Industry 4.0 or “Industrial Internet of Things” (IIoT) is revolutionizing the producing middle class and corporations. It strengthens competitiveness, accelerates product development, and enables individual products. IIoT, also known as Industry 4.0, is more than just the technical digitalization of industry. The planning of new digital processes and their introduction are unthinkable without skilled employees. Qualification and competence management of all players, as well as personnel certification and an external view, are important success factors for the development of the smart factory of the future.
Industry 4.0 or Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a collective term for digitization in industrial production. It involves the networking of machines, tools, and people in seamless digital end-to-end process chains. From the customer to production and suppliers, a completely digital performance chain is realized, through which all data is available for all process steps.
Manufacturing companies, in particular, are looking for a way to realize competitive advantages with technologies based on Big Data, AI (Artificial Intelligence), and Industry 4.0. The factory of the future is intelligent, flexible, automated, efficient, and sustainable. Large volumes of data should not only be manageable but also converted into Smart Data and used by Smart Data Services – from the store floor to after-sales service at the management level.
Currently, 17.7 billion IIoT connections are said to exist worldwide, Juniper Research reported in early November 2020. The British market researchers forecast an increase to 36.8 billion networked industrial things by 2025, which means they expect growth of over 100 percent in just five years. In their study “Industrial IoT: Future Market Outlook, Technology Analysis and Key Player 2020-2025“, the analysts identify smart manufacturing as the most important growth driver. In particular, the widespread introduction of 5G wireless technology, narrowband IoT and low-power wide area networks (LPWA) are playing a key role for new service offerings in the manufacturing industry. In the smart factory of the future, real-time data will enable the autonomous production of individual parts at the cost of mass production. For this to succeed, companies need qualified employees. The bottleneck for the introduction of Industry 4.0 lies less in technology. Rather, it is the people with the right skills to ensure that intelligent value creation is actually introduced successfully.
What’s the added value?
For a smart factory to be successful, it is not enough to simply connect machines, production planning, or Manufacturing Execution Systems (PPS / MES) with an IIoT solution. The work starts much earlier when a company also wants to create real added value with its Industry 4.0 project. The starting point should always be an assessment of how ready a company is for Industry 4.0. Just because a company already uses tablets does not mean that its IIoT maturity level is already particularly high. Very often media breaks, data silos, and data streams that end up in one system, again and again, prevent the creation of value from data and the use of all data where it is urgently needed.
While many companies initially focus only on their production, production planners often forget the external interfaces to suppliers and customers as well as the internal networking with ERP, merchandise management, purchasing, accounting, product development, after-sales, and quality assurance.
At the beginning of an Industry 4.0 project, a systemic view is therefore required to analyze the processes. Building on this, the processes must be adapted based on an IIoT strategy, which includes a detailed description of objectives and functions. The aim is to integrate the entire company, its suppliers, and customers into a fully digitalized end-to-end process.
The goal of this planning phase must be to network all systems and all stakeholders, all data silos, all potential data sources, right through to quality assurance and after-sales processes in a seamless digital Industry 4.0 process chain in the future. In doing so, companies often underestimate the challenges of their many incompatible interfaces. It is true that data is created everywhere. But it must also be understood by all networked systems. After all, data only unfolds its added value if it can also be utilized as needed. This means that every digital device, right down to a torque wrench, must be integrated in a way that it feeds its actual data into the system and can be controlled by it. Only through this consistent end-to-end process chain can production steps be consistently and continuously optimized and transparently monitored even years later in case of a complaint or maintenance. With these complex requirements for a new Industry 4.0 infrastructure, individual disciplines such as the IT department and production planning are often overtaxed by themselves. In each case, there is a lack of know-how and an overview of the whole as well as the company’s boundaries.
An external view is advisable for the Industry 4.0 realization for two other reasons: before hardware and software are purchased, the requirements must be precisely defined and it must also be verified that the planned adaptations to the company’s own processes in IIoT standard solutions such as MindSphere are possible at all and will bring the expected improvements. In addition, employees must also go through learning curves parallel to the process changeover.
Developing Industry 4.0 competencies of employees
After all, for Industry 4.0 innovations to be implemented successfully, employees must be able to keep up with the pace. The basis for this is a management system and an organization in which the dynamism and speed of a holistic and flexible end-to-end process responsibility are lived out. In contrast to industrial mass production, where the same operations, i.e. constant repetition, were always necessary for the manufacture of large numbers of identical products, the employees in an Industry 4.0 production facility need a different attitude and different skills. Agility, interdisciplinarity, and creativity cannot be arranged. Rather, it is a change process that affects the entire company and in which everyone must be empowered to play an active role in shaping it. In an Industry 4.0 production environment, machines, devices, tools, sensors, and people work together and must communicate with each other. Employees must operate the hardware and software, evaluate, interpret, and document data and interact agilely with the IIoT infrastructure. And they have to learn to do this. Parallel to the introduction of Industry 4.0, a qualification initiative must therefore be launched to build up the role-specific skills of employees.
Ideally, the change process of introducing Industry 4.0 should be accompanied by a dedicated training system that prepares all employees for the new world in a timely manner using virtual classrooms and hybrid forms of learning. In security-relevant areas, in addition to training and further education, personnel certifications are also required to be able to provide proof of the employees’ qualifications. The goal must be that with the start of IIoT live operations, all employees have an understanding of the processes and the supporting hardware and software that is adapted to their roles and tasks. Only when these conditions have been met can a company exploit the full potential of its new Industry 4.0 production facility through the interaction of people, technology, and processes.
TÜV Rheinland is one of the few players in the world that can offer integrated Industry 4.0 consulting from a single source. Experts for smart factory work closely with the specialists for competence development and competence measurement in IIoT. TÜV Rheinland is currently offering live online training courses on what digitization and Industry 4.0 mean for their own company and how their own business model can be made even more successful through digital manufacturing services. Experts present use cases to explain selected KPIs and show best practice examples from various industries. More information about an integrated Industry 4.0 strategy can be found here and also in German and Chinese.