What will it take to be Smart Industry ready?

“Process, technology and people are key ingredients for Smart Manufacturing transformation. Well-defined processes are essential and workers must be agile and dynamic. Technology also needs to be interoperable and modular to avoid vendor and technology lock in.”

 Dr. Andreas Hauser

Director of Digital Service, TÜV SÜD

Embracing advanced manufacturing - From ideation to implementation

After industry automation (3rd industrial revolution), innovative technologies, such as smart robots, machine learning, additive manufacturing and Internet of Things (IoT), platforms are now ready for deployment in the industrial space and have initiated the 4th industrial revolution, where physical and digital production means are converging towards cyber-physical systems.

Germany, one of the leading countries driving this global development, coined the term Industrie 4.0 whereas other initiatives such as Japan’s Society 5.0, and China’s Made in China 2025 and US centric Industrial IoT are heading in the same direction.  Many countries are looking to follow suit.

While many businesses recognise the immense opportunities of integrated and intelligent processes and systems, to achieve better quality, higher efficiency and increased speed to market and more flexible production system, these same businesses are unsure of when, where or how to start this transition.

Collaboration Between Key Players

To address these challenges, Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) partnered with TÜV SÜD to develop a transformation framework called Smart Industry Readiness Index (download brochure here). The index is intended to help the country systematically evaluate existing manufacturing facilities, support companies in their transformation journey and then drive the industry-wide revolution.

The Index is a practical tool that companies can refer to, that will help companies determine how to begin, scale and sustain their smart manufacturing transformation journey.

To bring industry stakeholders together, TÜV SÜD organised the “Smart Nation in Singapore: Inspiring Trust in a Changing World” Event in October this year. One of the focus topics was on Smart Manufacturing, featuring a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Andreas Hauser, Director of the Digital Service Centre of Excellence, TÜV SÜD, with expert opinions from Tom Madilao of Chevron Oronite, Dr. Gunther Kegel, CEO of Pepperl+Fuchs, Yeoh Pit Wee, Director of Operations for Asia Pacific, Rockwell Automation and Professor David Rosen, Research Director, Digital Manufacturing & Design Centre, from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

Together the panel discussed the creation of a roadmap, from ideation to implementation, for those looking to move their businesses into the digital domain.

Thinking Differently: New Skillsets, New Frameworks 

Emergence of new skillset

One of the biggest discussions around smart initiative implementation is the types of new skillsets and technologies that labour force will need to be equipped with. Tom spoke of moving towards a fully wireless plant operating system. With only manual processes, manufacturers lack control over access to different areas in their plant and so often compromise on safety standards. But with a wireless smart device, businesses have greater control over where and how their employees move around the plant. This then throws up the question of how employees would operate within a more digitised and integrated work place. “What is the future operator going to look like?” asks Madilao. With new technologies, capabilities and tools in place, how can we prepare operators and what will their job scopes be like?

“I am looking into the application of a ‘mobile worker’, for example,” says Madilao. “This is having a tablet at the fingertips of the operator going around in the plant, so that he or she can take a look at what’s happening at their fingertips.”

Creating a new business model

For Dr. Kegel, Industrie 4.0 is an enabling technology that helps businesses enter the next quality of business applications. The new business model is one that fully adopts automation, but for Dr. Kegel it is also about ensuring full traceability from customer order to delivery. Pepperl+Fuchs extrapolated that “the cost of manual labour will go up whereas the cost of automation will go down.”

“The buzzword [now] is of course transparency, traceability,” says Dr. Kegel. “All this additional information that you need to have for your customer… So, our customers will call us and at the push of a button, they need to know where the delivery is, whether it is still in our warehouse, whether it is on the flight, or it has been received already. You can’t do this in a manual warehouse. You need to fully automate this for a complete traceability of products.”

"Think big, start small, move fast" framework

For many businesses, all these solutions – from wireless connectivity to automation – might be too big and overwhelming for them to even consider. But for Yeoh, businesses should consider this framework: “Think big”, “start small” and “move fast”. To “think big” is a multi-disciplinary approach – to look beyond the areas of your own specialisation, says Yeoh. “You have to think cross-functionally when you come to implementation. You cannot function based on your functional excellence,” he says. “Now most of us are very good in functional excellence, that means the specialisation. That brings about functional silos, where we are only deep within our area, whereas when we come to the multi-disciplinary or cross-functional, we struggle.”

But it doesn’t mean businesses should go large in investment. “Start small” says Yeoh. “We have to balance all the needs between our reality and the transformation. We still have to make enough money to pay for the stakeholders, shareholders, suppliers... So, start small, identify where are the costs drivers in the plant. Where are the pain points? Where are the opportunities?” Then it’s time to “move fast”.

“Once proof of concept is done, move on,” says Yeoh. “Don’t talk about 18 or 24 months. In the technology world where things change so fast, you have to talk about three or six months. Once you prove [concept], launch it, make some money, re-invest into another project. Once you do that, there’s no one layer or one investment that is going to turn around the whole thing. It is a journey, so you have to invest, prove it, move fast. After you do multiple success stories, then you will see the power of transformation.”

Smart choices for real business value 

Venturing into trending technologies must not just be innovation for the sake of it. These decisions must make real business sense, must be value drivers and must be enablers for all stakeholders – from investors to employees to customers.

The Smart Industry Readiness Index serves as a guide for companies looking to start on their digital transformation. With such a framework in place, the future of smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0 will seem less like a distant vision and more like an imminent reality with tangible next steps.

While many fear that digitalisation and automation will kill jobs, there is merit in knowing that the introduction of smart technologies will reveal talent gaps in many other areas, from operations to analytics to technological development. For full realisation of the smart nation dream, investment in talent and skills upgrades are as important as the implementation of technology.

today to realise your Smart Manufacturing transformation.


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