Since the term Industry 4.0 was coined in 2011, companies have been rushing to transform their organisations and get them ready for the next industrial revolution. We certainly see the movement gaining momentum, but the progress is very slow. A key reason for this is that organisations simply don’t know what their business needs and are buying I40 technology without considering its ROI first.
In the manufacturing industry we’re taking on a very pragmatic approach towards industry 4.0: only if the introduction of new technologies provides real business value should an organisation consider adopting them. What we see from our clients is a strong interest in these new technologies but a lack in education how Industry 4.0 impacts their specific business model and which technologies provide the best RoI. Consequently, they may be interested in technology that might not contribute to their existing goals and hinder progress rather than accelerate it.
Let’s look at oil production, for example. Calculating the oilfield's span and also the yield it will provide over a period of time is critical for strategic decisions. It doesn't make business sense to invest in creating a completely new well without the right information available, but rather to optimise its production. Upgrading oil and gas wells with the right kind of technology, such as remote monitoring and real-time data acquisition, will provide much better value to the business and aid the decision-making process. How does the industry find out what the right technology is though? Organisations need to look at the adjustments they've already made and determine, step-by-step, what areas hold the biggest potential for improvement. Companies shouldn't just buy the latest technology for the sake of it. Instead, they should implement technology that contributes most to their existing investments and provides the biggest RoI overall.
The key takeaway here is: to build a working strategy for Industry 4.0, you need to look at your baseline. You need to know what you have in order to determine what you need. The first step in establishing the baseline is an assessment.
This is why we partnered with the German Academy of Science and Engineering acatech and the RWTH Aachen in 2015 to develop the acatech Industrie 4.0 Maturity Index. Our goal was to build a solid standard for I40 that works for companies and organisations worldwide. The result is a systematic 6-step approach for the Industry 4.0 journey that includes best practices for all possible aspects – data analytics, automation, platform development and many more.
The purpose of this index is to help businesses truly understand where they are on their journey towards Industry 4.0. This serves as the foundation that we at Infosys use to work with our customer and identify areas that Industry 4.0 could potentially help improve. The next step is for us to dig deep through the entire technology stack and ecosystem of the company and find the golden nugget - the I40 approach that fits specifically to each organisation and provides the best ROI. This whole process is not a matter of months, but only takes a few weeks to complete.
Another crucial step is education. We’re passionate about training and helping employees gain critical skills for the future. At Infosys, we believe that the introduction of a new technology must be accompanied by transparency and training to show employees what this new technology can do and how they can profit from learning how to use it. If the introduction of smart technology is to add real value to a business, then organisations need to help their employees trust the new systems – especially if this means they should follow machine-made decisions.
Taking all this into account, it becomes clear that adopting I40 shouldn't be rushed. It is important to consider all aspects and particularly the ROI before introducing new technologies. The acatech Industrie 4.0 Maturity Index should help companies identify where they stand, create a unique strategy for success and ensure that the entire organisation is included in the progress to make the adoption of new technologies a success.
Sudip Singh is Senior Vice President and Global Head of Engineering Services at Infosys.