5 minutes with Infosys’ Ruchir Budhwar on Industry 4.0
Talk me through the industrial revolutions over the years?
When we talk about Industry 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and so on, what we’re referring to are the various step changes - or rather significant evolutions - that have taken place throughout history. Industry 1.0 refers to the very first industrial revolution, which began in the 1780s. The period became defined by mechanization, due to advances made in industrial production that was powered by steam and water. These advances led, of course, to the manufacture of the first steam train in 1804. A century later, in the late 1800s came Industry 2.0 and the electrification of manufacturing. As the name suggests, electrical power revolutionized production methods and brought in the advent of the assembly line, which enabled mass production.
Fast forward to the 20th century, the arrival of computers and electronics spurred Industry 3.0. Causing a huge shift in manufacturing - and indeed society as a whole – the proliferation of the internet during the 1970s and 1980s meant that automated production was made possible for the first time ever. The whole world could connect with each other and knowledge sharing and industrial advances accessible to all for rapid adoption. Ever since then, huge advances have been made on these technologies, and since the early 2010s, we’ve been in the midst of further digitization under Industry 4.0. This era has been concerned with the development of enterprise-grade cloud computing which, among many other benefits, has made digital power and agility accessible for all at much higher efficiency. Today I believe we're at the cusp of a fifth digital revolution, which will largely be driven by artificial intelligence (AI), sentient systems and ever adapting living enterprises.
So what technology is involved when it comes to industry 4.0?
There are in fact several technologies involved in Industry 4.0, and they continue to develop as we speak. They stem from cyber-physical systems - which comprise various interacting digital, physical, and human elements – and together make up a range of disruptive technologies which provide users intelligent, integrated, informed, and instrumented solutions. Some examples include AI, 5G, big data processing methods, machine learning, digital twin technology – which uses data to create a simulation that can predict how a product or process will perform – autonomous robotics, among many others.
Data is one of the vital pieces of puzzle in Industry 4.0. There are a vast number of sensors out there, for every human interaction point. Organizations that have developed the ability to draw insights from these data sources will be far better placed for strategic business decision making.
On the manufacturing shop floor, Infosys created a solution to support an automobile production facility to reduce the cost of maintenance and production significantly with Industry 4.0 solutions. Sensors were used to send and receive real-time data and were connected to decision making processes at the edge to estimate and extend the useful life of machine tool spindles. The underlying engineering analytics helped predict life at 95% accuracy.
As we’re said to still be in the midst of industry 4.0, these technologies continue to develop and evolve, and we can expect further advances to be made over the next 5-10 years. For this reason, one of the most exciting things about Industry 4.0 is that so much of its potential remains to be seen.
How has Industry 4.0 adoption been affected by COVID-19?
In my view, the current pandemic is liberating manufacturing and production companies to experiment with radical new ideas. Firms are coming up with new ways to manufacture products despite disrupted supply chains, or, as demand for existing products collapses, design new ones.
The pandemic has forced businesses and organizations across industries to move their day-to-day operations online and, as a result, many have sought to accelerate their digital transformation. By providing users the ability to continue – or even refine – their operations whilst working remotely, Industry 4.0 has grown in prominence amongst businesses and organizations looking to digitally transform over the last year. A recent survey indicated that a lot of businesses are leveraging Industry 4.0 solutions for increased end-to-end supply-chain transparency to respond to external disruptions.
One other interesting trend brought on by the pandemic is that manufacturing firms are increasingly realizing the need for rapid and radical innovation in both operating and business models. In this context, we have been working with the Advanced Manufacturing and Production Community at the World Economic Forum to try and answer some of these questions, which culminated in the publication of a whitepaper on the topic. e, we believe that the future belongs to those who are able to manage uncertainty and innovate rapidly.
Ultimately, the coming months present a crucial opportunity for businesses to get ahead with tools like AI, which expected to drive the next industrial revolution. As part of this effort, a strong governance mechanism should be in place for AI-enabled systems, alongside adequate training and awareness programs for employees at all levels. If enterprises fail to develop their AI frameworks now, they could soon run into serious trouble with regulators, and risk falling behind amongst their competitors