The recent Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Conference on “Transforming Manufacturing” held at Chennai on 27th March 2019 brought to focus the slow pace of Digital Transformation in the manufacturing Industry. Sensing lack of clear knowledge of terms like Industry 4.0 and IioT, CII formed a committee to address this issue and educate the manufacturing companies across the Southern States. Termed “Manufacturing And Digital Excellence” (MADE) this committee conducted a survey of about 185 manufacturing companies with turnovers between INR 500 Million to INR 25 Billion to find out about the progress they have made in Digitalisation and the readiness for Industry 4.0. The results showed only about 20% were embracing Industty 4.0 in some form. The balance 80 % of the respondents had taken no action or were sitting on the fence or even had no clue of how to go about.
Unfortunately, even today the term Industry 4.0 or Industrial Internet of Things (IioT) remains the biggest buzzword in factory automation today. While lot more work and traction is being seen in the IT area, the OT still seems to be the weak link in the Industry 4.0 chain. While the manufacturing industries move towards Industry 4.0, there seems to be some misconception about the way one implements. The existing manufacturing set ups are either partially ready or absolutely not ready depending on the type of machines and the levels of automation being used for the manufacturng process. In either case, one of the first actions would be to Digitize manufacturing. The process of moving towards Industry 4.0 is a journey to be undertaken step by step and not to be looked in isolation. It is a logical process of connecting manufacturing to the supply chain and to the customer by linking prodction with enterprise seamlessly.
The term Industry 4.0 broadly describes the current wave of technological innovation as an era in history characterized by interconnectivity enabled by the internet and wirelessly - connected devices. While digital technologies have enabled the collection of large amounts of valuable data, this data primarily exists in silos that are not easily accessible for analysis and actionable insights. The technologies of Industry 4.0 take data collection to the next level by making data readily available and by automating the communication between industrial automation equipment and systems. This allows businesses to leverage data in more meaningful ways, including enabling predictive analysis for machines as well as process optimization across the factory floor.
Overall, the increased visibility, analytics, and interconnectivity afforded by IIoT mean that these technologies are not just short - term investments or solutions to immediate problems; rather, they enable continuous improvement by providing companies with the capabilities necessary to solve new proble ms as they arise — compounding the value of the investment over time. One of the low hanging benefits of implementing the technology would be on Predictive Maintenance which decreases downtime and increases machine uptime and availability. Other benefits will flow in with deeper implementation.
The wireless technologies that are part of Industry 4.0 enable seamless interaction among human workers as well, and can have a significant impact on the efficiency of manual production lines. Identification of the location of both moving and non-moving assets, in real time, and their status as part of a larger manufacturing eco system brings in higher accuracy, higher efficiency and higher productivity.
From keeping machines running smoothly to enabling seamless communication between machines, components, and people, the benefits of IIoT technologies are tangible and justified. However, the main challenge lies in where to start from and how to utilise these technologies to their fullest advantage. Each industry and factory have different levels of automation, either in manufacturing or in enterprise, and hence there is no standard formula for the steps forward. There has to be a vision which sets the ultimate goals and one has to start the process of Digitization from the bottom of the automation pyramid, build a strong foundation and then go up systematically. A proper combination of such a step with a bit of top down approach and connect seamlessly will make the Industry 4.0 journey worthwhile.