Industry 4.0 – The Future of Mfg. (I)

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Bosch Smart Manufacturing Conclave 2015

Thanks to my company, I had an opportunity to view the future of manufacturing unfold before my eyes at the Bosch Smart Manufacturing Conclave 2015 where they introduced me to a new jargon “Industry 4.0”.

The first & foremost question that comes to mind is, “What exactly is Industry 4.0?”

The word is coined to announce the Fourth Industrial Revolution which tries to connect the Hard Core Manufacturing with the Digital Revolution that has happened over the last two to three decades.

Industry 1.0 – Started in Great Britain – The foundation for 1.0 was laid in the year 1698 with the invention of machines that reduced human efforts. Thomas Savery with his invention of Steam Engine became the driving force behind the rise of mills and factories. Steam power helped in drastically reducing the human effort and at the same time tremendously increasing the production. Major improvements that were made in the areas of:

  • Transition from hand production methods / tools to machines
  • New chemical manufacturing & iron production processes
  • Transition from wood to coal for fuel

Industry 2.0 – A century later, the second industrial revolution took place with advantage of electrical power and moving assembly lines. Henry Ford’s Model T assembly line that used division of labour to the fullest was a major boost to the second industrial revolution. Mass production was the way ahead.

Industry 3.0 – The Third Industrial Revolution, that started around 1970, took advantage of developments in information technology & operations research to transform how we plan, control & automate production. NC & CNC machines; MRP, MRP II & ERP softwares; CAD/CAM/CAE softwares; automated material handling conveyors & robots were the innovations that gave a push to the new industrial age.

Very aptly said, if Industry 1.0 was about mechanizationIndustry 2.0 was about electrification then Industry 3.0 was about digitization.

Industry 4.0 – The Fourth Industrial Revolution takes you further in this journey of Manufacturing excellence. It involves 3 key parts:

  • Internet of Things (IoT) & cyber-physical systems such as sensors & actuators collect live data and combines it with historical data from ERP software, all devices & machines
  • This data is sorted & meaningful insights are drawn from it with help of Big Data & Advanced Analytics
  • Output of this Live Data Analysis is to be used across devices & machines to ensure better decision making & better productivity

In Industry 3.0, ERP systems and machines (like Robots, CNCs, PLCs, etc.) were distributed and separate entities. Industry 4.0 plans to integrate these two different worlds into one.

Just think of a world where machines continuously share information about problems and faults, changes in stock levels and changes in customer orders. Just think of a world wherein machines will identify the areas where maintenance is required, machines will change the cutting parameters and will be self-configured  with aim of improving throughput times, boosting efficiencies, improving quality and utilizing capacity.

The possibilities are unlimited and only those who dream will have an edge…

In the end, I would like to quote Malcolm X – “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today

Consulting, Just another day

Important… But Not Urgent

Though famous, I was completely ignorant of “The Eisenhower Decision Matrix” which is popularized by Stephen Covey in his best-seller “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“. A friend of mine, gave a very beautiful perspective of this matrix to me a few days back, which he in turn had received from his manager. I would like to discuss the same perspective here.


The matrix consists of a square divided into four boxes, or quadrants, and labelled as: 1) Q1 – Urgent & Important, 2) Q2 – Not Urgent But Important, 3) Q3 – Urgent But Not Important, and 4) Q4 – Not Urgent & Not Important

Now we always find time to work on something that is Urgent as well as Important (Q1). And, similarly, whether we have time or not, we need to find time and work for something that is Urgent though Not Important (Q3). Most of the time, we don’t even bother to work on Q4, something that is Not Urgent and Not Important.

What remains, and is sidelined is work that is Important But Not Urgent (Q2). We never find time for it as it is not urgent, and when our boss asks for the same, we don’t have it. But this is the work that is really important and can get you in a soup.

So, takeaway from this article is always make a list of activities that are IMPORTANT but NOT URGENT.


Scientific Exercise

I was sitting on the back seat of a Maruti Suzuki Swift Desire car, looking out of the window at an athlete on a cycle. It was not any ordinary cycle that we used to have twenty years ago. This was a cycle with aerodynamic design, gears, made of lightweight aluminium body with room for a water-bottle and the athlete too was wearing a cycling suit and a cyclist helmet. A thought crossed my mind, at that time. If I am riding a cycle and I ride on a lower gear, there is a sag in the chain, so it is easier for me to rotate the pedal but at the same time the distance travelled by cycle in one revolution of pedal is lesser and to reach a destination I will require higher number of pedal revolutions; but if I go to a higher gear, the sag will reduce and the distance travelled in one pedal revolution will increase, but so will the force required to turn the pedals.
So if I want to reach a certain distance in optimum time, what gear I should ride my cycle on, to travel at minimum energy loss; or suppose I am exercising and I have to burn maximum calories while travelling a distance, again in optimum time, which gear should I drive in.

And then I thought of Fredrick Winslow Taylor and his “Principles of Scientific Management”.

In his book “Shop Management”, (or thesis, you can say) Fredrick Winslow Taylor, also known as  the father of Industrial Engineering presented some path breaking studies, that he had conducted in Bethlehem Steel.

