In case you missed it, Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB), in partnership with TÜV SÜD, has released a Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index, one that aims to help Manufacturing businesses become Industry 4.0-ready. Taking reference from the Reference Architectural Model for Industry 4.0 (RAMI 4.0) developed by Plattform Industrie 4.0, the whitepaper and Index aims to help Manufacturing businesses become Industry 4.0-ready by providing guidelines for self-assessment and steps for improvement.
Businesses should consider three foundational building blocks: Technology, Process and Organization, which are held up by the below 8 pillars, which were then mapped onto 16 dimensions:
- Supply Chain
- Product Lifecycle
- Talent Readiness
- Structure & Management
As we move towards 2018, what notes can we take from this Index about the direction that manufacturers must move towards?
Massive Amounts Of Data Will Need To Be Analysed
Industry 4.0 runs on data. It stands to reason, then that the first thing manufacturers will need to get used to, is the massive amounts of data that will arise from Internet-of-Things-related solutions.
The ability for massive amounts of data to communicate with each other, make sense of each other’s data, and then make suggestions, is what will transform the manufacturing industry. This is reflected in the Technology building block, where focus is on flexible automation, end-to-end connectivity, and data analytics and prediction.
Take note that it doesn’t only mention interconnectedness; one of the most important sections is the Intelligence pillar, as data will only be useful when it leads to insights that can increase productivity and decrease downtime. Using cloud solutions, data analytics and machine learning, systems can become an autonomous ‘brain’ that will work alongside the workforce.
Decentralisation And Collaboration
When it comes to the accessibility of this data, as well, the Index is careful to mention that it requires a decentralisation of decision-making within organisations, as it will allow for faster responsiveness to changes.
The Structure & Management pillar of the Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index discusses the importance of having a clear strategy and framework, and the Talent Readiness pillar looks at ensuring your workforce can manage the changes that Industry 4.0 brings through workforce learning and development programmes.
This also leads towards a flatter organisational structure, as workers and managers are empowered to make decisions, for example, when there’s a warning about impending maintenance from your digitalised system. They will have the skills, the knowledge, and the business strategy, so they’ll know how to react in any situation.
Virtualization Is The Future
The Product Lifecycle pillar discusses the entire sequence of stages, from design, to manufacturing and customer service. As product lifecycles decrease, and a higher demand for customisation takes hold, the need for integrated solutions and digitalisation will bring virtualisation into the picture.
The concept of a ‘digital twin’, i.e. a virtual representation of the product lifecycle process and product, will become pertinent in this case, as it will allow for seamless information sharing and testing without the delay of creating physical prototypes. Also, ‘multiple prototypes can be created and tested virtually at speed, at scale, and at a much lower cost’.
As mentioned in the whitepaper as well, the ultimate example of Industry 4.0 success will be the ability to create these ‘digital twins’ and reap the benefits of increased productivity and quicker production times. After all, it was also named one of Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017.
Manufacturers Need To Expand Their Product Offerings
In the end, the aim of the Index is to encourage manufacturers to think beyond their current systems and processes, and move beyond ‘mere provision of products and equipment to offer new, disruptive services and business models’. The Automation pillar, in particular, looks at generating smaller volume, but customisable products, as it allows manufacturers to ‘pursue a large variety of global business opportunities and adapt to rapidly changing customer needs’.
This would be very useful in (Engineering to order) ETO and (Manufacturing to order) MTO environments, as the flexibility afforded by embracing the Technology building block will lead to higher productivity when it comes to these complex configurations.
In 2018, Manufacturers will have to continue to embrace Industry 4.0, but the Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index helps manufacturers to look at the important aspects of their business. From data driving processes to virtualisation, and decentralisation of organisational power, manufacturers will have to make big chances to continue to stay competitive in 2018 and beyond.
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