Machine-learning algorithms used by remotely connected computers. Autonomous robots with vast libraries of data at their metallic fingertips. “Smart factories” where sensors detect and repair problems before managers are even aware. These are not science-fiction tropes; they’re hallmarks of Industry 4.0.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is well-poised to help drive the success of these emerging technologies. Understanding the potential of Industry 4.0 — and how ERP will invariably play a critical role within it — are essential priorities for forward-thinking manufacturers. To quickly adopt the best trends may be the only way to avoid being left in the dust of progress.
Four Ways to Move Forward
Internationally renowned author Bernard Marr, who literally wrote the book on KPIs (among other well-received books on data strategy and analytics), has identified four key characteristics of the emergent revolution known as Industry 4.0.
No. 1 – Interoperability
Every link in the production chain must communicate with the others. This means not only the people at each point but also the machines they monitor and operate. Furthermore, the sensors must continuously share data with one another. The sum of this data must be available on all devices for utility and convenience. User-friendly access for collaboration and mobility is ideal.
No. 2 – Information Transparency
The transparency of information refers to the ability of the system to make data not only accessible but to also provide context. Information transparency improves decision-making by making data about an individual piece or the system as a whole easier to access and analyze.
No. 3 – Technical Assistance
One of the foremost applications of Industry 4.0 is in its ability to assist humans. This support begins with the most obvious interpretation: solving complex problems and supplementing decision-making processes with more data.
Technical assistance will go beyond those terms by optimizing systems to perform tasks that are difficult or unsafe for humans – a hallmark of the new form of industry and a boost for workplace safety, particularly in manufacturing.
No. 4 – Decentralized Decision-Making
Finally, these systems and machines should be decentralized as much as possible. Their ability to help humans make complicated decisions, collate and analyze data, and communicate should all derive from autonomous utility. The merge between cyber and physical industry cannot achieve a revolutionary level of utility unless it can operate without constant monitoring.