Industry 4.0- Now & Future: A Bird’s Eye View

We are not unfamiliar with the term Industry 4.0. Some define it as the 4th industrial revolution. Is it so? Until now, we have seen its primary application in production and manufacturing systems and supply chain management. Where else can it bring a huge difference? To get in-depth knowledge, RAPIDD ACADEMY held a webinar on 13th July 2020. We invited Shri Anand Deshpande to give us a bird’s eye view of Industry 4.0 and share his real-life experiences with us.

A Brief Introduction of Our Keynote Speaker, Shri Anand Deshpande 

Anand ji has 30+ years of experience as an operational excellence leader in manufacturing and financial services. He is a Six Sigma Certified Black Belt who has helped to reduce the cost of product manufacturing and improve the product quality at Toyota and Ford. Shri Deshpande has led multiple projects on process improvement using Lean Six Sigma techniques.

We were honoured to have him with us. The audience, fresh graduates and postgraduates of engineering and other disciplines were greatly rewarded. Here’s a tour of the webinar.

The Industrial Revolution: A Journey- Then & Now

Man and machines are now inseparable from each other. This is the era of smart innovations and speedy improvements to the existing versions. It took centuries to build the foundation of the first industrial revolution. The journey of industrialisation until now is not less fascinating than science fiction novels and movies. Take a look at the following figure depicting the journey of industrialisation:

Image Source: Inhouse Presentation Slide

Shri Deshpande took us to time travel spanning through centuries that gave us a different view of the world of machines. Here is the gist:

  1. Industry 1.0: Perhaps the most revolutionary stage of industrialisation, machines of the 1800s were powered by water and steam. Mankind was taking baby steps towards process automation. Some economic historians term it as the biggest transition since the time when men learned to domesticate animals.
  1. Industry 2.0: The second wave of innovations in machinery began after 1870. Automation in mass production and assembly lines went along with further advancement in machinery used in steam-run manufacturing industries.   
  1. Industry 3.0: It took mankind an entire century to usher in the third industrial revolution. From 1970 onwards, computers, automated processes and robotics took the front seat in the next stage of advancement.   
  1. Industry 4.0: “Industrie 4.0” is the German equivalent of the 4th industrial revolution. The world was introduced with it in 2011. Initially, it was adopted as a government policy to give Germany a competitive edge in the manufacturing industry. Now, Canada, Japan, Australia, Singapore, Austria and Switzerland are also leading the tempo.

The most striking feature is the fast advancement of Cyber Physical Systems or CPS. This includes smart machines propelled by the Internet of Things or IoT, autonomous production facilities and hi-tech storage systems like the Cloud. The following state-of-the-art technologies are spearheading this transition:

  • Artificial Intelligence or AI
  • Machine Learning or ML
  • Big Data techs
  • Augmented Reality or AR
  • Virtual Reality or VR
  • Cyber Security   

Anand ji explained how these technologies are revolutionising industrial production. The following figure depicts the technologies which are bringing in the biggest and most impactful changes in smart industries:

Image Source: Inhouse Presentation Slide

Autonomous Robots: Robots used in manufacturing industries work in tandem with humans. For example, they are used to transport manufactured goods to warehouses and vice versa. Easy set-up, operation and control give them an edge over even the automated guided vehicles or AGVs. The cost to build autonomous robots will further reduce with continuous R&D.

Image Source: Inhouse Presentation Slide

Simulation: Simulated models of people, things and processes offer a complete overview of intricate operational stages in industries. It is also known as digital twin technology. Simulation has a vast scope of benefits. For example, with simulated process-models, we can have a clear picture of how the successful Six Sigma projects can increase the bottom-line financial benefits of industries.

The following figure depicts how simulation is transforming healthcare industry:

Horizontal & Vertical System Integration: Production hierarchies of smart factories are inter-connected with IoT technology. Unlike traditional hierarchies, they interact horizontally and vertically. 

In the horizontal system, smart machines, equipment and production units network through the internet. The horizontal system integration ensures that machinery, devices and processes seamlessly operate together.

In the vertical system, different shop floors and processes network via the internet. The vertical system integration ensures that horizontally interconnected units and systems like ERPs seamlessly communicate together.

The following figure depicts a typical smart manufacturing unit:

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The Industrial Internet of Things: There are many reasons why consumers buy IoT devices. On many occasions, current fads may also influence buying decisions. However, the decision to implement the Industrial Internet of Things or IIoT is very different from that of consumer IoT.

Recommenders of IIoT analyse business cases to assess the benefits. Management board members review such recommendations and make business-driven decisions.

Cybersecurity: Industry 4.0 is about IIoT, the Cloud, autonomous robots and Big Data. All these devices and technologies deal with data storage and transfer. Naturally, cybersecurity is an integral aspect of Industry 4.0. 

Cybersecurity guidelines address a wide audience. These guidelines include cybersecurity best practices, measures and recommendations. For example, IIoT vendors and IIoT device operators should consult the guidelines to verify the security setups of their Industry 4.0 solutions and services.

The Cloud: Industry 4.0 and the Cloud is a winning combination of digitisation and operations of digitised manufacturing units. For example, industries can choose data storage or cybersecurity services, among others from Cloud service providers. They can scale services based on changing requirements. The latter greatly depends on market demand, cost control and ROI.

