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Singapore Economic Development Board launches diagnostic tool to help companies harness Industry 4.0 potential

The Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) has launched a world-first tool to help industrial companies harness the potential of Industry 4.0 in a systematic and comprehensive way, in partnership with global testing, inspection, certification and training company TÜV SÜD.  

As a white paper from EDB explains, Industry 4.0 is gathering momentum. However, the pace of Industry 4.0 adoption is uneven across different industries and companies. Both global and local companies in Singapore are grappling with the concept of Industry 4.0 and the value it could bring. They are seeking answers to questions such as what is Industry 4.0, and how can it benefit my company, where should I start, what are my gaps today and where are the opportunities tomorrow?.

The Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index was developed to address these challenges, aiming to strike a balance between technical rigour and practical applicability; it defines the end states and the intermediate steps needed for continual improvement.

The Index serves as a diagnostic tool that companies - across all industries and sizes - can use to better understand Industry 4.0 concepts, evaluate the current state of their facilities, architect a comprehensive transformation roadmap and deliver concrete, sustained value for their businesses.

EDB’s Assistant Managing Director, Lim Kok Kiang, said, “As part of our efforts to enhance the competitiveness of Singapore’s manufacturing sectors, the Index provides a common framework for all companies to participate in, and benefit from, Industry 4.0.”

He added, “Many companies often put technology first. With this Index, we put people and processes alongside technology, so that companies can maximise the potential of Industry 4.0.”

Prof Dr –Ing Axel Stepken, Chairman of the Board of Management, TÜV SÜD commented, “The Index gives clear orientation to manufacturers on what Industry 4.0 means and how they can initiate their transformation journey. It is a world’s first Industry 4.0 tool that is developed by the government for nation-wide transformation of industrial sectors. Strongly aligned with Industry 4.0 and other global manufacturing initiatives, it has the potential to be the global standard for the future of manufacturing.”

The Index draws reference from the Reference Architectural Model for Industry 4.0 (RAMI 4.0) framework, which was developed by Plattform Industrie 4.0. The Index was validated by an advisory panel of 21 academic and industry experts. The panel included representatives from government agencies such as SPRING and A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) and companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, Rolls-Royce, Honeywell Process Solutions and Siemens, as well as academic institutions, such as the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg and RWTH Aachen.

To strike a balance between technical rigour and usability, the Index was piloted with both small medium enterprises (SMEs) and multinational corporations (MNCs) in Singapore. The Index also received the support of Singapore Government agencies.

To help companies understand and use the Index, EDB and TÜV SÜD will be conducting a series of four workshops in the next few months. Companies can register to attend for free.

The 3 Building Blocks and the 8 Pillars

The 16 Dimensions of Assessment (Image from the Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index white paper)

The Index comprises three layers. At the top are the 3 fundamental building blocks of Industry 4.0: Process, Technology and Organization. Underpinning these building blocks are 8 pillars of focus. These pillars then map onto 16 dimensions of assessment, which represent the key components that any organisation must consider.

For each of the 16 dimensions, the Index provides an assessment matrix which companies can use to evaluate their current processes, systems, and structures within one to two days. The assessment matrix also doubles as a step-by-step improvement guide, as each dimension provides intermediate steps needed for companies to progress.

Technology

Automation — the application of technology to monitor, control, and execute the production and delivery of products and services freed workers from mundane and repetitive tasks, and enhanced speed, quality, and consistency of execution in Industry 3.0. But the role of automation is evolving with rising demand for smaller batches and on-demand production, leading to requirement for flexible automation, rather than fixed.

The second pillar is Connectivity. IoT-enabled devices are also increasing in both quality and quantity, generating enormous amounts of data. Technological advancements in cloud computing and wireless infrastructure also make it possible for data to be centrally collected and managed. Likewise, systems that were once independent or isolated can now be integrated, unifying the various shop floor, facility, and enterprise systems through connected organisation-wide networks. The white paper notes that interoperability, the ability to access data with ease across assets and systems, is key to achieving this.

While Automation provides the muscle for Industry 4.0 and Connectivity acts as its central nervous system, Intelligence is the brain. Intelligence is about the processing and analysis of data from the automated, connected systems. Highly intelligent systems can assist the workforce in predicting equipment failures and changes in demand patterns. At their best, these intelligent systems can also autonomously make decisions and respond to changing internal and external business needs.

Process

To enable the creation of new value, it is essential to have well-designed processes, as an overlay of technology on a poorly-designed process will result in a poorly-designed digital process.

Under the first pillar in this block, Operations, companies can now access new technologies and approaches to achieve the old, unchanged objective of converting raw materials and labour into goods and services at the lowest cost. For instance, companies can use wireless communications to connect discrete processes and systems, to enable the remote monitoring and decentralised control of assets.

The digitalisation of Supply Chains, the second pillar, will also allow decisions about cost, inventory, and operations to be made from an end-to-end perspective rather than in isolation. This would benefit all players across the value chain, with greater speed due to reduced lead times; greater flexibility through real-time optimization for changing needs; greater personalization; greater efficiency and greater transparency, both internally and for partners.

The third pillar, Product Lifecycle refers to the sequence of stages that every product goes through from its initial conceptualisation to its eventual removal from the market. These stages range from design, engineering, and manufacturing to customer use, service, and disposal.

Advancements in digital tools have made it easier than ever before to bring together data, processes, business systems, and people to create a single unified information backbone that can be managed digitally.

Industry 4.0 also introduces the concept of a “digital twin”, which is a virtual representation of the physical assets, processes, and systems involved throughout a product lifecycle. Through a digital twin, the information generated at each stage can be shared seamlessly, facilitating better decision-making and enabling processes to be dynamically optimised in other stages, allowing companies to shorten their design and engineering cycles and respond to customer demands more quickly. In addition, by working off the digital twin, multiple prototypes can be created and tested virtually at speed, at scale, and at a much lower cost.

Organisation

Industry 4.0 calls for a greater focus on two key components that can affect an organisation’s effectiveness. The first component is the people who make up the organisation - the entire workforce from the top management down to the operational teams. The second component is the institutional systems that govern how the company functions.

As organisations embrace flatter structures and decentralised decision-making, it will become critical to build a competent and flexible workforce characterised by continuous learning and development at all levels.

Management must put in place systems or practices that will allow people to constantly stay abreast of the latest developments. Concurrently, the wider workforce needs to be multi-skilled and adaptable to manage Industry 4.0’s dynamic and digitalised operations.

An organisation’s Structure is its system of explicit and implicit rules and policies that outline how roles and responsibilities are assigned, controlled, and coordinated. Under Industry 4.0, organisations will see greater decentralisation of decision-making, increased openness in information sharing, and more collaboration among teams both internally and with external partners.

The white paper states that Management is fundamentally about getting people to work together towards a well-defined common goal. In view of the paradigm shifts on multiple fronts, Industry 4.0 is also a change management exercise. Strong leadership, supported by a clear strategy and governance framework, will be essential for any organisation to successfully navigate an increasingly complex and highly networked world.

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