INDUSTRY 4.0: IMPLICATIONS AND APPLICATIONS

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In the present industrial environment that is buzzing with the concept of Industry 4.0 and how it can become an integral component of the production and business plan, Dayanand Dalvi, Managing Director, Prologic Mechatronics (P) Ltd., tells Huned Contractor of its pros and cons

In 2015 I had an opportunity to attend and present the success story of a company that was able to claim that ‘Make in India’ is definitely a possibility. The fact that today products manufactured here are meeting the most stringent global standards and that we are able to export such products to developed countries with the ‘Made in India’ tag speaks volumes about our capabilities. That was the first time many of us heard about the new concept of Industry 4.0. As we learn more about the applications of Industry 4.0, one thing I can say is that this fourth industrial revolution, in comparison with the earlier ones, is an extension of internet-based technology as applied to our manufacturing setups. As such, there is no need to discard our existing infrastructure and make totally fresh investments to be able to comply with the standards laid down by Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 is all about optimization of smart, flexible supply chains, factories and distribution models where machines capture and convey more data via machine-to-machine communications and to human operators. All this aims at enabling businesses to make quicker and smarter decisions while minimising costs. One can recount here the story of the Indian automotive manufacturing companies which made heavy investments during the period of 2006 to 2012. While this was being done, many of them partially or completely missed the fact that the requirement was actually for shorter PLM cycles and subsequently flexible manufacturing setups to cater to the fluctuating demands from customers, especially the middle class segment of buyers who were undergoing a positive financial transition, leading to more buying power.

Considering the above facts we need to understand our strengths and weaknesses and accordingly choose the right kind of investments for implementing Industry 4.0. The first and foremost important aspect is awareness. The right step is being taken by many large organisations that have been hosting seminars on Industry 4.0 so that clear-cut and relevant information percolates down to all those engaged in manufacturing activities. Some of the recent seminars that I attended on this topic included those organised by companies like Rockwell and Siemens as well as the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

A common point to note in Industry 4.0 is that it starts with the connectivity of the various elements in the manufacturing chain, beginning with decision-making at various stages as well as collecting relevant data so that channels can be established for product to machine to human communication. This is what helps to improve the automation level, bringing into place a tracking system that envelops both the pre and post processes of production. For instance, existing manufacturing systems that engage power and friction free conveyors, floor conveyors, etc. can be easily upgraded by adopting RFID or similar technology so that a bottom layer of communication is initially established. Once this is done, the system can be used for any type of tracking analysis besides automation of the system.

Smart sensor technology calls for new investments and quantifying it will be very difficult but if we network all the VFD devices along with the PLC inputs and outputs, there is a good amount of connectivity that can be obtained for our needs. Therefore, to reiterate, there is no need for a complete transformation of the existing plant to a smart network. The first stage should be the implementation of networking all the control levels without replacing the existing hardware. The challenge lies in the complicated nature of business today that demands multi-location connectivity across the country, and perhaps the globe. We are forced to match our internal IT infrastructure with that of other players. Unfortunately, our network readiness in India is still poor and in the Network Readiness Index, India stands at 91 out of 136 countries. This implies that we have a long way to go for cloud analysis and IOT for each and every aspect of Industry 4.0

Another aspect that is brought into play when we talk of Industry 4.0 is the use of robotics. Whether this will replace human labour is an issue that needs to be studied seriously. The situation in India is different than those of many developed countries. For instance, the population in Germany is ageing with the median age at 46 years. The ageing population alone is expected to create a shortage of 1.8 million workers by 2020. Long-term prospects also look dim as the number of people aged 20-65 is expected to shrink by 7% by the year 2030. Meanwhile, India will have the largest number of people in the working age group of 15-59 years; half of India’s population is already below 25 years of age. From 2010 to 2030, India’s total working-age population is poised to rise from 749 million to 962 million, accounting for about 28% of the increase in the world’s total working-age population over the period. Therefore, we need to ascertain our needs and carefully choose the implementation targets when it comes to Industry 4.0.

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