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View from India: Hyper connectivity for better outcomes

As Industry 4.0 is making inroads into the manufacturing sector, shop floors are being transformed digitally.

When we look at the manufacturing scenario, the emphasis has always been on mass production. Though the focus remains pretty much the same, robots and automation are add-ons to the manufacturing ecosystem. They have brought precision and speed to the product development cycle. The latest is Industry 4.0, which will digitally transform shop floors.

Industry 4.0 will help in predictions through real-time data. Through Industry 4.0, machine-learning (ML) tools can be integrated into production and machines will become intelligent and take informed decisions. Manual processes will be replaced by automation.

“The entire value chain of manufacturing becomes smart and automated through Industry 4.0. Right from conceptualisation-design-execution, every stage of the shop floor is a value add in terms of output,” said Syam Sunder, vice president of Engineering Convergence, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence Division, India, speaking at the CII webinar 'People and Process Focused Digital Transformation of the Shop Floor', in collaboration with Hexagon.

The digital transformation of shop floors will help organisations work towards a return on investment. Early adopters of smart manufacturing have integrated automation, real-time monitoring and dashboard updates. What seems most obvious is that the output of machines is faster. But that’s not enough.

What is missing is the element of people and processes, which need to go hand in hand with the digital transformation. Improved efficiency, enhanced quality, reduced cost and improved safety and sustainability can be seen as the value coming from people- and processes-focused digital transformation.

A trained workforce is required to execute smart processes to make globally competent products: it’s essential to tap unused talent. Skilled professionals and faster adoption of technology are required to scale-up efficiencies and fine tune the product line. Digital training can happen through augmented-reality (AR) and virtual-reality (VR) streaming videos. AR-VR videos can also be used to connect to staff working in different units across the manufacturing facility, while manufacturers can improvise field operations by regularly monitoring AR.

Nevertheless, the journey is not smooth. Pain points come in the form of siloed operations, which need to break down into a seamless one for enabling large-scale automation. Enterprise integration, artificial intelligence and edge computing will determine the operations. These technologies will also replace paperwork and facilitate smart data governance. They will also connect people and processes digitally, besides customising solutions for clients. All this can be achieved by combining physical and digital operations to give insights through data analytics, which will be derived through the machine, suppliers and vendors. Data can also be used for managing the machines and identifying the bottlenecks; if the data is stored in the edge computing system, then it saves bandwidth. A database or multiple databases can be created and tapped intelligently to meet customer needs. This leads to hyper connectivity.

Hyper connectivity and Industry 4.0 will help in data optimisation and improve capabilities to meet new requirements. “We are getting into a new world, where data is being leveraged for several applications. Open protocols are becoming common, as data is being transmitted from one individual or a team to many colleagues through a common connection, which we identify as hyper connectivity,” explained Sunder.

Upon implementation, all these technologies lead to a more digital and connected scenario, where people and processes are integrated into the shop floor. This ensures ubiquitous visibility, robust traceability, compliance to processes and automated outputs. It also points to a situation where data can be captured in a simple way, apart from enabling collaboration between silos (if any).

The manufacturing world is moving from automation to a connected world. The journey began with mechanisation, which then evolved into industrialisation, mass production, automated processes, hyper connectivity and, finally, autonomy, perceived as the ultimate form of putting data to work.

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