Factories of the future.

Industry 4.0 – or the fourth industrial revolution – promises to change manufacturing, supply chain and operations beyond recognition. It will drive deep changes in all functions and divisions of the “industrial enterprise”. 


Technology is driving the change to Industry 4.0. Innovations such as the Internet of Things, robotics, cyber-physical systems (CPS), augmented reality, 3D printing, enhanced automation, connected fabrication, products and people, are all playing a part in this transformation. They are creating a gargantuan mesh of connected devices and sensors that will change manufacturing forever.

“Industry 4.0 encompasses many technologies and business designs, including the Internet of Things and digital business, but is not synonymous with, or a replacement for, any one specific technology,” says Steve Prentice, research vice president, Gartner. 

In reality Industry 4.0 is about more than technology, because there is a new way of thinking that is firing this revolution. Industry 4.0 is driving digital value chains, thus creating more agile and market focused competencies, according to Gartner.

“There is synergy between industrial IoT and Industry 4.0, and in fact the concepts are now converging,” explains Rabi Kobeissi, IoT business development manager at Orange Business. “We are seeing data being used inside the factory by various departments and outside the factory, by suppliers, partners and customers, in different ways and with much greater collaboration throughout the supply chain,” adds Kobeissi.  

More efficient supply chains

Through Industry 4.0, organizations will be able to far more efficiently manage their own internal as well as vendor and supplier relationships. The enterprises will first be able to understand better how they use their own assets, be it people or machines.

They can then improve the management of their workforce by providing them with the right digital devices and applications, and increase productivity by planning preventive maintenance to avoid the stop of production due to machine downtime, while avoiding unnecessary calendar-based interventions.

R&D will benefit from live learning feeds from the product utilization, and design to production cycles will be shortened with the possibility to reset a production line automatically and faster.  Furthermore, production lines will be able to respond rapidly to unexpected events in the supply chain, such as an upsurge in demand because of unseasonable weather, thanks to a stronger connection between commercial departments and production.

Organizations, however, will need to be ready to use data in predictive ways that can help them understand market developments and customer behavior. Within five years, advanced implementation of Industry 4.0 will become a ‘qualifier to compete’ and could well be seen as a ‘qualifier for funding’ by investors, according to consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). It predicts that companies who don’t move forward with Industry 4.0 will find it hard to retain market share and will face higher capital funding requirements.

Getting started on your industry 4.0 program

PwC advises companies to evaluate their digital maturity and set clear targets for the next five years. “Your Industry 4.0 strategy will shape every further step you take on the path towards becoming a fully digital enterprise, so it’s important to take the time to define your vision clearly,” it says in a recent report.

Gartner suggests that organizations define strategic goals, which are tailored to their individual requirements and competencies to create a competitive edge. With a robust Industry 4.0 strategy, organizations can start to streamline processes between various departments such as manufacturing, logistics and customer support, using the connected power of IoT.

Kobeissi believes that “moving from mass production of serial items to mass production of fully personalized items” will be one of the longer-term outcomes of digitally-engaged manufacturers, but not where it will begin from. It is easier for companies to start with the “pain points” and implement transformation from there, as the transformation experience will be a long one. “A factory may spend three days sending data manually. Going to zero paper can dramatically cut this or putting the right tags and sensors on components can streamline tracking. These steps will help to reach the key short term goal – reducing costs and improving productivity. We have implemented this for customers like Fondasol, a geo-technical engineering company for oil and gas, and for one of the leading manufacturers in the glass industry” he says.

People power

The transition to Industry 4.0 will bring with it enormous levels of change and new skills, which will affect practically every department and process. Change management is central to any Industry 4.0 strategy. People will not be replaced by Industry 4.0; rather their roles will be redefined in some areas. People are necessary to design systems and operate and maintain new technologies.

“People are central to the success of Industry 4.0. To make it work, the workforce needs educating, the transition needs explaining and people need reassuring. Some roles may disappear, but others will appear,” explains Kobeissi.

PwC’s research shows that while investing in the right technologies is key, ultimate success or failure of Industry 4.0 “depends not on specific sensors, algorithms or analytics programs, but on a broad range of people-focused factors.”

Ready for tomorrow

Industry 4.0 isn’t a futuristic image of the smart factory; it is here now. This transformation will not happen overnight, but to benefit from its increased revenues, cost reduction and service/product innovation down the road, you need to plan for success carefully.

“We have witnessed cases where some industrials first started to enable their products digitally,” Kobeissi says. This is the case of Sensile Technologies that decided to monitor oil and gas tanks remotely, using Orange’s global IoT connectivity with already 25,000 smart assets operating worldwide.

Security has raised a red flag amongst some. “Today, many industrial systems simply do not have adequate security in place,” says Dr. Richard Soley, Executive Director, IIC. “The level of security found in the consumer Internet just won't do for the Industrial Internet. To add security to an industrial system, you must make sure it won’t interfere with safety and reliability requirements.””

 “Security is, of course, a mandatory requirement for industrials, but should not be a concern that prevents them from starting. IT industry has cumulated sufficient experience in Cybersecurity - e.g. securing sensitive military data, financial transactions as well as manufacturing data - and is continuously reinforcing the norms with regards to IoT ” Kobeissi adds.

Ultimately, Industry 4.0 will provide a secure, scalable infrastructure for digital industrial processes to operate in real-time, driving innovation. It will allow enterprises to make some processes autonomous and provide real visibility into operations at the device level. Data collected will enable predictive analysis to be carried out to identify trends and help in decision-making processes.

“The impact of digital on operations, then products and finally innovative new business models and services that are information based, are finally allowing industrials to learn how to productize and monetize their data,” adds Kobeissi.

Read more about how Orange Business is connecting smart objects to business applications here, and discover how Industry 4.0 is meeting market demands here.