By Vinay Konanur, Assistant Director at UNext Learning
From mechanization, it is astonishing to realize how far we have come as a society. The modern-day factories and manufacturing units are nothing less than revolutionary as some of the most advanced systems and equipment operate here – autonomously.
Yes, they did so earlier as well but this, they call it Industry 4.0 – where physical and metaphysical realms come together. Humans have taught machines how to think, act and respond to significant levels and moved on to take up niche responsibilities across hierarchies. The results are staff-less retail stores, smart factories, RPAs (Robotic Process Automation), Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems, data analytics modules, blockchain-powered smart contracts and more.
From being a long-term goal, implementing Industry 4.0 elements has become a priority for most enterprises and organizations currently. The onset of a global pandemic rewrote conventional strategies and shuffled Industry 4.0 to top of the list. That’s why the market size of Industry 4.0 has been anticipated to increase from a mere $101.69bn in the year 2020 to $337.10bn by the year 2028.
While the numbers are promising, this is still ambitious for thousands of businesses around the globe and rightly so. The benefits of this ambitious concept are indeed interesting to read but when it comes to their practical actualization, businesses seem to fumble.
From not knowing what it is and how to go about implementing it to ensuring holistic security of the entire ecosystem, tons of intricate challenges (or opportunities) exist. Let’s look at some of the most plaguing implementational challenges associated with Industry 4.0.
Disconnect In Required Skills
Industry 4.0 exists because of contemporary technologies like AI, data science, Big Data, IoT (the Internet of Things), machine learning and more. It is a culmination of all these concepts that enable devices, processes and systems to operate autonomously. However, the fundamental challenge that exists here is the lack of talent in the market to work on these technologies.
These are still buzzwords in major countries and there is a lack of employable workforce with hands on knowledge, exposure or skill over these tech concepts. The current workforce is not equipped to think of automation and optimization at grassroots level, bring in a new business model to suit Industry 4.0 or scale up operations organically. With this disconnect, businesses can have Industry 4.0 ambitions only on paper.
Data Availability And Interoperability
Machine learning and AI modules operate best when they are consistently trained over a solid period of time. The accuracy at which they deliver results stems from this consistent learning and for this to happen, businesses need abundant data. Data, here, refers not to random datasets but those that are relevant, contextual, unbiased and updated.
Businesses struggle at this phase too, because there is either lack of required volumes of quality data or they exist in siloes. For bootstrapped businesses, this becomes a major concern as they cannot afford to source data from external sources for training purposes as well. This stalls their Industry 4.0 ambitions with systems and devices churning out irrelevant results.
In simple terms, Industry 4.0 is an ecosystem of interconnected devices and systems exchanging data at any given point of time. This means there are thousands of touch points in the form of sensors, devices, cloud systems and more. From a hacker’s perspective, all they need is access to one vulnerable unit to take control of the entire enterprise.
While this could sound discouraging, cybersecurity is one of the biggest challenges in implementing Industry 4.0. Experts are still working on making their implementations as airtight as possible through robust architecture, codes, testing methodologies and more. In fact, incident response isn’t enough anymore as companies have to stay a step ahead of attackers and use AI algorithms to proactively look for threats lurking in their networks and mitigate them for uninterrupted business operations.
Bringing In A New Culture
Implementations happen because of actions that stem from intentions and attitude. Implementing Industry 4.0 is not a one-time affair but a consistent practice that keeps optimizing results and performance. Unfortunately, several businesses lack the aspirations to bring in new systems, work culture and operational methodologies into their ecosystems.
A study called Industry 4.0 Implementation Challenges And Opportunities: A Managerial Perspective also revealed that one of the major hurdles in achieving Industry 4.0 is the lack of workforce with clear visions and commitment. Also, the mindset of bringing in unreliable alternatives and workarounds to technologies stands as a major threat to the realization of Industry 4.0 goals.
What Lies Ahead?
Gradually, we are moving away from lethargy to curiosity. Business stakeholders want to explore and experiment diverse ways to optimize their processes and performances and are keen at implementing multiple technologies along the way.
This shift at the mindset and cultural level will eventually lead to them discovering the staggering benefits of Industry 4.0 and in turn stay curious of ways to successfully implement it. More importantly, this shift has to trickle down to every employee in an organization.
For this to happen, transformations have to happen among existing teams and professionals. Every distinct hierarchy should go through a systematic and tailored tech transformation process by unlearning conventions and learning the 3 Ts – Tools, Through processes and Techniques in emerging technologies. It is only this way that companies could start viewing Industry 4.0 implementation as an opportunity for dynamic business growth.
What do you think?