Industry 4.0 has potential to disrupt entire value chain: Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric is offering cutting-edge solutions and innovation at every level — being delivered through EcoStruxure, an IoT-enabled, open and interoperable system architecture and platform for plants and machines. It is also accelerating business growth with a focus on automation of industries and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform across businesses for building greater efficiencies.

Here, Meenu Singhal, VP, Industry Business, Schneider Electric, tells us more about Industry 4.0 and how it aims to transform businesses. Excerpts:

DQ: How can Industry 4.0 transform the industry, and help rediscover growth?

Meenu Singhal: The contribution made by the manufacturing sector to the GDP makes it of utmost importance for our economy. For India to emerge as a ‘Manufacturing Hub’ it needs to embrace the concept of Industry 4.0, and use it as an opportunity to completely transform the sector.

Industry 4.0 has many sides to it, such as automation and data exchange, cyber-physical systems, IoT and cloud computing. The introduction of Industry 4.0 can lead to sensor-packed products, connected to the internet in order to provide better products and services to customers. It can further transform a manufacturing unit into a ‘smart factory’, where machinery, storage systems and production resources carry out complex tasks, exchange information and give instructions to each other, without much human involvement.

It is safe to say that the impact of Industry 4.0 on the manufacturing industry will be as it has the potential to disrupt the entire value chain within the industry, leading to a 360-degree change in the way the industry is operating now.

DQ: There are said to be the nine technologies within Industry 4.0! Elaborate.

Meenu Singhal: Industry 4.0 allows an organisation to gather and analyse data across value chain thereby allowing faster, flexible, and efficient processes to produce high-quality goods at reduced costs. It also helps to increase productivity and foster growth.

As per the Boston Global Group, there are nine technologies within Industry 4.0 that are transforming industrial production. While some of these technologies are already in use, they work together in Industry 4.0 to provide greater efficiencies and change traditional production processes.

Big Data Analytics: Collection and comprehensive evaluation of data from various sources.

Autonomous Robots: Manufacturers have been using robots to tackle complex technical tasks as they cost less and have a greater capability.

Simulation: It is generally used in plant operations to leverage real time data, helping to test and optimise machine settings leading to better quality.

Horizontal and Vertical System Integration: Horizontal integration means networking between individual machines, items of equipment or production units. Vertical integration means gaining control of different parts of the supply chain.

Industrial IoT: Solutions are available.

Cybersecurity: With the increased connectivity and use of standard communications protocols that come with Industry 4.0, the need to protect critical industrial systems and manufacturing lines from cybersecurity threats increases dramatically. As a result, secure, reliable communications as well as sophisticated identity and access management of machines and users are essential.

Cloud: This is a way of storing and accessing data and programs over the internet. Cloud services that provide real-time information and scalability can support a multitude of devices and sensors, along with all the data they generate.

Augmented Reality: Support a variety of services, such as selecting parts in a warehouse and sending repair instructions over mobile devices

Additive Manufacturing: Methods used to produce small batches of customized products that offer construction advantages, such as complex, lightweight designs.

To implement all of the nine technologies of Industry 4.0 in an organisation, businesses need to broaden and deepen their knowledge about such technologies and develop and implement strategies accordingly.

DQ: What are the challenges companies face in the implementation of these technologies?

Meenu Singhal: Despite the opportunities provided by Industry 4.0, it still faces a plethora of challenges in terms of adoption, adaptation and implementation in a business environment. As per the Grant Thornton report, some of the key challenge areas that has prolonged the implementation of these technologies include:

* Lack of adequate talent and skilled resources to implement Industry 4.0.
* High costs of tools and platforms such as analytics and autonomous management platforms, implementation cost and costs associated with enabling hardware such as IoT sensors, high density data connections, AR/VR/simulation platforms, security hardware, autonomous control hardware, etc.
* Low awareness of adopting Industry 4.0 themes as the core in the manufacturing business strategy.