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Additive Manufacturing: AM or Additive Manufacturing techniques are completely changing the traditional manufacturing ecosystem. One fine example is the CAD or computer-aided design method. Final products are fabricated from separate layers or parts obtained from CAD files. The latter improves complex product designs, keeps meticulous documentation files for the ease of communication, creates databases and enhances the productivity levels of designers.

Augmented Reality: Augmented Reality or AR is the technology that adds extra dimensions to the real world by overlaying texts, images, videos and sound clips. We get an enhanced experience of the real world with which we can also interact digitally. For example, operators can get a real-time view of production plants through AR-driven smart glasses. 

AR has a vast scope of application in the Industrial 4.0 environment. AR is used in manufacturing, logistics, support and maintenance, sales and presales and work safety.

Big Data & Analytics: Data is the lifeblood of smart industries. Data is a business asset. Big data is nothing but an enormous amount of data. Analytics methods are used to optimise the use of Big Data for the sustainable development of smart industries. Big Data Analytics is extensively used in the R&D departments of industries.

Image Source: Inhouse Presentation Slide

Technology is one of the building blocks of Industry 4.0. The rest of the blocks are process and organisation. Three of them are completely transforming traditional manufacturing relationships. 

Anand ji took us to a short tour of a day in his professional life that gave us a glimpse of how in real life the whole transformation is taking shape.

Some Real-life Examples to Show How Industry 4.0 is Transforming Traditional Manufacturing Relationships

Image Source: Inhouse Presentation Slide

We’ve already read about 9 technologies and how they are transforming traditional manufacturing relationships. Shri Deshpande shared survey-report statistics and interesting examples in this regard.

  1. Industrial Robots at Automotive OEM Units

Ford is using industrial robots at their auto assembly plants located in North-America and Europe. According to reports published by the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), 22,598 industrial robots were sold in 2012 only in North-America. The automotive industry is one of the biggest consumers of industrial robots. Since 2011, there has been a 47% rise in the sale of industrial robots at automotive original equipment manufacturing (OEM) units in North-America. Also, the sale has recorded a 16% rise at automotive component supply units.

  1. AI in Automotive Painting

In 2019, Lamborghini has implemented AI in one of its newly opened automotive painting units in Northern Italy. The automobile giant has introduced Industry 4.0 technology to paint the bodies of its Urus Super SUV models. 

The aim is to meet the high-quality painting demands and the unit’s flexibility for products and the painting process. For example, AI painting enables the application of multi-layer paints on car bodies which has simplified the process of customisation. 

  1. Virtual Hand Gestures to Record Data

Inspired by the gaming industry, BMW has applied the virtual hand gesture detection technique for quality testing of bumpers at its Landshut plant. Earlier, technicians would document data and feed them to PCs. Sometimes they had to go to different workstations to collect data. They also had to keep in memory the intricate details of faults detected during quality testing. This would cost valuable production time of technicians. Also, the chances of error were high.

Now, BMW has installed the gesture detection system which has made quality testing more flawless and less time consuming. Specific gestures have specific meanings. For example, if technicians signal a wiping gesture across bumpers, it marks them as perfect. 3D cameras with sensors record these gestures. These data are stored into integrated databases and evaluated according to the checklists.

The gesture detection system is so easy to understand and work with that BMW didn’t have to run separate training sessions for technicians. Also, technicians don’t need special devices like microphones or smart glasses to record data.          

Industries of all sizes can implement Industry 4.0 practices. There are parameters to assess Industry 4.0 readiness. Shri Deshpande gave us further insights on this.

16 Dimensions of Assessment

3 foundational pillars of Industry 4.0 are process, technology and organisation. To maximise the benefits of Industry 4.0, manufacturers should apply its best practices on all these 3 pillars. Smart Industry Readiness Index or SIRI and the rest of other accompanying matrices help such visionary manufacturers to assess their facilities against Industry 4.0 readiness.

There are 8 sub-pillars which represent critical aspects of an industry which need immediate focus in the transformation journey. The mapping of the 3 pillars and 8 sub-pillars take place in 16 dimensions. These are 16 areas of assessment.

Manufacturers can use tools to fragment each of the 16 dimensions to get a clear picture of the steps they should take to match Industry 4.0 standards.

  1. The Assessment Matrix: It’s a self-diagnostic tool for manufacturers that guide them to start, nurture, scale and sustain the Industry 4.0 transformation-process. The Assessment Matrix tool simplifies the assessment process by breaking down each SIRI dimension into 6 improving bands of maturity. For example, manufacturers can assess the technological maturity of their industries, compare the results with the scores earned by their competitors and detect the problems behind the gaps with the help of this tool.
  1. The Prioritisation Matrix: It’s a management planner tool for manufacturers to identify the high-priority SIRI dimensions which need the biggest transformation process to deliver most impactful and long-term results.

The audience got a clear picture of Industry 4.0 from Shri Deshpande. He also shared with us some valuable tips to get the best results from A3 problem-solving method, developed by Toyota. Stay tuned with us to know more about how irrespective of industry sectors, A3 problem-solving and Lean Six Sigma methods can continuously improve operations and minimise wasteful practices.