One of the biggest misconceptions about Industry 4.0 is that it is all about the technology.
The truth is that Industry 4.0 is actually about making the technology a better partner for humans. All of the key design principles of Industry 4.0 revolve around making sure the technology is automated and easy to use so that people can do what they are best at. Industry 4.0 represents a huge leap in the power of our tools to increase productivity, lower costs, and optimize every department of a company. When the systems are designed correctly, they give companies a huge competitive advantage.
How should Industry 4.0 technology be designed? Here are five key design principles:
1. Automated Data Collection
Your facility is already generating huge amounts of data. But, to realize all of the advantages of Industry 4.0 that data cannot still be passed around on a spreadsheet or manually recorded on the factory floor.
Automated data collection has several benefits:
Data is the key input for Industry 4.0. Just like you cannot make your products without using high-quality materials, unless you have high-quality data, it is impossible to realize all of the productivity and cost saving benefits promised by Industry 4.0.
Data automation requires a combination of physical sensors to collect data and powerful software to process, sort, and analyse the data. A solid data automation system is the first stage in successfully implementing Industry 4.0. This latest evolution in manufacturing and productivity has made the data your business already generates and collects into the most valuable asset your company has.
When you view data as a raw material it is easier to understand that while the data itself has incredible value, that value cannot be realized until the data is processed. Just like a diamond is more valuable after it has been cut, raw data is of limited use.
2. Make Data Useful
The second key design principle of industry 4.0 is there needs to be a system that makes data useful. You can get a lot of things wrong in your transition to Industry 4.0, but if you are able to process and analyse data quickly so it can inform decision making you will still be far ahead of most of your competitors.
What does it mean to make data useful? There are five components to this process:
When all of these components are present, you can reduce downtime in your facilities, increase productivity, prevent major issues, and quickly pivot to meet challenges. Because of the volume of data that and the speed at which that data needs to be processed you need the right software. The software will use a combination of machine learning and big data technologies to filter and analyse the data quickly. It will then distribute the data to the decision makers. Not all of the decision makers will be humans.
Algorithms will be used in many places in the process to make lightning-fast decisions that will keep your production steady and free of interruption. But, humans will also need certain sets of data to make broad corrections or to pivot when market conditions change.
Making data useful means making sure decision makers have the data they need, when they need it, to make fast and accurate decisions.
3. Streamlined Communication
While industry 4.0 is about making manufacturing more efficient and facilities more productive, it is a communications revolution at its core. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is able to allow all of your systems to communicate with each other, regardless of how far away they are physically. It also allows your people to be able to monitor everything in your facilities remotely.
Most importantly, a well-designed Industry 4.0 system is agile and can make adjustments the second data is received that indicates there is an issue. The power of the IIoT is that it allows for the faster dissemination of data and allows for decisions to communicated faster to both the people and the machines at work in your company.
4. Technical-Physical Partnership
Having machines take over everything makes for great science-fiction, but it is not the reality of Industry 4.0. This newest revolution in productivity and manufacturing really just gives people better tools.
An Industry 4.0 system must be designed to allow for robust partnerships between people and technology. For example, data technology can be used to crunch the numbers faster than any human could. But, at key decision points, a human still needs to review the analysis and make strategic decisions. Machines can be used to do tasks that humans are not efficient at, that are not safe for humans, or that are too tedious for humans to perform. These uses free up human capital to do the kinds of strategic tasks they are better equipped to handle.
When an Industry 4.0 system is designed to enhance technical-physical partnerships the entire organization runs more efficiently and the people inside the organization are safer, happier, and their unique skills are better utilized.
5. Decentralise Decision Making
The last key feature of great Industry 4.0 design is decentralized decision making. Your company and facilities will be more efficient when decisions are made at the lowest levels possible.
One of the advantages of IIoT, big data, and machine learning is that these technologies make it easier to separate strategic decisions from tactical ones. Strategic decisions often need to be made at the higher levels of the company. But, tactical decisions should be made as close the assembly line as possible. This results in less wasted time, less downtime, and more productivity.
Many of these tactical decisions can be made by algorithms and communicated to the machines working in the manufacturing process faster and more accurately than any human could possibly accomplish.
Decentralized decision making is the culmination of the entire Industry 4.0 process. Data is collected, analysed, delivered, and a decision maker makes a decision based on the data. Many decisions can be made by the algorithms, but others should be made by people. A well-designed system decentralizes decision making as much as possible.
If you are interested in learning more about how Industry 4.0 could work for your business, contact us to learn how we can help you design the right system for your business.
Posted by Jordan Maciver on Friday, April 20, 2018
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