Manufacturing in the Face of Disruption: Role of Industry 4.0 & Innovation
Rajiv Kumar
QLeap Academy
Pune, India

Dr Aravind Chinchure
QLeap Academy
Pune, India

This article speaks about the potential impact of ongoing COVID-19 disruption in manufacturing industry and with this context, how Industry 4.0 deals with this disruption through smart manufacturing.
The world is in a COVID-19 pandemic shock and experiencing a disruption that has never been seen in the last few decades. Major manufacturing around the world has ground to a halt. The full extent of business and economic impact due to the pandemic is still unknown. To sense the potential impact of the ongoing disruption, the Maratha Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA), Pune surveyed close to 400 manufacturing and services companies. The results of the survey indicate that the cash flow and fear-of-future-business are the top two concerns for over 95 percent of the companies. This disruption impacts every manufacturer in some way or the other and many companies fear an existential threat.

The manufacturing will become complex during the crisis to prevent another surge of COVID-19. The manufacturing plants will have to create a new floor plan, develop new work processes, and produce products that market demands by ensuring the health and safety of workers. The production plan will have to be dynamically adjusted based on the changing market demands, availability of staff and availability of raw materials. Manufacturing companies are compelled to rethink their production, sourcing and business strategies to deal with the crisis.

Role of Industry 4.0 in Dealing with the Disruption
Industry 4.0 is revolutionising manufacturing in the way products are designed, manufactured, and distributed through rapid, end-to-end digitisation of all physical assets and their integration into digital ecosystems. Industry 4.0 can enable factories, connect the supply chain network and logistics capabilities, and informed planning & inventory processes, along with a host of other capabilities required to manage demands of the ongoing disruption.

The investment in automation and remote operation has brought forward an unexpected outcome during the crisis. The Parisian purveyor of Dior perfume is distilling hand-sanitiser, Mahindra and General Motors, Tesla want to make ventilators by reconfiguring and repurposing factory lines. While P2i makes nanotechnology coatings for electronic devices, operating and inspecting factory in China previously was only accessible from their headquarters in Oxford at a level of detail to someone on the spot.

This is possible as smart manufacturing enables devices and machines to communicate with each other and make effective decisions on production planning as well as on actual production, based on triggers in the demand of the product, thus efficiently managing manufacturing as well as distribution. The implementation of Industry 4.0 enables manufacturing companies to
  • Increase the productivity by drastically shortening the period between the development of a new product and its delivery to customers in the market
  • Increase the efficiency through automation for greater flexibility, the better quality of products, more efficient production, and
  • Energy savings
Industry 4.0 offers flexibility, efficient use of resources, as well as integration of customers and business partners in the business process. The immediate opportunities for developing smart manufacturing solutions that benefit small and large manufacturing companies from Industry 4.0 include:
1. Application of big data and analytics to optimize production quality, to save energy towards improving the services, and to allow real-time decision-making

2. 3D computer simulations for product development, optimizing production processes, and rapid prototyping aswell- as testing for faster innovation

3. IoT solutions to monitor, collect, exchange, analyse and deliver valuable new insights to improve efficiency, save time and cost through condition monitoring, predictive maintenance, improved safety and other operational efficiencies, and to enable real-time responses

4. 3D printing to produce small batches of individual components, complex customised products and designs to reduce transport distances, and inventory management costs – particularly for spare parts that were stuck in the supply chain

5. Virtual and augmented reality-based solutions for selecting parts in a warehouse, sending repair instructions over mobile devices, and for enabling the workers to perform tasks they were not trained for more easily. This could have assisted with skill shortages due to self-isolation or repurposing of manufacturing

6. Cyber-security solutions to protect systems, networks, and data from cyber attacks

7. Cloud services to provide real-time information from a multitude of devices and sensors, collaborate with suppliers and distributors.

8. Develop autonomous, flexible and cooperative robots to tackle complex assignments in the assembly lines and assemble products alongside humans with flexible hands, feeding systems, camera-based part location and control systems. Use of autonomous electric vehicles and drones to reduce the reliance on people and to further assist with social distancing.

