During the pandemic, the mass adoption of working from home, online shopping, food delivery and virtual events has caused discussion around the evolution of the manufacturing industry and, specifically, Industry 5.0.
By Mark Wheeler, director of supply chain solutions at Zebra Technologies
Many are wondering what this next step will entail and if we are even ready to take it. Right now, it seems difficult to get a straight answer as industry actors have different responses and visions. The issue goes beyond technology, as leadership is a key component in the success of the transition.
Industry 5.0, a developing concept
What is Industry 5.0 exactly? There currently isn’t a consensus, which leads to confusion and disagreement. The European Commission states the main goals of Industry 5.0 are sustainability, human-centricity and resiliency, highlighting that “Industry 5.0 provides a vision of industry that aims beyond efficiency and productivity as the sole goals, and reinforces the role and the contribution of industry to society.”
However, professors such as Saeid Nahavandi, director for intelligent systems research and innovation at Deakin University in Australia, believes Industry 5.0 will bring human workers back to the factory floor.
Industry 5.0 is often represented as a new era or a revolution, but industrial revolutions have never started and ended on a specific date.
Instead of viewing them as separate entities, the flow between Industry 4.0 and 5.0 should be natural and unforced.
Furthermore, with the goals and values of Industry 5.0 not yet clearly established, the industry should primarily focus on reaching the full potential of Industry 4.0, which has not yet been realised.
Still a long way to go toward Industry 4.0
Having the physical world fully replicated in the digital environment is one of the main ambitions of Industry 4.0. However, many companies and businesses are far from achieving this.
The global digital twin market was valued at $3,8-billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $35,8-billion by 2025.
According to Gartner’s Survey Analysis: IoT Digital Twin Adoption Proliferates Across Many Sourcing Options (Refreshed January 2021), digital twin adoption is becoming synonymous with Internet of Things (IoT) adoption — 26% percent of respondents claim to have already implemented digital twins, and 59% of respondents are either implementing or planning to implement digital twins in the next year.
These results emphasise that although digital twins are still in the early stages of adoption, enterprises have widely started to adopt them for outcomes such as asset maintenance optimisation or product differentiation.
Most manufacturers agree the intelligence and visibility gained using cyber-physical systems improves decision-making across the board. One of the reasons many haven’t achieved this is because it isn’t easy to create a full digital twin.
The inherent complexity of the environment makes it difficult to model and control. How do you duplicate something constantly changing and evolving? Having standards and inoperability is one solution that facilitates the process, as it reduces cost and complexity by providing an easy-to-follow roadmap.
While there are challenges involved in realising a connected cyber-physical system, there are ways to represent the physical world in the digital world.
Early on in the cyber-physical process, you need full visibility over your assets. Determining what your assets are and knowing where they are in real time helps prevent asset loss and misplacement, which are two factors that can affect continuity and utilisation.
Once this step is complete, you can go up a level in the informational ladder to determine the condition of your assets.
Having data on the whereabouts of assets is valuable but often insufficient. This data also needs to be leveraged in real time with technologies such as temperature sensors, machine vision and radio frequency identification (RFID) to fully understand asset status. For example, knowing Product A was not kept within the correct temperature zone or Device A is low on battery power can streamline decision making and save time.
From technology to leadership
Every manufacturer is on board with the concept that mass customisation presents immense business value as it reduces cost and waste.
However, it requires accurate information regarding demand and must be balanced against supplier certainty. The operation-specific dynamic of Industry 4.0 arises when you drill down to what you should spend money on to achieve mass customisation, as everyone has a different answer. In addition, terms such as “mass customisation” and even “digitalisation” are relatively vague terms.
As mentioned before, operational digitalisation previously only entailed asset locationing, whereas now it can denote location and condition.
Moving toward mass digitalisation sounds great in theory, right? Being able to have visibility over processes, work cells and the factory offers an enormous amount of operational intelligence.
But this transition isn’t free and requires resources and alignment across functions. There is a need to find high-value pressure points where you can implement these ready-to-go technologies in a way that drives operational value quickly.
The problem isn’t technology — new technologies such as connectivity between Wi-Fi 6 and 5G and low-cost active sensors symbolise major steps forward for the industry.
Rather, it’s a leadership challenge. The information technology (IT) world and operational technology (OT) world each have their own technologies, goals, budgets and skills, so creating a solution that provides value for everyone remains challenging. In other words, the main obstacle is finding innovation that stretches across multiple departments.
It’s hard to start talking about moving on to the next generation of industry practices when the challenges of the previous one still haven’t been ironed out. Rest assured there is no rush to jump into Industry 5.0 – companies can adopt and embrace it when they are ready.
Most have their hands full addressing the leadership and solution issues associated with Industry 4.0. Leveraging this initiative first can increase visibility and responsiveness with cyber-physical systems, allowing you to better focus on evolving into the next phase when the time is right.