In 1898, around 125 years ago, Frederick Winslow Taylor joined Bethlehem Steel as a management consultant in order to solve an expensive machine shop capacity problem. Taylor and Maunsel White, with a team of assistants, applied a series of management principles established by Taylor and that later would be known as Principles of Scientific Management.
The study was simple, increase production of an activity. Workers had to take iron ore from one location, travel a distance and then throw (place/put) the iron ore from their pot at some second location.
Suppose ‘x’ kg is the optimum weight of iron ore that a person can carry with minimum amount of energy. Say ‘y’ is the number of trips that the person makes, which means the total amount of iron ore transferred is “xy”.
Say ‘z’ is the total optimum energy required to transfer this material.
Now if a person takes more than ‘x’ kg of material in a trip, he will be exhausted more per trip, and even though he may require less than ‘y’ trips the total energy spent is more than ‘z’.
Similarly, if a person takes less than ‘x’ kg of material per trip, the number of trips required to transfer the material are more than ‘y’, and just like the previous case the total energy spent in the process is more than ‘z’.
So the real gist of the consulting assignment was to find the exact weight ‘x’ which will require ‘y’ trips and will require the least amount of energy ‘z’. Pretty straightforward right. Do lots and lots of exercises and get the optimum weight ‘x’.
Now, this exercise that Taylor did made him quite famous, and we think that similar work would have been done in different areas. Well if that is the case, could you answer probably answer my cycling question.

If you just look around you will find many more examples of similar kind, taking us to an important question,



Consulting by “Art of Making Concentric Circles”

A few years back, four to be precise, I had mentioned, in my blog “A Beautiful State“, that I would explain about the art of making Concentric Circles. I just couldn’t find time to explain the concept, and as days passed by, I forgot that I had written something related to this. A few days back, I revisited the blog, and found a thread to which now I have decided to weave around.

During my work years, I have seen, done, talked to, and I am acquainted with  different types of consultants, and the different types & methods by which they consult.

There are Report Making consultants who make big reports and submit them to respective client companies. These clients, most of the times, don’t even gain a dime by such a consulting project. The big report made by the consultants, sits quietly in the cupboards of department responsible for initiating the project.

Then there are some consultants, who have a strategy of linking their payments to the results achieved by the clients. But for such projects, a huge risk is taken by the Consultants (factors for which they have no control over results achieved) as well as the Clients (what is the proof that results were achieved because of consulting done by consultant). Most of the times, they (Consultants & Clients) make a contract of fixed and variable fees with a cap on top & bottom, obviously to minimise the losses for both parties. Such consultants are Result Delivering consultants.

Some consultants, as they progress in the project, advise or consult the client to do some things to improve the client’s performance. When the client complies to the consultant’s request, after analysing the request (obviously) , he gets to see the changes in the way the things are happening, and if positive, starts trusting the consultant. Then you get to see the Result Oriented & Trusted Consultant.

In Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s amazing movie Anand, a Marathi actor Ramesh Deo plays a well written character of Dr. Prakash Kulkarni. Dr. Prakash takes extra money from rich and in turn provides low cost or free service to poor. In that context, there is a rich patient often visits Dr Prakash. He believes that he is terribly ill. Dr. Prakash knows that his illness is a mental one & not a physical one. Still, instead of telling the patient that nothing has happened to him, Dr. Prakash gives some adhoc medicine (with no side effects) to the patient and charges a huge some (only because the amount is vert small for the patient), with a philanthropic view of using the money to treat poor free of cost. Most of the time, even consultants have to treat a problem that does not exist in reality. These consultants then provide solutions to problems, that in first place, are non-existent. They don’t necessarily have a philanthropic view in mind, like Dr. Prakash. Their view of such an assignment is using this easy money to cater the working capital required to run day to day business, so that they can use their efforts & brains to try out newer areas and newer fields of consulting. You can call them Intelligent but Cunning Consultants.

Now, this brings us to the art of making concentric circles.Salil - Bull's Eye

There is a field in Statistics called “Hypothesis Testing”. If there is a hunch that such and such thing happens because of this & this reason, or say Product A is sold more in Region B, then a hypothesis is built based on that hunch. The hunch form the Alternate Hypothesis (H1) whereas whatever that opposes the hunch forms Null Hypothesis (H0). The goal in Hypothesis Testing is to see if there is any sufficient evidence to reject a null hypothesis in favour of alternate hypothesis. In Hypothesis Testing, nothing is done to the Alternate Hypothesis; data is gathered and conclusion is made based on whether or not we can reject the Null Hypothesis.

So, as Sherlock will say, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”; when we have rejected the Null Hypothesis, what remains, i.e. Alternate Hypothesis is the truth. These are the guidelines that should be used while performing Hypothesis Testing.

What actually happens, with some consultants, is quite different than what is expected. Their hunch should form an Alternate Hypothesis & whatever opposes their hunch should form Null Hypothesis; and they should gather data so that they can reject  the null hypothesis. Instead, they gather data only to prove that their hunch, the alternate hypothesis is true. And once they find some evidence for their hunch, they don’t look for any contradictory evidence. It can be the case that the contradictory evidence might also be true. But they don’t go that far.

Accepting the Alternate Hypothesis is easy for them, rejecting the Null is not.

So what they do is, with Alternate hypothesis in mind, they only gather data to prove Alternate Hypothesis is true. Its like first hitting an arrow on a wall; and then drawing the Bull’s eye i.e. Concentric Circles around it.

This is what we call as Consulting based on Art of Making Concentric Circles. This is an elementary mistake & one that hurts client the most.