A natural place to begin the discussion around Industry 4.0 is defining what information is and why it is useful. In a nutshell, while data can be said to be plain facts, information is what results when these facts are collated, structured and presented in such a context and at such a time as to make them useful. Useful in various ways but fundamentally for the purpose of supporting decision making. Information is distinct from the systems that produce and manage it. To use an analogy closer home, if data were the raw material, the hardware and software systems used in its processing would be the equipment, and information would be the final product. And just as with any other product, utility is what gives it value. The real value of information is not realized in its accumulation but rather in its utilization to advance the process of choosing a course of action from among a set of alternatives.
In understanding the niche it occupies in decision making, it might be helpful to map out the full value chain that information forms part of. The chain begins with data, whose collection and processing is what generates information. The utilization of this information leads to the acquisition of knowledge. Over time, accumulation of knowledge leads to the attainment of wisdom. Wisdom, also variously expressed as experience or expertise is what distinguishes masters from novices. It is what makes the difference between a brilliant choice and a poor one. This holds true both for natural and corporate persons. Perhaps then we can derive a more fitting description of Industry 4.0. A revolution that sets companies on the path to attaining wisdom and thus the ability to consistently make smart decisions.
Just as with any other proficiency, utilization of data at an enterprise level is a skill that organizations have to acquire. A company does not spontaneously develop the capacity and culture to use information. Some level of investment in time and resources is required to cultivate this capacity. Perhaps more pertinent is the commitment to fashioning a corporate culture that embraces information and innovates around it. Famous astrophysicist Carl Sagan once described his domain of science as more than just a body of knowledge. He said it was a way of thinking. The same rationale can be applied with respect to information, which is more than just the distillate of data analysis. In the bigger picture, information is what enables a radical corporate culture change and the emergence of a new way of life.
‘Information is power’ is a common phrase that while generally accepted by the public is rarely contemplated by most people. Few pause to consider by what mechanisms the immense power locked in information can be harnessed for their benefit. For none is this power more readily available than for companies engaged in industrial production. The sheer volume and variety of information generated during the production process makes industry one of the sectors that can easily tap into the power of information. Leveraging this power to achieve paradigm shifts in manufacturing is what defines the fourth industrial revolution, also known as Industry 4.0. It is a revolution that aims to use information to transform the decision making culture in a company, with the end goals being operational costs reduction through minimizing inefficiencies, higher factory productivity, minimal equipment downtime and more reliable production schedules.
In the long run, the most important asset that any company accrues is its information. Unfortunate then that it should be one of the most under-utilized resources in many companies, particularly in the industrial sector. Ultimately, those companies able to adopt the new culture driven by Industry 4.0 will be the ones that adapt for the future. As famed biologist Sir Charles Darwin stated in his seminal works ‘The origin of species’, it is not the strongest nor the fastest that survive, but those most capable of adaptation. Now more than ever in this age of globalization, manufacturing companies must develop the ability to adapt if they are to survive.
Pima Smart is an information partner providing technology, training and consultancy to bring companies into Industry 4.0. Talk to us if you’d like to learn more about how to begin your Industry 4.0 journey. We are the partner you need as you embark on this adventure. Visit www.pimasmart.com for more details.