Through Industry 4.0 (I4.0) technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), additive manufacturing and more, manufacturing companies have the potential to be more innovative, efficient, productive and sustainable.
McKinsey’s 2018 Industry 4.0: Reinvigorating ASEAN Manufacturing for the Future report estimates that manufacturers in ASEAN could achieve productivity gains worth US$216 billion to US$627 billion (~S$ 294 billion to S$853 billion) upon implementing I4.0 technologies strategically.
Standards can help companies kick start their I4.0 journey and address the challenges when using I4.0 technologies. This is especially crucial for SMEs with their limited manpower and financial resources.
During the recent Standards Forum at the Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific (ITAP) 2019, subject matter experts and industry leaders discussed how companies can accelerate and extract more value out of their I4.0 journey by adopting standards in areas such as connectivity and cybersecurity, and by reviewing their manufacturing processes and operations.
Setting a Strong Foundation Through Connectivity
The Manufacturing Transformation Insights Report 2019 by the Singapore Economic Development Board highlights that companies leading in their I4.0 journeys have prioritised the need to build connectivity amongst their digitised processes. This enables their existing factory ecosystem to exchange data effectively with any newly-added solutions.
Without an open connectivity platform, companies often had to incur additional costs to engage vendors in developing customised and propriety platforms, so that their existing factory ecosystem could be integrated with new solutions. This also impeded the collection of data for efficient decision making.
To help address the challenge of connectivity, Mr Tay Jih Hsin, Deputy Chairman of Singapore Standards Council (SSC), announced that the SSC has adopted the IEC 62541 series, or commonly known as the Open Platform Communications - Unified Architecture (OPC-UA) for communication between machines, systems and infrastructure in a digital factory as a national standard. Mr Tay added: “These widely used international standards will help companies specify the connectivity requirements as part of their tender specifications for I4.0 solutions.”
Companies can also plan ahead for the future phases of their business operations when they adopt such widely-used standards. Explaining how, Mr Sam Chee Wah, General Manager of Feinmetall Singapore said: “You can future-proof your existing equipment with whatever equipment you want to purchase in the future by specifying upfront the various connectivity standards.”
Bringing out how planning for connectivity advanced his business processes, Mr Sam talked about how Feinmetall Singapore successfully incorporated various advanced manufacturing technologies over the years by simplifying and standardising its processes. This allowed the different technologies in his company’s ecosystem to transfer data seamlessly with one another, leading to improved capabilities and continual productivity.
Through early and continual implementation of connectivity standards, companies can ensure that their machines will be able to interface with one another during different I4.0 implementation phases, and seamlessly accelerate their capacities and productivity over time.
Cybersecurity for IoT
With many digital factories rapidly adopting IoT – a system of internet-connected objects – enterprises will increasingly be able to remotely control manufacturing operations to improve their overall productivity. However, this increase in internet-connected objects also means that more assets within digital factories will be at risk of being hacked.
According to The Internet of Things Security Landscape, a 2019 study developed by TNO, one of the biggest risks that companies face is that critical business infrastructure and assets can be threatened by cyber-attacks launched from insecure IoT devices. Ms Simin Zhou, vice president and managing director of UL Ventures, added that these insecure IoT devices also made it vulnerable for data of the individual, factory or company to be stolen, and even result in monetary loss as shown in many high profile cyberattack incidents.
Hence, although IoT brings huge productivity gains, there is a pressing need to improve cybersecurity. Standardisation provides a public-private partnership, consensus-based platform to develop cybersecurity solutions that can be accepted by all. Underwriter Laboratories developed the UL 2900 Series of Standards for Software Cybersecurity for Network-Connectable Products with international communities, to facilitate a more secure IoT ecosystem worldwide.
Recognising the need for cyber-security from a Cyber Physical Production System perspective, Toshiba Digital Solutions incorporated multilayer security protection when developing their suite of smart manufacturing IoT solutions. Toshiba’s Corporate Vice President Chief Digital Officer, Mr Taro Shimada, added that these comprehensive and secure IoT solutions enabled their client, DENSO, a leading supplier of advanced automotive technology, systems and components, to improve its productivity by 30 percent for 60 countries in 130 factories worldwide, while ensuring cyber-security.
Planning for Success
McKinsey’s report reveals that almost 100% of the manufacturers interviewed acknowledge that I4.0 technologies can bring new business models and provide a clear opportunity to improve productivity. Yet, more than half of these companies have not begun their I4.0 journey.
Some of the barriers to implement digital factories include insufficient experience with various I4.0 technology, lack of data to provide precise assessments of the economic potential, shortage of digital talents and limited understanding of how to align company incentives with new processes. To tackle these issues, companies need to establish a clear vision of how selected I4.0 solutions can fit well with their overall strategy, operational goals and existing technological ecosystem. In addition, companies need to have a realistic roadmap outlining how to implement their selected I4.0 solutions.
To gain a clear vision and a realistic roadmap, companies should first focus on reviewing and streamlining their entire manufacturing processes and operations. Mr Brandon Lee, Director of Product Strategy and Commercialisation at Intech APAC, suggested that companies can use the acronym FRESH to guide them:
By thoroughly reviewing their manufacturing processes and operations through the above FRESH framework, companies can better understand their current strengths, limitations, employee capabilities and focus on potential areas that can deliver significant impact. Following that, they can use management principles to develop key performance indicators and identify new capabilities and incentives that need to be developed to enable improvement.
After completing this review process, companies will be able to better define their digital transformation roadmap, understand the assets they want to make smart and the kind of intelligence they want to create. With a clear vision and roadmap, they can then work with a vendor to implement customised I4.0 solutions, alongside suitable standards. In doing so, the opportunities for business improvements will be tremendous.
To learn more about how standards can help you in your I4.0 journey, check out the Standards for Industry 4.0 tool.
Check out what went on at the Standards Forum here.