Home > Uncategorized > The Post Industry 4.0 World

The Post Industry 4.0 World

Veerle from France was on a business trip at California and met her colleague Linda, the Californian lady who was wearing a silver bracelet of a spiral design that got her attention. She quickly took a picture and posted on her facebook public page about this surprise finding and commented that while this was a really nice piece of artwork, her skin may be allergic to silver and so she would not be able to wear it. She then attended a business meeting on the topic of Industry 4.0 that she did not realize at that time, could change her whole experience on her tasteful affection towards accessories.

Hype or Hope?

There has been many interpretation and messages overflowing the media about the 4th industrial revolution. Depending on the agenda behind each technology provider, automation vendor, system integrator or consulting partner, the emphasis has been different. Some of the common themes would include:

  • Integration from topfloor to shopfloor
  • Integration across supply chain
  • Integration between manufacturing and engineering
  • Shifting to a services-oriented business model
  • Installation of new robots and automated equipment
  • Driven by the Internet of Things (IoT)

And hey, aren’t we already doing all these things before someone labelled it as Industry 4.0? So is there anything truly revolutionary or is this just another marketing hype? Adding to the confusion is that the terminology came from Germany’s government initiative and many countries have been following suit to start their own initiatives of similar kind. China 2025, La nouvelle France industrielle, Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (US), Robot Revolution Initiative Council (Japan)… to name but a few. All these initiatives are back by government resources. What is the common core concept that is driving all these initiatives with different terminologies?

This is not a revolution that has already happened. It is about groups of organizations putting resources to start a revolution. Many who do not understand the core concept and its endgame would easily jump into the conclusion that this is nothing more than an abstract marketing hype without any substance behind it.

It is 2008 All Over Again

To judge whether this could be truly revolutionary, I believe one should fast-forward and take a look at the new industrial world that is in the making. The industrial world today is somewhat like the consumer world 7 years ago, before cell phones become “smart” and mobile tablets were almost unknown. Probably very few could have seen why we need our mobile devices to connect to the internet other than for the purpose of reading emails and most would contend with their lives without Apps, Social and all other gadgets such as watches connected to their cell phone. Back then, some of the most advanced phones were made in Japan and names like Nokia and Blackberry were the dominant forces in the cell phone market. Few would have seen the coming of iOS and Andriod as the dominant software platforms that eventually pushed out phone giants who did not adapt. It has become a world that is all about the Apps. Phones which cannot run these killer apps won’t sell despite their superior HW capability. Billion dollars of transactions are now running today on these platforms touching almost every part of our daily life.

The Brave New World

In the Post Industry 4.0 world, industrial Apps will be running on a few dominant software platforms that orchestrate smart products, people, devices, sensors, production cells, robots, lines, factories which all will have not only their own IP addresses and smart built-in logics but also the capability to collaborate with each other through a set of standards and protocols. Manufacturing of a product could be about running an App on an operating system platform that coordinates all the manufacturing resources globally on demand. Production Lines will be so flexible and adaptable that they are no longer lines but individual cells that reconfigure themselves according to each product that carries its own specifications and bill of material. Every product coming out of the lines is hence custom built according to demand. Any unplanned interruption like quality issues, machine problems, and skilled worker sick leaves would be handled on spot through dynamic negotiation between intelligent agents to arrange an alternative path, somewhat similar to how flight delay and weather conditions are handled by travel agents. This new world operates in drastic contrast to the paradigm of factory automation and CIM (computer integrated manufacture) which were initiatives a decade ago based on centralized control. This world of smart devices are more adaptable and agile as they operate through a dynamic network of decentralized intelligence, capable of identifying themselves, discovering the others as well as collaborating and  optimizing on-the-fly.

The end game does not stop there. In the post Industrial 4.0 world, these industrial Apps will be able to talk to all the other Apps in the consumer world to act according to demand. The Facebook, Amazon, twitter world will now have access to the vast resources in the industrial world and orchestrate them to meet individual consumer demand. The line between B to C and B to B will be blurred and consumer will experience a whole new world.

The world of design and applied research will also join the game. The science of physics, biology, chemistry, material science will be part of the building blocks for designing new products from a molecular level, as they are being exposed as Apps and services, pulled by consumer demand as needed. This mechanism is sometime called “Smart Pull”.

There are apparent obstacles ahead in coming to terms with global standards, converging SW, HW, ICT technologies and some of today’s players will extinct or evolve. This new world may dawn slowly and gradually through-out the next decade as the industrial world is highly complex and interwoven. Many leaders are currently caught up by the complexity and forgot to view Industry 4.0 in the light of new era of experiences.

The Unique Experience

During Veelre’s wedding anniversary 2 months later, she was extremely surprised that her husband got her a new watch that was made with the same design that delighted her in California, with a new material of silver engineered for her DNA so it does not cause skin allergy. In the post Industry 4.0 world, intelligent Apps and Agents across both consumer and industrial platforms will be working actively behind the scene to dynamically synthesize science, design, manufacturing and logistics to create nothing short of revolutionary when viewedburberry-engraved-charm-bracelet-watch from the perspective of consumer experiences.

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