The consideration being given to skill development is immense as the people factor is at the core of every industrial revolution. The fourth phase of the industrial revolution or Industry 4.0 is fundamentally changing the way a wide variety of industries are working. From procurement to distribution, through manufacturing and till the finished products, processes are being automated to be more efficient, lean, agile and with higher quality. It is indeed a revolution, since it has come very fast, is changing the entire industry and it is a global activity.
The first industrial revolution was the shift to new manufacturing processes and mechanization. Moving from hand tools to machines, mechanized textile production, and the rise of the factory system. The second industrial revolution, also known as the technological revolution, was a period of rapid industrialization with advancements in manufacturing and production technology. It came in the early 20th century, when Henry Ford mastered the moving assembly line. This ushered in an age of mass production. The third industrial revolution was the advent of the digitalization and green electricity that resulted in laying out the basis for a sustainable global economy.
The overtaking of people-centric roles by robotics, automation and intelligent sensors leads to faster and better ways of working, limited or no errors in production and highly durable systems that increase production output. This may seem like it leaves no room for individuals to participate in industrial activities anymore. Labor seems questionable in these circumstances. Some sources expect disruptive improvements in terms of quality, productivity and customer orientation; others are concerned with job losses, excessive costs for investments and data security.
Industry 4.0 – An invitation to be part of the future
Rather than just being driven by industries, Industry 4.0 is the transformation that consumers benefit from. It is the development of technology in manufacturing systems, increased intelligence of various components, and synchronization of systems with rapid data transfer that defines this new era. Processes don’t produce only components or products, but data too. By intelligent algorithms data is transformed into know-how and using available technology, it is used to influence and improve processes in real time.
One project initiated by Bosch, for example, a single inspection bench would check machines that carried out spark erosion of spray holes on nozzles. With the addition of intelligent sensors and RFID technology, real time analytical solutions were made available. It was now possible for the operator to closely examine the quality level of the nozzles. This real-time transparency increased efficiency and the risk of a defective part reaching the customer was reduced by predictive estimation. Industry 4.0 initiatives have not only yielded in cost saving but also quick decision support systems for people on the shop floor.
For the industry in India it is very important, that local solutions are affordable, easy to use and robust. Bosch India aims for a payback period of less than two years for such projects and is focusing on areas such as digitalization of shop floor management, usage of M2M connectivity, energy management, and implementation of manufacturing executing systems (MES). This will enable manufacturing to not only improve the productivity, but also create best practice solutions that can be used across diverse locations. For instance, the MES Pro Master implementation has enabled transparency among all Chassis systems plants in the international production network. At the Bosch Chakan plant this has led to an increase in OEE from 81.5 percent to 90.5 percent, thus solidifying its status as a benchmark for OEE productivity among other plants with manual lines.
But the key point is that – Before machines talk to machines, people should talk to people. While automation may deem some jobs redundant, it creates jobs of higher value where there is a need for highly skilled individuals with advanced problem-solving metrics. The anticipation of the transition of Industry 4.0 has pushed organizations and governments to skill or reskill individuals to equip them to function in a technologically advanced environment. The consideration being given to skill development is immense as the people factor is at the core of every industrial revolution. If industry uses the opportunity of Industry 4.0, it will gain competitiveness, so that this promises even more jobs in the future, but these jobs will look differently. IT skills even for shop floor operators and line managers are mandatory but will not replace process know how.
The concern about the loss of jobs may not be as widespread as previously thought. The truth is that as smart manufacturing and automation spreads further, new jobs that look nothing like previous ones might be born. This has been the case with every major industrial transition and the fourth industrial revolution will be no different. The associates need to be prepared for this change. To tackle this an intensive training program called the Industry4.0 academy has been launched in Bosch India. People thus will arise as key players in Industry 4.0 with advanced intelligence, multifaceted skill sets and higher flexibility.
The Industry4.0 journey is a leadership task as well. Since most of the leaders/managers don’t usually belong to the “digital native” community, like Gen Y or Gen Z, a clear focus must be given to their training as well. Without basic understanding of cloud solutions, open source software etc. they will be neither convinced nor enabled to drive the digital transformation. That’s why Bosch India has conducted the first I4.0- training exclusively for the senior leaders. Another important task and challenge is developing I4.0 at the local supplier’s base. Unlike other regions, the supplier’s base in India is fragmented and does not always have the capacity and necessary competencies in terms of connected industry. The solution is to develop I4.0 maturity together with the business partners.
Standards are very beneficial for this, e.g. energy management standard solutions etc. These standards/solutions must be developed and adapted in a network, where the industry, IT teams and universities work together. This is another area for improvement, especially collaboration between universities and industry.
Last but not the least, a new working culture is required. Hierarchical leadership does not work in the connected world, since with IT and manufacturing two different worlds come together with different innovation cycles, different methods (SCRUM vs. Value stream) and revolution meeting evolution. People need to work in a matrix structure with new responsibilities and flexible working styles, promoting failure culture. In an agile, connected industry learning from failures is an asset and needs to be cultivated as a habit. This too requires a systematic approach.
Smart Automation, combined with connectivity, can lead to more transparency, real-time data analysis and continuous improvements results in quality and environmental performances. Organizations need to strike the right balance between the levels of automation and the degree of human interface.
Published in The Machinist (December, 2017)