In a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, technology needs to keep pace with the changing requirements of the customer. It is akin to boarding a moving bus! The basic challenges the manufacturing sector in India face are: lack of agility, low productivity, quality and qualification. If there is a single element that acts as a common solution to all of the listed challenges, it is connected industry famously otherwise referred to as Industry 4.0 (I4.0). Connectivity is swift, disruptive and the ramifications are visible through the entire industry. In a nutshell, it is a revolution that is changing the way ‘we’ do things – be it from communication, to working and living our daily lives.
Industry 4.0 is the advanced development of sensor systems, robotics, microelectronics, and information technology. The special feature of Industry 4.0 is networked manufacturing, i.e. the further development of digitisation through the Internet of Things (IoT) and machines. Connected industry offers today’s shop floor professional the opportunity to focus on strategic topics, as intelligent application of technology would allow for the reduction of workload. It offers opportunities for workload reduction by the intelligent application of technology and job enrichment. Developed economies view connected industry as an opportunity to regain the manufacturing dominance by realigning goals to improved competitiveness therein paving way for improved business and growth.
There are various theories about the impact of Industry 4.0 on the job sector. As of now the implications are obfuscated, while some studies estimate close to 50 percent job cuts, others suggest it would significantly improve the economy of the country. However, one thing is for sure – Workplaces will be modified and look very different from what they are today!
Changing roles of the shop floor professional
Developments in the manufacturing industry is intrinsically linked to the changing roles of the shop floor professional. The mid of 1970s, which was an era of Industry 2.0, the operator was the commander. Solely relying on his skills and aptitude, the operator created value by using machine tools.
Then came the period of Industry 3.0, which was round the early 1990s. The associate was the so to speak captain, for he would program the machines or robots, apart from maintaining the machine’s availability.
In a distinct departure from the previous two developments, professionals in the Industry 4.0 period will be the play the role of a facilitator, who interacts with machines and robots, while continuously aiming to optimise performance. In the midst of such developments, associate’s tasks will change from what they used to be: Networked systems and intelligent machines will produce, while the human mind will program and maintain these machines. In an Industry 4.0 environment, humans are the central players and shapers.
Connected industry requires more flexible working models and workmanship. No economy has successfully adapted their labor laws to connected industry. That said, most countries have begun to see the far-reaching improvements of connected industry and have thus initiated amendments. For such amendments to be realized, it is crucial for all relevant to come to a common understanding, and these conditions are applicable to India as well.
Looking into the future, value streams will become more agile. Through adaptive manufacturing, in other words extensive utilization of 3D-printing, value streams will change to be more software oriented. Shop floor associates will be required to acquire new skills such as software programming, apart from having a deeper understanding of processes. Reputed as a hotbed for IT talent, India is well-prepared to meet the demands of the future manufacturing sector. Indian IT-companies and regional based subsidies of global IT-players produce smart software solutions for the world, which can improve the competitiveness of the Indian manufacturing industry. With such talent availability, it is only makes pragmatic business sense to use this knowledge to develop India’s manufacturing sector, especially factors such as, quality and productivity. Aligning this with the ’value for money’ approach India can develop smart and affordable Industry 4.0 solutions.There are many best practices that have already been put into practice, such as, manufacturing execution system or energy management systems. These case studies have been shared with users outside of India as well.
Leadership and collaboration decisive to successful implementation of Industry 4.0
The implementation of Industry 4.0 can ensure the progression of an organization or have dire consequences. The result depends on effective leadership, one that is defined by top down and leaders must drive the revolution.
The approach to accepting and adopting industry 4.0 cannot be determined by factors such as budget, technology and tenure of machines. An I4.0 curriculum driven academy for managers, engineers, planners, technologists and logistic providers is the need of the hour.
Before we arrive at the phase of machine-to-machine communication it is imperative for people to collaborate effectively. Partnership of IT-technicians, technology experts and other people can help realise and deliver the right solution, for that leaders must support, empower and enable teams. Only an effective collaboration of the cost of risk cannot be overlooked, especially in the scenario of security breaches. The quantum of sensitive data handling calls for the implementation of improved data security solutions. By providing the desired attention this risk can be mitigated to a large possible extent.
At Bosch, we strive to realize Industry 4.0 globally and our dual strategy: to be a leading solution provider and a leading user, has given us immense advantage. In India, we have the largest R&D-hub outside of Bosch Germany. Moreover spread across 18 manufacturing plants, at Bosch India we implement our very own technology. This approach, of developing the maturity level across the entire company and not to focus on pilots, has served as a tremendous learning curve. In an Industry 4.0 environment copy, co-create and connACT is the need of the hour. We need to be quick to learn from others and ‘copy with pride’.
Published in The Financial Express (March, 2016)