In the longer run, manufacturing companies will have to develop and adopt advance technologies like digital twin and cognitive systems. The digital solutions backed by simulation & modelling, big data analytics, AI algorithms, and machine & deep learning can help companies in:
  • Efficient real-time tracking & monitoring of machines, driving predictive analysis to eliminate downtime, and reduce the unplanned shutdowns resulting in enhanced plant performance
  • Analysing real-world data to extract insights into how the product is being used and its user experience – to improve the product, to assist in decision making, and also for process advancement
  • Testing and accelerating innovations to take products to market faster
  • Controlling inventory shrinkage in supply chains
A digital twin enables small and large companies to increase plant reliability, to optimise the resource usage, to minimise the downtime, and to improve the performance & efficiency in factories by intelligently using data and simulating & modelling conditions quickly to make changes in the physical world. As a result, large and small organisations across industries can benefit from the capabilities of digital twin solutions.

Whereas the application of cognitive systems can transform the entire manufacturing value chain by utilising connected sensors, analytics, and cognitive capabilities to:
  • Sense, communicate, and selfdiagnose the issues to optimize performance and reduce unnecessary downtime in improving operational efficiency
  • Automate tasks by analyzing a variety of information from workflows, context, process, and environment to drive quality, enhance operations & decision-making, and overall customer satisfaction
  • Combine various forms of data from individuals, location, usage, and expertise with cognitive insight to optimize and enhance resources
  • Keep learning unsupervised, and continuously adjusting to the new information resulting in higher-quality insights and business intelligence
  • Open up opportunities to harness untapped data sources to provide highly personalised services, improved service consistency and quality, and enhanced knowledge sharing
A cognitive system synthesises the data residing across machines, systems, and processes to derive intelligent and actionable insight across the horizontal and vertical value chain to drive key productivity improvements in reliability, quality, and efficiency of the manufacturing environment.

Industry 4.0 Skilling: Key Enabler in Navigating the Disruption
One of the critical challenges in the widespread adoption of Industry 4.0 is the lack of skills and expertise in the current workforce and leadership to apply new-age technologies to navigate the disruption. The adoption of Industry 4.0 is likely to be radically faster than anything yet experienced due to the crisis. The availability of adequate talent – both at a strategic leadership level as well as on the factory floor – can prove to be a significant challenge for industries.

The technologies that enable Industry 4.0 include smart sensors, automation devices, advanced robots, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, location detection technologies, human-machine interfaces, augmented reality, 3D printing, artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, and mobile devices, to name a few amongst others. We need to consider the fact that for the development of Industry 4.0, industries need to go through a change in both technical and social aspect and develop to the necessary skills.

On the technical side, a soft transition between different departments and areas within a single manufacturing facility for efficient automation and intelligent manufacturing is necessary. Therefore, the technical competency profile will be more interdisciplinary than specialised. Engineers and programmers will have to get out of the comfort zone of their domain knowledge and learn cross-functional concepts, production processes, machine technology, and data-related procedures.

We at the QLeap Academy are on a mission to create Industry 4.0 professionals and leaders using our innovative “Design Solution” methodology which combines principles of smart manufacturing, innovation tools, and building solution in the laboratory. Our efforts in large and small companies have resulted in rapidly building Industry 4.0 capability within the organisation along with benefits in terms of cost and quality.

Companies are beginning to prepare for the post-COVID world. The focus for many manufacturers now is the survival and to limit the damage. Moving forward, the adoption of Industry 4.0 for smart manufacturing will keep companies alive and grow in the future. The focus of the next few months for companies is to deal with human life and safety while planning for the future. The companies have to start connecting its manufacturing equipment to the internet so that it can make the adjustments remotely, infuse of data-enabled decision and services, to get real-time visibility across the business, and to see this acceleration as offering new possibilities for reinvention, even resurrection. The pandemic has a profound, far-reaching, and unprecedented impact that will spur a new wave of innovation in the manufacturing to deal with this level of disruption.