Monitors on the connected multi-product line in Bosch's Homburg plant display work instructions adapted to each associate. Credit: Bosch
Similar to homes and cities, factories are expected to be smarter in time to come, especially with the rise of connected devices. According to Deloitte, the manufacturing industry is now at the forefront of Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution. While the first three revolutions involved steam power, the assembly line and automation, Industry 4.0 (also known as Smart Factories/Manufacturing, Industrial Internet, Internet of Everything) encompasses the introduction of smart, connected assets.
In an exclusive interview with CIO Asia, Thomas Jakob, Asia Pacific managing director of Bosch Software Innovations, explained the significance of Industry 4.0 and provided tips on how manufacturers in Southeast Asia should prepare themselves to embrace the concept.
CIO Asia: What is Industry 4.0?
Bosch's Jakob: In short, Industry 4.0 is the connection of data pools residing in machines and systems, including their correlation and interpretation, utilising machine learning and resulting algorithms for the improvement of manufacturing speed, quality, output, and service.
For instance, on our multi-product assembly line in Homburg, Germany, Bosch can manufacture 200 different hydraulic modules from more than 2,000 different components. Thanks to connectivity, these components are automatically ordered in time. These modules control the work of driving hydraulics in trucks or tractors, such as raising and reclining loading surfaces or lifting a plow.
The production line's nine stations are connected by a smart network. Thanks to an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip attached to the workpiece, the stations know how the finished product has to be assembled and what steps are necessary. This cuts tooling times on the production line therewith increasing productivity.
What are the key drivers of Industry 4.0?
In this day and age, organisations are trying to increases their competitive edge by providing customers with shorter delivery times, 24/7 operations and individualised customer requests. Other ongoing challenges organisations face are volatile market conditions and labour shortages. Automation will reduce the need for repetitive tasks and open opportunities for higher level roles for people working in manufacturing environments.
Why should Southeast Asia be concerned with the Industry 4.0 concept?
Southeast Asia, as every other manufacturing region in the world, is facing the same demands of clients and market conditions while labour issues will also arise. In Singapore, this is already obvious while in some of the other markets shortages of skilled labour will also grow over time.
Fortunately, the levels of automation across supply chains, production, and products in the manufacturing sector have continuously increased over the past few years. The generated data can now be utilised to deliver the improvements mentioned above.
The initial value of Industry 4.0 is about leveraging data to gain more out of existing assets. Questions like 'is there a bottleneck in my line and where is it', 'is my line/plant performing at the capacity it was designed for', 'how can I reduce my production cost,' and 'what is the reason for poor quality' can be answered by correlating and interpreting previously isolated data pools. However, it is important to have the right tools in place to handle and manage this data to identify first steps towards realising Industry 4.0 in a production environment.
With this, Industry 4.0 will enable companies in Southeast Asia to gain a competitive advantage through increased operational efficiency and better resilience during labour shortages.
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