Technology has played a major role in advancing most areas of our everyday lives – but it can also have a significant effect in the world of industry.
In fact, if harnessed correctly, the industrial sector is poised to benefit hugely by improving efficiency, productivity and a reduction in operational costs with Industry 4.0. By 2020, Industry 4.0 is expected to bring an average cost reduction of 3,6% per annum across process industries globally, totaling $421-billion.
But is Industry 4.0 just another catch-phrase and techno hype or is it really a game changer to future-proofing business?
Disruption for a productive future
Says Matthew Lee, regional manager for SUSE Africa: “It is estimated that Industry 4.0 could add $14.2 trillion to the global economy by 2030 and while certainly there is some hype around it, like any new concept, if business is able to harness technology and use the data being generated more effectively and turn it into actionable business models – it is definitely a game changer.”
Dr Renier Dreyer, CEO of CrunchYard agrees, but cautions that businesses should not look at Industry 4.0 as a single technology, but rather as a practice of how cyber physical systems are utilised to do things better, to create new things, push boundaries and look at better solutions that provide a truly productive future.
“There are nine technologies that are transforming business and are having a profound impact on the complexity of systems,” says Dreyer. “We are seeing quite a few organisations dabbling or focusing on one or two technologies, but as some point all nine need to come together if we are to truly realise the benefits that Industry 4.0 promises.
Some industries are already looking at this integration to truly capture intellectual property, recognise problems before they arise and improve quality to of life – however, the majority of businesses are still cautious.
Adds Dreyer: “Amongst the myriad of normal business challenges, businesses are also facing disruption and adapting is critical to master if they want to stay relevant. However, legacy models make them cautious. In fact, those industries that should be spearheading Industry 4.0 (such as mining and manufacturing) are struggling to rise above traditional business practice. What’s more, their labour force is shrinking and they are operationally not managing profits.”
Contrary to believe, this does not demand a complete re-haul and change in current business models – rather it’s about keeping the practices that work and looking at how it can be down better, how aspects can be optimised and where new business models can be introduced. And this is where data becomes so important.
It’s all about the data
“Data is at the heart of Industry 4.0,” adds Lee. “In 2015 only 50% were making data-driven decision, however this figure is expected to reach 83% by 2020. If you think about the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial IoT, every physical component is becoming smart, which, if tied back to the growing complexity of software means you can learn and make better decisions across industries – if the data is captured, analyzed and utilised correctly. Companies today are drowning in data and as more systems come online, data is only set to increase. And this is where the right technology comes in from an Industry 4.0 perspective.”
As data is generated, cloud computing is required to process and analyse it. Data analytics then reduces this data and machine learning turns the data in statistical models to capture behaviour which can be measured against predictive simulation and past evidence. Those results can be used for decision making – making data actionable.
“Again, it comes back to bringing all the components of Industry 4.0 together and not only focusing on one technology. In Africa we need to shift our mindset as we are lagging, but all the components are there, we just need to tie them together. And there is no way to prepare other than to dive in. The tools are there – just look at Matlab that makes Industry 4.0 possible – we just need to choose a small test case, play, learn and learn from others and build from there,” says Dreyer.
“Hyper-performance computing, cloud, big data, machine learning and complex software are driving the businesses of the future – all pointing to adaptability to a changing environment. And Africa has the ability to leapfrog – we just need to embrace digital transformation and find partners that are able to help navigate the waters. In fact, we are doing just this with the HPC partnership with CrunchYard, SUSE and Microsoft Azure to take this approach to the market to not only realise Industry 4.0, but an Africa 4.0,” concludes Lee.