Industry 4.0: The Disruptive Force

In conversation with Murali Raj G R, CIO, HIL Ltd | Thursday, 12 August 2021, 04:30 IST

Industry 4.0 encompasses new technologies like Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Cognitive Computing, and Augmented Reality. What are the major challenges that companies face in the adoption of these new technologies?     

The challenges for adoption may vary from industry to industry, and company to company. I can share some challenges that I had come across during my experience as a CIO across companies. In my view, there are three critical challenges: (1) One important challenge is the lack of internal capabilities and competency to understand these new digital technologies and applying them for the business needs and growth. (2) Another important challenge is ensuring there are business case benefits for these initiatives and (3) the most common and important challenge is the top management commitment for digitalization.     

Industry 4.0 solutions give businesses greater insight, control, and data visibility across their entire supply chain. How can companies deliver services and products to market, faster, cheaper, and better?   

Industry 4.0 gives you real time data leading to faster corrective actions. It has predictive and self-learning algorithms that help with prescriptive decisions. These directly help the supply chain. In my perspective, you need the supply chain to be flexible (any last minute changes to be accommodated, lot size to be smaller etc.), faster (can customer get the product earlier) and accurate (gets his product with quality and with a satisfying experience). For example, Amazon has mastered the art of predictive shipping with these technologies that delights the customers.  

Predictive analytics allow companies to not just ask reactive questions like, “what has happened?” or “why did it happen?” but also proactive questions like, “what is going to happen?” and “what can we do to prevent it from happening?” How do these analytics enable manufacturers to pivot from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance?

These predictive algorithms help to plan the corrective action. For example, in predictive maintenance the useful life of the asset is predicted (say, it is going to fail in another 3-4 days’ time) that ensure the maintenance is planned (and thus avoiding painful breakdown maintenance).  This predictive maintenance is definitely a good area to focus which gives benefits across availability, spare parts costs, process wastage etc.

What are the benefits of adopting an Industry 4.0 model for businesses?

The benefits are multiple and depend on the situation and usage. It could improve the OEE of the plant, energy management at facilities; it could help improve the asset life; it helps with better quality product by predictive algorithms. Digital twins cannot only help reduce the R&D cycle but also can help with RM consumption savings etc. The AR/VR can help in optimizing the manpower for field service, maintenance etc. 

Smart factory is the centrepiece of Industry 4.0 and the defining characteristic of a smart factory is its interconnection with other factories. Will the benefits of Industry 4.0 be reserved only for large enterprises with multiple facilities?  

Industry 4.0 is not limited to large enterprises with multiple facilities. It applies to small and medium size enterprises as well. There are multiple products, innovative solutions and partners from start-up ecosystem, who can ensure the value is derived from Industry 4.0 for the small and medium size businesses.      

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