The world as we know and experience it today has been shaped by three major technological revolutions. We now stand on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution; one which promises to integrate the worlds of production and network connectivity in an Inter-net of Things which makes Industrie 4.0 a reality. The term Future of Manufacturing (FOM) has frequently been equated with the vision of Industrie 4.0.
The potential of technology in manufacturing is certainly very high. The automotive industry in India has been one of the quickest industries to realise this. The influx of technology and increasing awareness have paved the way for automation to gain prominence in manufacturing industries. Businesses today are increasingly realising that with automation they can produce better quality products sustainably and efficiently. The concept of autonomous production will substantially raise the techno-logical complexity of the value-adding proce-sses. Mastering this degree of complexity calls for suitable software tools to design and construct the relevant plants and systems. It is urgent that these be developed and launched over the coming years.
Industrie 4.0 will also result in new ways of creating value and novel business models. In particular,it will provide start-ups and small businesses with the opportunity to develop and provide downstream services. Flexible value chains will transcend departmental, business and company boundaries. As a result, SMEs can become temporary production networks with precisely calculated value added contributions.
Continuous networking, of course, presents a challenge for security technology, but Industrie 4.0 allows client series and personalised products to be produced at unit costs previously only possible in mass production. SMEs often produce highly innovative products for the rest of the world. New market segments will open up for these companies domestically and internationally with Industrie 4.0.
Moreover, SMEs in particular stand to benefit from the standardised networking of their own production resources as many still work with proprietary systems. This will allow SMEs to drastically reduce production management efforts and respond much faster to market requirements.
In another 15-20 years, we can visualise Industrie 4.0, the optimisation of production through cyber-physical systems, evolving. Future of Manufacturing combines the virtual and real world to get a holistic view of the complete value chain. This is done by combining high-performance software with state-of-the-art hardware and digitising product development and production. Systems like the Siemens’ Digital Enterprise Platform (DEP) have all the necessary information for every step of production—a result of cyber-physical systems. Such a system ensures an optimised organisation of networked production facilities, taking into account the entire value chain.
Technological advancement has opened up an opportunity for SMEs to level the playing field and compete with larger players. The need of the hour is for SMEs to take the lead in adopting technology and make it an integral part of their strategies. Those that are successful in understanding the power of technology and harnessing it across their businesses will lead the new wave of growth.
The author is executive VP and head, Digital Factory, Siemens India