The Human Element in Industry 4.0
The Human Element in Industry 4.0
Creating a symbiotic relationship between technology and people
Industry 4.0, as a concept, is often understood as a collection of its multiple associated technologies - Internet of Things (IoT), Cyber-Physical systems (C-P systems), Internet of Services (IoS), amongst others, together creating a smart factory with machine and algorithmic intelligence. A big part of these systems is the human component. This short note throws light on the human component that interacts with, and is affected by the Industry 4.0 systems, either directly or indirectly.
For an effective and efficient design of Industry 4.0 concepts, systems need to be designed across the value chain, specifically around the human element, and this needs to be done with four distinct characteristics: i) Human Resource planning, ii) Design for Inputs, iii) Design for Visualization and iv) Design for Interventions. Smart factories designed with the human element in manufacturing will be the key to a high quality and efficient process.
Human Resource Planning
Designers and planners need to be cognizant of the effects of Industry 4.0. While the fear of losing human jobs to automated robots and A.I. is pervasive and debatable, the reality is more of a shift in human resource needs. It thus becomes key for industries to train existing workforce for agility and technology. Training your blue and white collared workforce will have massive benefits, especially when line workers can use advanced technologies to aid their senses and sensibilities in ensuring that a high quality product is manufactured with minimal waste.
Design for Inputs
Industry 4.0 and associated systems must have the right inputs, at the right time, by the right people. Anything else will result in sub-optimal systems. Designers and planners need to remember that some inputs – data, parameters etc.., are better done by machines with or without algorithmic intelligence, while others need human intervention. For instance, real time settings of key machining parameters could be better done by algorithms which sense machine state in continuous time, but other inputs like finishing or polishing might be better done with specific human inputs.
Design for Visualization
This includes design for visuals and reports, on a real time and time-flexible basis to help visualize the manufacturing process, keeping track of planned vs actuals. Building visualization into your systems not only helps you keep an eye on waste, but also lets you know what is going on with the manufacturing processes at the macro and micro level detail within and across organizations in the value chain. The ability to see the process and understand the systems prevents it from becoming a black box, where no one is certain of why a system behaves the way it does. Worse, fixing any black box system issue becomes difficult and costly, as organizations have experienced with some ERP software.
Design for Intervention
Any Internet 4.0 system must be built in with intervention protocols through the process. Simply put, a user must be able to detect, identify and fix problems with and within the systems instantaneously, with the right checks, balances, and accountability. For instance, if a user sees an incorrect reading or realizes an error in the algorithm, it must be such that intervention can be logged and allowed almost instantaneously. A system which holds a manufacturing process hostage is characteristic of a black box and is simply wrong.
As has been seen in manufacturing over the last 60 years, through the fads that come and go, the best systems are those designed with the right senses and sensibilities, which stem from the human element of the manufacturing process. The right team players backed with a simple, meaningful process and with the right technologies will win. To be clear, Internet 4.0 is not designed to replace the human element; its purpose is to use technology and people in a symbiotic system to make the manufacturing process agile, robust and efficient.
Author: Chaitanya "CK" Kaligotla. Advisor at Arcstone Pte. Ltd. To contact the author please email firstname.lastname@example.org