Industry 4.0 Success Requires Collaboration

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Industry 4.0 requires collaborating across value chains and supply chains, as well as with manufacturers and operational technology companies.

How ready are we for Industry 4.0? The technology – edge devices, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence – is ready. The market – networks of producers, suppliers, distributors, and retailers – is ready. But for today’s manufacturers, well, it’s complicated. There are formidable foundational issues and a need for collaboration across various ecosystems.

That’s the word from Manish Chawla, general manager, of global energy, resources, and manufacturing at IBM, who discussed the state of edge and IoT in an interview with The Cube. “One key barrier is a recognition that most of our plants or manufacturing facilities or supply chains run in a brownfield manner,” he says. “There are so many machines so many facilities that have been built over decades. There’s a proliferation of different ages of devices and machines.”

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Attempting to do too many edge projects at once — due to the growing assortment of demands — also hamstrings efforts to materialize Industry 4.0. “Another key barrier is making sure you have a key core objective, and not making too many different varied experimentation beds,” says Chawla. There are also cybersecurity concerns that need to be addressed as corporate data moves across ever-expanding networks. “The more you connect, the more you increase the attack surface. Modernizing the foundation and making sure you’re doing it in a secure are key concerns that executives have.”

What’s ahead in the manufacturing world? Achieving greater resiliency needs to a top priority, says Chawla. “The pandemic has taught us that resilience is a core objective. The second objective is out-performance. It’s about sustainability. It’s about efficiency. It’s about productivity. It’s about delivering a much stronger customer experience — making your products easier to use much easily consumable. When you pull it all together, it’s about using data to drive those objectives.”

This data is being employed to move forward across two technology fronts. One is to build up an architectural foundation to support differentiating technologies such as artificial intelligence. At the same time, Chawla says, this requires bringing cloud-like technologies to the edge or to the plant or to the device itself.”

Of course, no enterprise needs to go it alone. Above all, Industry 4.0 is a collaborative effort — both within and outside the walls of enterprises. “We have ecosystems coming together — a collaboration between manufacturers, between operational technology companies like Siemens, ABB, and Schlumberger,” says Chawla. Another part of this collaboration is “looking at it from a supply chain or a value chain perspective.” Successfully evolving Industry 4.0 means “collaborating across value chains and supply chains, as well as with manufacturers and OT, operational technology companies.”

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About Joe McKendrick

Joe McKendrick is RTInsights Industry Editor. He is a regular contributor to Forbes on digital, cloud and Big Data topics. He served on the organizing committee for the recent IEEE International Conference on Edge Computing (full bio). Follow him on Twitter @joemckendrick.

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