If there’s a single buzzword phrase that’s captured the imagination of the manufacturing sector, it’s Industry 4.0. The idea that a fourth industrial revolution is underway, one that will reshape how we work and do business, is spurring many companies to try to catch this lightning in a bottle by implementing smart factory technologies and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

To pull off a successful Industry 4.0 transition, however, it’s important to understand what this technology is and how to implement it, says John Broadbent, founder of Realise Potential. “If you go down the path of understanding what the Industrial Internet of Things can do for you, it will help you keep the doors open – make your business more sustainable and here for the long term, and keep people in employment,” he said.

What is Industry 4.0?
The fourth industrial revolution builds on the three that came before it: the advent of steam power, the weaving loom and mechanisation in 1784; mass production, electricity and the assembly line in the 1870s; and the rise of automation, computers and electronics with the first programmable logic controllers (PLCs) in 1969.

“Now we’re at the cusp of moving into Industry 4.0, which is a combination of what are called cyber physical systems, the Internet of Things, and cloud-based networks,” says Broadbent. “Most businesses are stuck at 3.0 and don’t know how to get to the next stage of evolution, and to make matters worse, the larger majority reaching for Industry 4.0 haven’t really been successful.”

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an umbrella term for devices connected to the Internet such as fridges, smart TVs, cars, and industrial controllers. There were 8.4 billion “things” in the IoT last year; this is expected to climb to 30 billion by 2020 and 82 billion by 2025. “There’s going to be exponential growth. The question is how can we leverage this growth, and what can we do with the information we collect?” said Broadbent.

Putting it into practice
Some advantages of IoT technology include traceability, a more visible supply chain, and the ability to monitor your business and quickly respond to changes in the marketplace, says Broadbent. However, according to a Cisco survey in 2017, almost 75 per cent of IoT projects fail. “It’s important that we understand why these projects fail so we can be in the 25 per cent on the right side of the ledger,” said Broadbent.

The top four reasons for project failures were insufficient collaboration between the business and IT sides of a company; businesses “going it alone” rather than seeking outside help; the inability to reap the benefits provided by the IoT project; and not learning from setbacks. “It’s important that the business not be afraid of failure, that failure is seen as a good thing, because from that failure will come the very learnings that you need to be successful the next time you give it a go,” said Broadbent.

To maximise your project’s chance of success, Broadbent recommends creating an advisory board of people inside and outside the business to make sure you’re staying on track. He also advises that “toe-in-the-water” proof-of-concept projects tend to fail, and that significant commitment is needed to pull them off. “If you’re going to put a project together, make sure the leadership is in place and the commitment is there from the business to do that,” he said.

To learn more, watch Broadbent’s full presentation on Industrial Internet of Things: Hype or Revolution? In this video, Broadbent provides examples of use cases including printing press supplier Heidelberg and beverage bottler Coca-Cola Amatil.

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