The invention of the wheel paved way for humans to discover how they could use the principles of physics to make life easier. Subsequently, hundreds of years later in the eighteenth century, water and steam started powering machines leading to the dawn of the first industrial revolution. Today, more than centuries later, technology has again taken a big leap and we are now experiencing a phenomenon termed as Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution. Many leading 21st-century manufacturers are converging digital and physical worlds in which sophisticated hardware combined with innovative software, sensors, and massive amounts of data and analytics is expected to produce smarter products, more efficient processes, and more closely connected customers, suppliers, and manufacturers. The coming together of the cyber physical systems, Internet of Things, Cloud Computing and Cognitive Computing has led to the emergence of the ‘Smart Factory’ in this fourth industrial revolution.
This digitally driven evolution, which lays the foundation for what we at Deloitte call the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise (DME), uses exponential technologies to create an efficient, real-time, automated feedback loop in which data flows from the physical space to digital; capabilities enrich the data and deliver information and insights back to the physical world. The most important and fundamental driver of this new operating ecosystem is data. There is data available for each step of the lifecycle right from the time the raw material starts from the source to the manufacturing cycle getting completed and the finished good reaching the customer. These connected technologies create opportunities to improve efficiency and enhance customer experiences, thereby helping manufacturers attract and retain customers as well as derive significant value. These new insights can also provide visibility and actionable data to solve incredibly complex problems and create new possibilities.
There are four major areas in which the industries are using the new-age digital technologies:
Organizations are leveraging digital technologies as a means to enhance their operations and improve efficiencies. The new-age sensors and analytics layers sit on top of the existing legacy machines and use various operational technologies (OT) to capture data. This data is then analysed to provide insights for decision making.
Smart Factories: These are fully connected automated setups which leverage various digital technologies such as OT, IOT, Analytics, 3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing, Artificial Intelligence, etc. For example, technologies such as advanced robotics, IoT, and 3D printing are being effectively used in metal fabrication, packaging, testing and inspection, assembly of parts, and loading and unloading of autonomously/remotely guided commercial drone systems technologies, whether on land, at sea, or in air.
Advanced Materials: These are unique combinations of materials, process technologies, partnerships, and business models that together, through systems-level engineering, help create and capture value by addressing large, global unmet wants and needs.
Predictive Maintenance: This helps predict the maintenance schedule of machines leveraging analytics to prevent untimely breakdowns and machine failures. Smart glass provides a functionality that assists associates in the workplace with quality control and maintenance-related activities.
An integral part of any manufacturing organization is its supply chain network. To ensure optimal levels of inventory and zero impact on production timelines, it is very critical for the organization to have real-time information of what is happening with the material coming in from the suppliers in line with the order pipeline. It is equally important to ensure availability of finished products for the customer.
Organizations are using digital technologies to directly connect with their customers and obtain direct feedback on their products and services. Technology is also being used to offer a differentiated customer experience.
Many organizations now leverage digital technologies in the form of wearables, smart sensors, and video analytics to provide a safe and conducive working environment for their workforce.
Connected workforce: Theintersection of man and machines using wearables and other devices which can monitor the health of the personnel on a real-time basis and provide alerts in case of detection of an issue.
Secure premises: End to end view of the organization premises in order to monitor and secure the premises, detect suspicious behavior and avoid incidents through predictive alerts.
The ‘Make in India’ initiative by the government has been designed to help manufacturing industries grow and compete in the global market. Another initiative that is spearheaded by the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises is called Samarth Udyog Bharat 4.0 and it is launched with the intent of accelerating the adoption of smart manufacturing solutions through knowledge-sharing, increasing technology awareness, and contextual solution development in India.
A Digital manufacturing enterprise enjoys multifarious opportunities including potential differentiation in the market, competitive advantage, and the ability to deliver best-in-class customer experiences.
In this day and age, technology is available for all, and organizations need to decide how they can leverage the new digital technologies most effectively. While speed and agility are crucial, organizations must also evaluate the context and relevance of any technology vis-a-vis their business objectives and/or operating model before embarking upon complex digital transformation journeys as a ‘one-size-fit-all’ approach may not work. While deploying any of the new technologies, the risks associated with such deployments and their impact on the operating ecosystem must be thoroughly assessed. Organisations should adopt a structured approach to ensure that a risk-mitigation plan is in place to manage potential risks as well as to leverage the opportunities arising from the transformation.
By Ahmar Zaman, Guest Writer