IoT and Industry 4.0 Online Conference 16th June 2020

IoT and Industry 4.0 Online Conference 16th June 2020

Dickson Ross, the Editor-in-Chief of Engineering and Technology magazine, introduced the conference

He pointed out that although IoT is real and growing rapidly, it can be difficult to explain the benefits to people. Many of the standard applications in the home can be underwhelming. Industrial applications too may be unexciting, but at least these can be genuinely profitable.  Monitoring and predictive maintenance for example can reduce costs of failure and by scheduling maintenance effectively reduce off-line time for industrial processes. The first talk addressed these sorts of applications.

Martin Walder, Schneider Electric – Practical steps to your Ind 4.0 factory

Industry 4.0 is represented by automation, robotics, and IoT sensors, so many people think it is only applicable to Blue Chip companies. In fact, by taking a staged approach it can be for smaller companies too.  Schneider Electric advocate a “Tailored, Sustainable, Connected” approach and have demonstrated 5-15% cost savings and reduced energy consumption in their smart factories, some of which are designated by the WEF as “lighthouse” factories, showing the way to others.

They divide the systems into 6 areas:

    • Agile Management – all digital, data collected;
    • Process Efficiency;
    • Asset Performance management;
    • Empowered operators (providing them with data);
    • Reliability;
    • Energy efficiency

And for each of these there are three layers:

    • Connected products (sensors);
    • Edge control – smartphones or other devices;
    • Apps

Example applications included:

    • Using Machine Learning to provide predictive analysis based on IoT sensors for preventative maintenance without affecting production flow.
    • Empowering operators with real-time data and supervisory support to reduce maintenance time
    • Augmented reality to support seasonal workers whose training was cut to days from months

A critical point is that because everything is data-driven you need your cyber-security to be top-class. Smart factory is mainly about software, not expensive machines; as you upgrade equipment make it connected and share data.

Their philosophy is to “Think big, start small, scale fast”.  Encourage bottom-up thinking to create incremental ideas, build these into pilots, and if successful then scale fast; if not, fail fast too. This works better than getting a top-down spec from senior management that never gets delivered.

Management should identify focus areas, and build methods of standardisation and roll-out discipline, comparing and sharing best practice rapidly. Everyone becomes engaged.

Anthony Shingleton, Simpler Consulting (IBM) – 10 reasons why your Industry 4.0 and IoT transformation might fail

Anthony approached the implementation of IoT and Ind 4.0 as one of transformation, rather than simply of technology. So his 10 points emphasised other aspects of the organisational and cultural setting that need to be addressed for a successful outcome.

    1. Organisation/Operations 4.0: will the operational people be able to work with the tools? Or will they be like cavemen with smartphones?
    2. Culture 4.0: will the availability of detailed data be used by management as a way of helping staff, encouraging  them to learn; or to blame them for not hitting targets?
    3. Project Execution: in an era of rapid change there is a need to reduce project lifecycles; Gantt himself said that Gantt charts don’t cope well with change.
    4. Don’t just address individual tech developments; focus on system thinking, the interaction of the parts
    5. Organisational design: need to consider the FLOW of data, insight and knowledge around the organisation, and who is enabled to do what.
    6. Start with goal, a cleartop-down vision; unlike Walder’s recommendation of bottom-up leads, you should pick pilots that fit with the goal. Let people know where they are going, and so inspire them on the journey.
    7. Set “Breakthrough Ambition” targets that make a real difference, rather than just incremental pockets of improvement. Set clear challenging targets and create confidence that these can be reached
    8. Identify “Success Measures” that fit the company strategy; otherwise the focus will become just on the cost.
    9. Need to get flows between all parts at the same time, the synergy between the pieces is what brings the real benefits
    10. Don’t simply digitise a wasteful system; simplify and clarify, take advantage of new things you can do.

Jason Lessard, HSF – Will Industry 4.0 kill your competitive advantage?

Industry 4.0 installations will expose your proprietary data and knowledge, and open up your secrets across the whole supply chain, to contractors and to disgruntled employees and ex-employees. Your information will be exposed, your USP visible, even to the extent that the supply chain could cut you out. Will your current information security strategy work in this environment?

The key points are:

    • You will only thrive if you have competitive advantages; you must understand what they are and how vulnerable they are; conduct a risk assessment
    • Make sure you know which is IP protected; identify how to use these to protect your competitive advantages.
    • Take steps to protect IP through patents and make good use of unregistered rights such as copyright
    • Trade Secrets are of commercial value, but you need to have taken steps to keep them secret from them to be recognised. Build a register, have an access control system, enforce confidentiality obligations.

Yasir Sheikh, Honeywell – Confluence of Tech trends; redefining what’s possible with today’s buildings

The development of IoT, Cloud and Big data is enabling the creation of “Smart Buildings”.

The key megatrends that Yasir identified were:

    • Embedded chips
    • Connected everything
    • Control by code
    • AI

We can now move on beyond monitoring a building’s health (status of systems) to predicting what will break down next, and even further to building self-healing systems with autonomous responses.

The problems that tend to remain are:

    • Silo responsibilities;
    • Enterprise complexity;
    • Remaining areas of manual control that cannot react fast enough.


The differing approaches of Walder and Shingleton  (bottom-up, incremental vs goal-oriented, directed) were intriguing and probably reflect their faith in the power ot technology. Shingleton no doubt correctly places great weight on the organisational context of the tech transformation. This has always been the case, notably the point about automating (“computerising”, we used to call it) ineffective systems rather then re-designing them.

Neither addresses the wider context within which the transformations are occurring, the economic and societal attitudes of the people in the system. For that, a wider scenario approach is required.

Nonetheless, it is clear that IoT and AI will bring radical changes to industrial organisation over coming decades, with many interesting second-order effects. One to keep on your radar.

Written by Huw Williams, SAMI Principal

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.

SAMI Consulting was founded in 1989 by Shell and St Andrews University. They have undertaken scenario planning projects for a wide range of UK and international organisations. Their core skill is providing the link between futures research and strategy.

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Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

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