Is Industry 4.0 the 4th revolution in manufacturing industry?

Mechanisation with water power (Waterwheel) and steam power (Steam turbine) is considered to as the 1st industrial revolution during 18th/19th century. Mass production on assembly lines and electrification is considered as the 2nd industrial revolution that started in early 20th century. During late 1980s the advent of computers and robotics with CAD/CAM/CAE is considered to be the 3rd industrial revolution and now the birth of interconnected cyber physical systems also popularly known as Internet of Things is being marketed as the 4th industrial revolution – Industry 4.0.

The Industry 4.0 will surely be a game changer is interconnecting machines, devices and equipment. I get reminded of the Terminator trilogy, since the ones developing Industry 4.0 intrinsically believing to be intellectually superior to the ones working on the shop floor dirtying their hands, may lead companies investing in technologies that ultimately may be bypassed. I foresee this as a reality, since today with most on my manufacturing clients, the automatic monitoring of the machine utilisation hardly works; there is always a reason – the normally underestimated operators are generally very smart and wouldn’t like to be monitored. Of course, the reality is quite different where the honest purpose of monitoring is either safety or quality.

Even in my corporate role, when I was leading the advance development of manufacturing technologies, Industry 4.0, being one of the areas, we achieved significant success only when either the sole purpose was to better quality and ensure safety. I saw many solutions we had developed in early 2000s being packaged under the recent Industry 4.0 video. I believe Industry 4.0 is just an extension of CAD/CAM/CAE combined with closed loop control for quality and safety related issues.

However, when it comes to operations, where even today in most of the factories manually entered log books, inspection records, lot cards, etc. is a still reality and the HMI: Human Machine Interface for the data entry workstations is mostly through a keyboard and some with touchpads. I believe a technology leap in the HMI space will be needed to seamlessly capture the extremely important “Shop Floor Noises” to reap true benefits from Industry 4.0.

I use a Samsung Note and even with sketching, noting, handwriting recognition, voice input and auto transcription of voice recording, I find it extremely difficult to explain and make notes electronically. I am sure the Setters and Operators will find it even more difficult. I have noted some of the recurring extremely important data for predictive analytics to support in decision making – so that the true potential of Industry 4.0 can be unlocked and it can truly become the 4th Industrial Revolution.

  1. Full-kitting for set-up
    • Manual checklist collecting items – waiting times for some items not captured
  2. Set-up Approvals
    • Both attribute and variable data - some manually written, some printed from measuring equipment, some captured by linked computer. Has some Comparative data like Standard/Planned Set-up time, Cycle time, etc. Signatures for approval
    • The potential to generate predictive analytics for achieving first time right is huge
  3. Periodical inspection report
    • Both attribute and variable data - some manually written, some printed from measuring equipment, some captured by linked computer. Correlation of the machine data and measured data is largely missing. The potential to dynamically optimise the cycle time based on the measurements is huge
  4. Over-checking and audit report
    • Both attribute and variable data - some manually written, some printed from measuring equipment, some captured by linked computer. The potential to dynamically optimise these non-value added measurements is moderate.
  5. Autonomous maintenance checklist
    • Manual entry of mostly attribute data. Real-time monitoring through sensors (Camera, Vibrations, Noise, etc.) for predictive analytics for preventive maintenance is huge
  6. Lot card
    • Production entries, scrap/rework entries, signatures. This information is extremely crucial for scheduling. OP to OP data mostly manual. Stage to Stage data is in generally available on ERP system in large MNCs. The potential to increase throughput, reduce the lead-time through real-time OP wise WIP info is phenomenal.
  7. Real-time Scoreboard (ANDON) of all the shop floor metrics (Productivity, Quality, Cost, Delivery, Safety, Morale, Action Status) will push the team work significantly. Even today, but for the ANDONs for PQD, others are manually entered in charts!

I really wish that the Industry 4.0 brains will focus in enhancing the throughput significantly by eliminating the additional work of the shop floor personnel instead of focussing on automation, normally resulting in surplus workforce.

Happy reading!