Music is basically an analog experience - an artist or a band is playing and we can listen to it if we are in the same place at the same time. The evolution has gone from this direct experience via analog turntables and cassettes, to digital (but still physical) Compact Discs towards MP3 (no more physical) to today's streaming services. A whole range of new business models and services have evolved around the music itself.
Digitalization can mean a lot of things. It may be the usage of a digital amplifier, to stay with the music example. It can also be the development and provision of a streaming service with completely new possibilities for the user. Not all form of digitalization has the same groundbreaking effect.
Considering this, it is important to look at your own business and ask yourself, what can be changed in which way to get max of the efforts in return? Not everything that involves some form of digital solutions and services results in the expected change and benefits. But if things are approached in a targeted and systematic manner, the idea of Industry 4.0 can be developed further.
Our idea of Industry 4.0 is the availability and the collection of information, the transformation of this information to knowledge with the help of analytics, and the use of this knowledge to do new things and to improve the things you do.
It's not only the product itself that should be at the center of your efforts. There's just as much to gain from taking a look at the value chain itself.
For example, a machine operator gets presented recommendations for problems that may arise during operations of a e.g. milling machine. These recommendations are based on the information available and are linked to the cause of the problem. The operator can vote the recommendation up or down depending on how his problem was addressed. The recommendations are written by experienced operators and this way, their experience and knowledge is made available to everyone - much to the benefit of more effective processes.
Another example is how Audi starts to transition from building their cars on an assembly line with fixed tact times and workstations, towards a dynamic assembly where autonomous vehicles are driving through the assembly hall and find the next free working station. All components and tools are moving in the same way towards this work station and everything arrives there at the same time.
All this is possible with the help of a huge amount of information which is used to continuously adapt and optimize the assembly process. When something didn't work as expected, the pattern leading to the fault is identified from the data. The analysis of this data serves as basis for recognizing such patterns in the future and thus avoiding the occurrence of the same problem. This way, the whole assembly process is self-improving all the time.
But how to get started?
The problem is that no one knows where Digitalization is leading to. Therefore its probably no good idea to buy expensive licenses and replace all of your systems with a completely new platform. However, it is also not an option to wait for 10 years and see what will happen. The challenge is to find these aspects of digitalization which are interesting (e.g. aspects like engineering, product, service), relevant and reachable for each business with its individual products and services and the related value chain. Not every approach has to be disruptive.
At nexiles, we are using a range of characteristics to outline a road-map to get started:
- To which degree is it possible to access analog and digital methods in a systematic manner?
- Which level of interaction and communication is possible between the product and its surroundings?
- How is the product or service interacting with its users?
- Utilization of digital possibilities in existing processes?
- To which degree are business models being used which can only be realized with digital means?
When information is collected over time and at real time, it can be analyzed and used to control processes in a dynamic way. It becomes possible to learn of things that happened in the past and that are happening right now, at the same time it's possible to plan ahead and predict future developments. With this knowledge, one can run and improve processes in a pro-active and continuous manner. All this results in improved products and services, new solutions and a more effective value chain.
It is here where the revolutionary possibilities are - dynamic processes, services and products that are continuously adapting to a changing changing environment.
This is the English version of the article Industri 4.0 - fra Informasjon til Kunnskap published on næringslivnorge.no