DQ: How can data and optimization happen across the value chain?

Meenu Singhal: Value chain optimization is a necessary pillar of digital transformation, and data plays critical role to connect all dots of manufacturing processes, create full visibility across all value chain operations and endeavors.

Data is the new fuel on the value chain system runs. The more we have it, better is the analysis from same and deliver insight to be more efficient, productive, sustainable and optimized.

DQ: What are the benefits of IT, OT and cyber-physical systems in ‘smart anything’?

Meenu Singhal: Most importantly, it helps increasing production performance and providing insights to better understanding of gaps between operations and planning. It will help in promoting greater visibility across the entire value chain in the industry. This helps in standardizing processes, checks and balances, and controls only once; not rebuilding for each scenario.

DQ: How will integrations occur in Industry 4.0? How will vertical and horizontal integration happen across systems?

Meenu Singhal: In horizontal integration, the organisation visualizes the connected networks of cyber-physical and enterprise systems that introduce unprecedented levels of automation, flexibility, and operational efficiency into production processes. This can happen either on the production floor, across multiple production facilities or across the entire value chain.

On the production floor: The ultimate goal here is to make the production floors smart to cost-effectively produce lot sizes as well as reduce downtime through predictive maintenance.

Across multiple production facilities: Here, the production facility data, such as inventory levels, are shared seamlessly across the entire business and production tasks are shifted automatically among facilities in order to respond quickly and efficiently to production variables.

Across the entire supply chain: Industry 4.0 proposes data transparency and high levels of automated collaboration across the upstream supply and logistics chain that provisions the production processes themselves as well as the downstream chain that brings the finished products to market.

Vertical integration, on the other hand, aims to connect all layers within an organization from the field layer i.e., the production floor to up through R&D, quality assurance, product management, IT, sales and marketing. Here, the data flows freely up and down the value chain so that both strategic and tactical decisions can be data-driven. The vertically integrated Industry 4.0 enterprise gains a crucial competitive edge by being able to respond appropriately and with agility to changing market signals and new opportunities.

DQ: How can Robotic Process Automation help Indian CIOs?

Meenu Singhal: Robotic process automation (RPA) is using software with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) in order to handle high-volume repeatable tasks. An organisation can use a “robot,” to perform repetitiveand redundant tasks, such as generating an automatic response to an email, or process flows in an ERP system.

Unlike ML and AI, RPA is administered by set business logic and structured inputs, and its rules don’t deviate. One of the most powerful capabilities of RPA is its ability to organize and harness large compilations of unstructured data. RPA helps the CIOs in striving to enhance efficiency in terms of energy savings, reducing development time, streamlining production, predictive maintenance of assets using AI etc.

DQ: What is the current status of Industry 4.0 in your organization?

Meenu Singhal: At Schneider Electric, we continue to lead our own manufacturing plants, processes and customer success through industry 4.0 adaptation. Our EcoStruxure is the one platform that has all elements of Industry 4.0 embedded for plant, grid, buildings, machines, IT and power. We are investing in upgrading the skillset and competency of our people, partners and customers to embrace Industry 4.0 to its fullest.

I strongly feel that the EcoStruxure, with Connected Products, Edge Controls and Apps & Application, is our one-stop-shop solution for Industry 4.0 to the world.

About Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric is leading the Digital Transformation of Energy Management and Automation in Homes, Buildings, Data Centers, Infrastructure and Industries. With global presence in over 100 countries, Schneider is the undisputable leader in Power Management – Medium Voltage, Low Voltage and Secure Power, and in Automation Systems. We provide integrated efficiency solutions, combining energy, automation and software. In our global Ecosystem, we collaborate with the largest Partner, Integrator and Developer Community on our Open Platform to deliver real-time control and operational efficiency. We believe that great people and partners make Schneider a great company and that our commitment to Innovation, Diversity and Sustainability ensures that Life Is On everywhere, for everyone and at every moment.

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