Industry 4.0, smart manufacturing , the next industrial revolution. The idea of connected manufacturing or smart factory is becoming increasingly ubiquitous.

Factories and their machines across the globe are getting smarter a connected products and systems operate as part of a larger, more responsive and agile information infrastructure. The aim is to harvest benefits and improvements in efficiency and profitability, increased innovation, and better management of safety, performance and environmental impact.

Industry 4.0 involves the heavy use of automation and data exchange in manufacturing environments, encompassing areas such as cyber-physical systems, advanced analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, and cloud computing, among others.


Also See: SET THE FUTURE WITH MANUFACTURING TRANSFORMATION

Not a fancy but reality

Reports peg the smart factory industry to touch USD 215 billion (Rs. 14.4 lakh crore approx) by 2025 and there has been no major economy in the world that is not embracing it. Take the case of Siemens’ PLC manufacturing plant in Amberg, Germany, where it has taken digitalization to the point by automating the production of its automation systems. The outcome is a reported 99.99885 percent perfect production quality rate.

And it’s not just the western companies riding the smart manufacturing trend. Back home at Mahindra & Mahindra’s Nashik plant, there are robots building car body frames. Factory floors in the plants operated by Godrej use the Intelligent Plant Framework that connects every machine node in a factory and apprehends the rate of work and efficiency. The aim of the framework is to let businesses reduce waste and organize production flows.

These examples clearly illustrate that the fusion of real and virtual worlds of production is happening now. Machines are conversing with machines; humans are capable to talk with machines and vice versa.

Our country’s thrust towards “Make in India” has taken cognizance of Industry 4.0 and begun its positioning in this space. Our first smart factory — moving from automation to autonomy — where machines speak with each other, is being set up in Bengaluru at the Indian Institute of Science's Centre for Product Design and Manufacturing with a seed funding from The Boeing Company.

Getting smart and how

Smart manufacturing is all about driving digital value chains, and in the process creating more agile and market focused competencies. One of the key building blocks towards this for organizations is to define strategic goals tailored to meet their requirements and select core competencies that they want to digitize. This will assure that they streamline processes between business units and across operations, such as production, logistics or customer care.

It is also important that leaders prepare their organizations and the support functions for a journey of change culture and management. This will require doing away with conventional wisdom, and include innovation and knowledge exchange between employees.

CIOs will need to develop a joint strategy with other C-level executives and support the discussions, for example, on more-transparent processes, quality or knowledge exchange that leverages technology as a platform. However, as with any major shift, the journey towards Industry 4.0 has its own set of challenges.

Lack of skilled manpower

While technology is a significant enabler for smart factories; skills/expertise has been rated as a key technology inhibitor for faster digital adoption. Additionally, there is a lack of experience and manpower to create and implement smart systems along with reluctance from stakeholders and investors to invest in new technologies.

Cyber security

With less human intervention, keeping up with the reliability of the production process can be another barrier. For successful cyber-physical communication, a high level of reliability and stability is required. In some cases, this can be difficult to accomplish and sustain. Finally, any form of automation is always considered as a direct threat to job security.

Openess to Change

To succeed, business leaders will have to work actively and think out of the box to incorporate ideas and systems that may never were have been considered. They will have to question everything, right from rethinking their strategies and business models, to discovering the right investments.

Thus according to study conducted by Inora, manufacturers surveyed agreed that cloud platforms and technologies and other connectivity-based devices are creating more streamlined operations and system-to-system integration, as well helping them improve the smoothness of their operations on all levels. What this means for you is improved supply-chain management, innovation, and product quality, all of which will serve to grow your business and increase your profitability.