Industry 4.0 Digitalisation

By Rob Innes, 8 July 2019

Digital Transformation

Industry 4.0 is an essential digital transformation that promises massive opportunity for improved manufacturing effectiveness. But with all the buzz, what actually is Industry 4.0, what benefits will it bring and how do organisations realise those benefits? 

The term indicate a progression (4.0 would be an upgrade from Industry 3.0, right?) but that significantly understates the reach and impact of the fourth industrial revolution, as Industry 4.0 is also known. It is innovative manufacturing practice powered by digital and data, to innovate faster, create new services and generate commercial returns.

Wyoming currently works with organisations transitioning to Industry 4.0 (i4) and help with user experience design, software development & data management, essential services for i4.

Key Aspects of Industry 4.0

Automated sensors (the internet of things) detecting changes in temperature, location, quality, acidity, molarity, orientation, height, velocity and dozens of other real-world parameters, feeding data records to gigantic data stores.

Multiple, independent systems communicating with each other, making real-time decisions, adjusting inputs and outputs depending on the current environment and the cooperative operations of the other systems. 

High volume data pipelines taking data from multiple sources, ingesting and formatting the feeds to power distributed dashboards, decision support apps, visualisation tools and predictive analytics. Collectively these support decision making and reduce risk.

That’s Industry 4.0 and it’s all driven by digitalisation.

Digital Enablement

There are numerous enabling technologies for i4 and one of the first to consider is 5G mobile networks. Whilst many i4 initiatives are supported (and are live today) using 4G mobile networks, for some use cases for example in areas such as logistics and agriculture, 5G will be transformational. Just as i4.0 is not just a point upgrade from i3.0, 5G is not just a faster mobile network compared to 4G, it’s a fundamentally re-engineered platform. Yes, there will be a marked increase in pure data communications speeds, perhaps ten times faster, but the benefit for i4.0 will be more subtle and much more impactful:

Device Density – 5G will support significantly more devices per unit of area, so the number of simultaneously communicating devices will increase greatly, supporting large numbers of sensors in a tight geographic space. McKinsey estimated the number of sensors worldwide reached 30 billion in 2016, a seven-fold increase from 2012. Substantial increases into the future are very likely, as sensor costs are set to plummet. This creates not only significantly more data, but more variety of data, more granular data, to drive service optimisation or new service innovation.

Device Cost – As the cost of IoT devices falls (and McKinsey estimated that unit costs will drop from $2.50-$4.00 range to $1.00-$2.00 range between 2016 and 2020) their application can be deployed more widely and coupled with wide-band data communications capability, many more devices can be supported in a factory, on a farm, on a truck and on a person. This creates greater granularity and fidelity on existing services but will surely open up several yet to be imagined new services.

Managing Data for Industry 4.0

The growth in data volumes associated with i4 will be extraordinary and may swamp existing systems, in terms of storage growth, scope of data formats and the speed of acquisition. When hundreds of sensors, cameras and micro-controllers start reporting data across forty different attributes, several times a minute (or even per second) that yields vastly more data events than most systems are used to processing. 

The time for a device to react to a change in circumstances (a sensor event firing, a remote instruction being received, etc) is reduced to near zero, allowing for much more fine-grained control and rich, real-time visibility of position, status and motion in the real world. This opens up scope for safe operation of autonomous devices such as robots, cobots, and vehicles in the public realm.

Assuming that the data can be wrangled, realising value from data via portals, apps and dashboards takes a new way of examining processes and customer journeys. Digital tools that are built will need to be cognisant of these trends and adapt user experience design, digital engineering and analytics to cope.

Building apps for Industry 4.0

User experience design is critical for i4 as the scope for users to be overwhelmed with data is so much greater. There will be a big role for those that can bring clear design to massive data environments.

Apps will also have to be reactive to current data, not merely look at last month. Data is arriving every second, in multiple formats and apps in the future need to embed that flow into their architecture.

Management of large data sets with different formats, arriving at pace will be the norm and reporting tools must evolve to represent large data sets and allow users to easily navigate them and draw insight.

More data from more sources makes analytics UX more challenging. Interactivity can be built into dashboards to give users more control – anticipating every filter, table, pivot, chart, etc that business users may require is not a good use of time. Better to build interactive flexibility into the platform and let users self-serve.

In summary

UX, data management and software engineering are three of Wyoming’s core skills so we feel very good about meeting the forthcoming challenges of Industry 4.0. Talk to use today about data and digital tools to enable Industry 4.0 transformation.

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