, the use of electronic and computers to achieve further automation of manufacturing created an information society and what is known as the third industrial revolution.

What is industry 4.0?

The German government first declared industry 4.0 during the Hannover fair in 2011 as the beginning of the 4th industrial revolution. Industry 4.0 is cyber-physical systems such as robotics and the Internet of things to support the super-smart society.

My definition of industry 4.0 is a set of technologies that enable connectivity, transparency, and faster decision making. These technologies free up time to focus on the core competencies, and value- add work and are shaping the future of production, taking organizations to the next level. These technologies provide an augmented way to make continuous improvement.

Industry 4.0 can impact both Process and Product. Processes are what I consider has the most significant opportunity to use technology to improve. There needs to be a clear understanding of what those processes so they can be effectively enabled by technology.

Industry 4.0 technologies allow companies to stay competitive; increase revenue, speed, and transparency; improve productivity, quality, and safety.

Industry 4.0 Technologies

Industry 4.0 does transform production by leading to greater efficiencies and change traditional production relationships among suppliers, producers, and customers—as well as between humans and machines. Nine technologies create the building blocks of Industry 4.0:

1. Advanced Robotics: Devices that act mostly, or partly, autonomously that interact physically with people or their environment. An example is collaborative robots (cobots) which work safely side by side with humans and learn from them.

Lear is using this technology on the production line to optimize its just-in-time assembly. A cobot is used to screw automotive seats, rest frames, and monitor the process digitally to prevent faulty seats from continuing the conveyor belt. Any worker can program the cobot by dragging and dropping standard routines into an on-screen script or grabbing the arm and showing it the desired movement. The benefits include more efficient drilling, more flexibility, and improved quality inspection.

2. Additive Manufacturing or 3D printing: Defined as the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methodologies. Additive manufacturing is becoming a full-fledged competitive tool to put out products much faster and at a lower cost. It can be used to produce prototypes, spare parts, and small batches of customized products.

GE aviation has used additive manufacturing to build the combustor liner for its CT7 engine and a low-pressure turbine blade for the GE9X. Moreover, for GE's advanced turboprop engine, additive manufacturing will make 16 parts, including a heat exchanger that consolidated 80 parts into one.

3. Augmented Reality (AR): It is an enhanced version of reality, created by an overlay of digital information on an image of something viewed through a device. Augmented reality helps with the process of knowledge transfer across the workforce as well as with the display of standard operational procedures, maintenance, logistics, and inspection.

AGCO Tractors has deployed wearable augmented reality devices for in-depth quality inspections and assembly processes instructions. They have achieved a 30% reduction in inspection time, with the elimination of paperwork and manual uploading; a 25% reduction in production time on low volume, complex assemblies and a 50% learning curve reduction for new hires.

4. Internet of Things (IoT): the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. Devices communicate and interact both with one another and with more centralized controllers, as necessary. It also decentralizes analytics and decision making, enabling real-time responses.

Many companies are taking advantage of IoT. Caterpillar is using IoT and augmented reality (AR) applications to give machine operators an at-a-glance view of everything from fuel levels to when air filters need replacing. Komatsu has linked all its robots at its central production facilities to the Internet, enabling managers to keep an eye on international mining operations in real-time.

5. Big Data & Analytics: the complex process of examining large and varied data sets to uncover information, including hidden patterns, unknown correlations, market trends, and customer preferences. The main objective is to provide real-time data to help organizations make informed business decisions.

Several companies are using big data and artificial intelligence to enhance their processes and improve performance. Starbucks uses big data to determine the potential success of each new location, taking information on location, traffic, area demographics, and customer behavior into account.

6. Simulation: Simulations will be used more extensively in plant operations to leverage real-time data and mirror the physical world in a virtual model.

A company can use simulations that allow employees to test and optimize machine settings in the virtual world, before the physical changeover, thereby driving down machine setup times and increasing quality.

7. Horizontal and Vertical Integration: It will allow cross-company data integration based on data transfer standards. With industry 4.0, companies, departments, functions, and capabilities will become much more cohesive, as cross-company, universal data-integration networks evolve and enable truly automated value chains.

The following companies are great examples in this space: 3M, PepsiCo, Johnson & Johnson, Walmart, Starbucks, BMW, Colgate Palmolive, Nike, Intel, McDonald’s, Samsung.

8. Cloud computing: The practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer. Because of the enormous data volumes in open systems and the required real-time communication, cloud computing will become imperative.

9. Cybersecurity: critical industrial systems and manufacturing lines need to have robust cybersecurity measures and plans. It is essential to have a secure and sophisticated identity and access management system for machines and users.

Next week’s article will focus on this subject. Cybersecurity is one of the top elements that leaders and organizations must be on board with, to embrace a digital transformation and the use of industry 4.0 technologies.

Industry 4.0 initiated the digital transformation storm bringing much disruption to the business environment. As former manufacturing operations executive turned executive coach and consultant, I have spent many years working on processes, technology, and change. It is paramount to understand that this industrial revolution is not all about technology. The transformation will only happen when leaders and organizations realize that it is all centered around people and processes enabled by technology. At times, organizations over-invest in technology and under-invest in humans. Another common pitfall is not having an identified problem to be solved.

I dedicate my services to engage as a collaborative partner to help leaders and organizations figure out how to be successful in the process of digital transformation. Moreover, navigate through an unprecedented amount of complexity and speed of change of industry 4.0 technologies.

I assist by assessing and facilitating the readiness of the leaders who will define the course of the transformation and the workforce who are the ones to adopt the technologies so that the benefits get realized.

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