Digital Manufacturing through Industrie 4.0

by Sairam Bollapragada

From the 1784 first mechanical loom to the current definition of Smart Manufacturing in the era of IoT, the manufacturing industry has come a long way and we have left the first programmable logic controller of 1969 far behind.

What started early in 2012 as the research alliance,  the German Mechanical Engineering sector has worked hard to freeze on the launch of the joint platform in mid-2013 and ensure it had a vision ready for field test in late 2014.

Though initially meant for the German industry, the concept and standards are propelling to fuel the market, hand-in-hand with the IoT fever acting as catalyst.

Taking a leaf from my earlier note on the manufacturing (https://itservicesdelivery.wordpress.com/2016/03/28/smaciot-and-manufacturing-a-perspective/),  there is an ever increasing pressure on

  • Optimized Opex, upwards demands on flexibility and productivity,
  • Compulsions of competitive differentiation creation,
  • Progress in communication and sensor technologies,
  • Production and operational processes getting more robotic in nature,

the Industrie 4.0 is here to challenge all the manufacturing industry players and push them to the brink further on

  • optimized resource usage,
  • shortened lead times,
  • personalized fit-to-purpose manufacturing,
  • increased (squeezed?) productivity,

– with technology opening up new and sustained methods of innovation, production, consumers demand-supply through faster and better information flowing through the processes.

Will too much of IoT/automation eat away into our jobs then?

Yes and No. Yes because the repeatable jobs will be taken up by bots. No because the need for a knowledge worker will still persist. For all supported processes, while data required will be faster acquitted, the data quality would still need to be the essence. This will need appropriate invention since ¾ th of the data so acquired may not be having self-correcting capabilities.

Also a NO because the supported products could expect the onboard service revenue increase in its industry revenue share down the line due to connected products. Supply chain experts will look beyond silos to get more from the eco system (a value-network interconnecting objects, devices, human) creating a potential real-time optimized system.

The new manufacturing industry would rally around traditional parameters with the following changes:

  • Design and conceptualization – the demand of an Industrie 4.0 construct will keep the manufacturers to be in an “all time ready” mode. Understanding of new technologies, devices  to be factored towards design of the smart products clubbed with their feasibility, environment specifications, data to be captured, communication channels to be used, etc. will become part of any design engineers mainstream thought process.
  • Demand Planning – when customization is leaning more towards a mass B2B, the demand planning should be done meticulously. The demand-variants will be many. The challenges staring would be stocking inventories with different materials and smart component leading to Smart Inventory Management. These in turn become the capability to churn out customized orders in bulk.

However, networked machines are expected to optimize the production. Sensors fitted to transmit data into the data lake for getting analyzed for increasing efficiency while cutting on downtimes.

  • Shop floor activities will need to re-cast themselves as the design teams would start catering to the ways and means of interfacing smart component into their traditional device production.
  • Product Operations: Instead of being a discrete process which ends when the product is packaged and shipped, the operations cycle would extend till the product grave. The objective is continuous product improvement
  • Supplier Network Design- In order to have such a dynamic planning done for the clients, the material supplier network would need to keep itself most active. What I mean is all vendor partners would need to keep themselves committed to deliver timelines (anytime) to the variant needs.

The design of such a network would be driven by the single goal of optimized T2M (time-to-market). Even after so many years, conventionally this is still an area of concern for most product companies. With Industrie 4.0, the demands will stretch the ask even more.

  • Supplier Management – Smart Logistics, Smart Mobility, Smart products, and smart machines – all will make the supplier management more drawn to bringing virtual and physical parameters of the connected B2B world together.

The suppliers will expect to be managed more efficiently with reduced warehouse dwell times and increased material utilization levels. The connected devices would call for the distribution and logistics companies to configure and re-configure the networks with most finely tunes service level management.  Hence the supplier management is targeted to become more effective than ever before.

  • The framework consideration for the Industrie 4.0 would push a huge focus on data security, communication infrastructure, innovation funding, and reference architectures.
  • Supply Chain Visibility – the capability to respond quickly to the events in the upstream and downstream supply chain through the Industrie 4.0 defined standards will, making the zero-latency supplies more realistic. The connected devices will be able help transmit the data pertaining to their locations, (mal)functioning, associated bugs, etc. and hence the supply chain visibility.

What about post-services?

  • Remote Services will become a critical part of the services league which will kick in once the connected devices hit the markets. Sysmex is a classic example. It is a simple blood/urine sample collection equipment used by pathology clinics. Loaded with connectivity feature, the same is used for remote monitoring and servicing. When the offshore and onsite difference is defeated, the objectives of service costs, equipment utilization, and CSAT makes these connected devices a winning enabler.
  • Using the predictive analytics in the connected devices, the early warning signs of a “to-be faulty” machines can be helpful. It helps to slot out the preventive and proactive maintenance of devices and keeps the uptime high for the better performance.
  • Value Added Services is another thing which will catch up as each connected device is identified with a signature address. The performance parameters data gathered for equipments, especially ones which are complicated in size and function, is analyzed by the product engineering/development companies for advising how best to use, optimize, accomplish efficiencies, and eliminate potential showstoppers.

Every connected device is a potential entry point into the network for cyber-attacks. The devices exposed must be provisioned with smart ways to get a security blanket covering it against any potential vulnerability.  Similarly, means to detect early intrusion and a mechanism to study, analyze and improve the device security against a break-in should be a continuous effort from product engineers.

The risks arising out of penetrating connected components in aircrafts, automobiles, medical equipment, generators, and others could be far greater than the risks from a breach of a business e-mail server. That seems much simpler now.

Will the new Industrie 4.0 lead to new culture?

The Organizational behavior will be compelled to see a big change. The silos across the organization need to be erased. The organization would need much more orchestration to manufacture smart devices. Every unit within the organization, be it design, prototyping, shop floors, CNC teams, inventory, supply chain, invoicing-billing-finance, logistics, HR, training – all need to be in a perfect sync to be able to target (in-tandem) the shortest time-to-market – to beat the competition and be a leader! In the next blog, I will focus on how the IT industry will need to align to its manufacturing clientele as the latter change their organization norms, working policies, and more importantly the structure.

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2 thoughts on “Digital Manufacturing through Industrie 4.0

  1. An excellent post. Totally agree on the Job cuts with YES/NO, but it will also open up new avenues and options for skilled worker. Just like STD booths are gone, now we have mobile recharge/sales shops across street. We are working towards more of automation and less manual intervention in all possible scenarios across industries like Investment banking, mutual funds, banking, insurance, manufacturing etc. I was in DX Summit and interacting with people on Digitization. There is nothing that you cannot digitize or have digital impact. So future would be more digital and automation.

    Liked by 1 person

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