Technology has seeped into our lives so intricately that it has become impossible to imagine a world where we don’t rely on devices and networks even for everyday tasks. The manufacturing and industrial platforms are also increasingly becoming more connected. Technologies, including the internet of things (IoT), the industrial internet of things (IIOT), cyber-physical systems (CPS), cognitive computing, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence, constitute the trend towards data exchange and automation, which is referred to as Industry 4.0.
In other words, Industry 4.0 is a subset of the fourth industrial revolution. By 2020, it is projected that the market will be worth more than $4 trillion, according to KPMG. Even though we often speak of industry 4.0 as something that is yet to happen in the near future, in many ways, it has already arrived. This is possible because of the rapid expansion of the internet of things (IoT), resulting in modern, integrated, and connected work processes.
However, the optimal stage of Industry 4.0 is not here yet, and companies are always working on innovating, improving operational efficiencies and product quality, and investing in research and development to usher in the new era.
With Industry 4.0, quality will become Quality 4.0. In simple terms, Quality 4.0 is the combination of the latest technologies with traditional quality methods to achieve new standards of innovation, performance, and operational excellence.
So, with quality improvement being the ultimate goal here, the industrial internet of things (IIOT) plays a central role in achieving this goal. Below, we discuss the different ways IIOT can transform quality into Quality 4.0:
1. Integration of value chains
Industrial internet of things or IIOT enables the integration of value chains, which means that multiple companies in a shared market can collaborate to manage the flow of goods, services, and data in a more effective manner. This then increases customer-perceived value, while also optimizing the chain.
If companies are going to share information between suppliers and clients, it is important that quality professionals plan carefully for information availability. Sharing the right information with the right parties at the right time can make a huge difference.
2. Process integration
Process integration means that organizations in a shared market segment will work together to seamlessly integrate their product development, manufacturing, post-service, as well as logistics. This is made possible only with the industrial internet of things, which enables companies to collaborate, thus creating a smarter, highly integrated market. The result of the integration of processes results in improved quality.
The need for quality will not be a matter of compliance, but rather of design, which is to say that companies and manufacturers will strive for quality transformation to improve their product design.
3. Data from more sources
The ushering in of the industrial internet of things means that there is an increase in the number of devices and equipment embedded with sensors connected to the industrial cloud. This means that organizations have more sources to retrieve data from, and more data means deeper, more valuable insights that could change the landscapes of industries.
The increasing number of data sources also means that it is important for quality professionals to define Data Strategies. With more data in hand, organizations have the power to do more and be more, which is why well-defined strategies need to be in place. Quality professionals must be able to track deviance actively and in real-time to reduce risks and threats.
4. Customer satisfaction in real-time
Improved quality enabled by the industrial internet of things will result in an increase in customer satisfaction levels. Not only this, customer satisfaction can be achieved in real-time. This means that the process of product refinement will have to be quicker.
Quality professionals of organizations need to find a way to optimize product refinement processes to keep customers happy. The Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle will need to be run in shorter iterations so that the process of quality transformation can be managed more effectively, and quality products can reach customers faster.
5. Edge, fog, and cloud
With more data at hand, organizations need to be properly equipped to handle, store, and manage such data effectively, efficiently, and safely. This is where edge, fog, and cloud computing come in. Data is collected and normalized in different stages, and edge, fog, and cloud computing allow organizations to manage, process, and deliver said data in such a way that response time is improved, and bandwidth is also saved.
For data storage and management to be transformed, quality professionals will need to keep track of physical maintenance and calibration exhaustively.
6. Industry 4.0 isn’t standardized yet
Industry 4.0 is still fairly new, and even though the wheels have begun to roll, it is still in the process of setting standards. Setting up smart factories is not a cheap process that can be carried out in a short amount of time, so the process of standardizing Industry 4.0 will take longer. Besides, network dynamics have to be considered too, as this will affect how long Industry 4.0 will take to become mainstream.
It is imperative that quality professionals are up to date with technological advancements, and they actively participate in the community.
Industry 4.0 has not fully arrived yet, and it will take several years for it to become a norm. As of now, the important thing to focus on is preparing quality professionals for Industry 4.0 for when it does arrive and become mainstream.