Accelerating Industry 4.0 with data insights

Posted on 31 Mar 2023 by Joe Bush

It’s fair to say that manufacturers the length and breadth of the country are on some form of data journey. However, like any journey, there can be detours, wrong-turns and even dead ends.

Here, The Manufacturer speaks to Niraj Seth, Head of Manufacturing, Logistics, Energy & Utilities (UKI) and Andrew Rawling, Chief Technology Officer for Manufacturing, Logistics, Energy & Utilities (UKI) at Cognizant about how manufacturers can use data to make their Industry 4.0 dreams a reality.

The last few years has seen a rapid increase in the volume of data being created across society. Indeed, it is estimated that 90% percent of the world’s data was created in the last two years. And the volume of data across the world doubles in size every two years.

If you are interested in industrial data, book your place at Industrial Data Summit 2023 today.

Manufacturing is no different and the volume of data being created around Industry 4.0, combined with the growing number of data sources producing it, has presented a double-edged sword. A huge opportunity exists for manufacturers to deploy this data as a catalyst for change within their organisation, revolutionise business models and drive efficiencies. However, on the flip side, some organisations have so much data they are at a loss as to what to do with it, while others have data so isolated that differing departments are blind to what’s going on.

Data governance is vital to Industry 4.0

Andrew explained that key to controlling this vast volume of data is in its governance and ownership. Much of the data that exists in manufacturing has thus far been managed in silos has meant that the governance around it has failed to evolve.

He said: “Data is currently not being governed and as such is not being tuned to drive succinct value. A lot of industries are starting to realise data as an asset or a product in its own right.”

Andrew explained that achieving this governance is neither cheap or straightforward and sadly there are no silver bullet solutions. However, understanding who the owners and proprietors are for different sources of data is a key first step for manufacturers who want to extract value. “Sadly, I’m not seeing that take place in a lot of industries, and the ones that aren’t invested are the ones who are struggling,” he added.

To this end, he stressed the importance of a designated data leader who can build a forward-moving strategy and recognise data as the asset it is, in order to understand its characteristics and to start innovating and building insights.

“Data governance is a multifaceted issue and that’s what makes it hard to manage,” said Niraj. “New businesses and digital natives address this issue to build data value early on. For traditional businesses this is harder, as they manage existing complexity alongside new opportunities.”

There is also the question of whether or not manufacturers need all the data they are collecting. Plus, it’s important to remember that when we’re talking about data as an asset it can, and does, have a lifespan. Manufacturers that just collect massive amounts of data and think it’s going to build amazing insights and innovation, will probably end up disappointed. Andrew explained that understanding the value of data, its timeline, sensitivity and dependencies is vital.

This means that data models can become enormously complex and without that knowledge, data will often create a huge amount of noise and not much else. “It all comes back to governance,” he continued. “Focus on the owners, get them to understand what the data is and then start building that dependency across the organisation.

“It’s a challenging area. Industries that we deal with can have up to 50 years of data in silos, or can even be paper- or spreadsheet-based. We try and move them away from those old processes and models and teach them what digitalisation of data really means. Data has always been a secondary solution for most companies. It’s been important yes, but it’s always been a chore to move it into an area where it becomes a true asset for the company. However, that’s the only way insights and value can be generated to enable the company to move forward.”

Part and parcel of this, as Andrew explained, is moving to a data driven culture. Data is of course ingrained into the fabric of all organisations, but as an asset it needs to be viewed the same way as a company’s premises or even its end products.

“A data first strategy gives you a much clearer model moving forward,” he said. “Our successful customers think of data as an enabler and then build applications from that. Forget about cloud and applications; think of data first. That’s a far faster way of generating insights, building new products and solutions and understanding the value of a product. It also enables you to utilise the value drivers offered by the business.”

Where to start

When compared to the data strategies of other industries, it is fair to say that manufacturing has some catching up to do. The manufacturing sector has been awash with talented engineers  since the first Industrial Revolution. However, their almost exclusive dealing in physical products have create a barrier between physical and data-driven realms; an issue less prevalent in other industries that are purely based on data, such as finance or banking. Niraj commented that “this extra jump when shifting to a data centric universe is making things much harder for traditional manufacturers“.

Andrew added: “When I started in banking in the late 1990s, they were in a terrible state. It’s only in the past ten years that they’ve started to treat data as an asset and bring it all together. Their learnings are now starting to filter into other industries, and manufacturing is beginning to look at what to do with data. However, at the moment it’s just noise and it will always be so until its classified, properly governed and understood.”

The onset of Industry 4.0 has seen the influx of data  complicate the landscape for manufacturers. For centuries a business would have a physical and a financial element that would match and correspond with each other. Data has added a third lens through which businesses can now view their processes.

“Manufacturers are still working to incorporate data” added Niraj. “The focus on the physical product is the upmost priority, but we are now seeing services and end customers coming to the forefront.”

Well-known examples of a Tesla or iPhone illustrate this further; even though both are physical products, all the focus in terms of the data, information and the experience, is on the end customer – almost as if the physical product were incidental. So, for manufacturers, a double shift is required; maintaining optimised manufacturing while at the same time, shifting methodologies to centre more around the customer, data, service and value added.

Do manufacturers need to be more open about sharing best practice around Industry 4.0?

As mentioned, the fact that much of the data within the manufacturing space sits in silos has meant that the opportunities to take advantage of Industry 4.0 have been somewhat curtailed thus far. Of course, manufacturers will need to maintain corporate IP, and there’s always going to be a level of secrecy. However, certain areas exists where data can be outsourced and shared.

Currently ‘just in time’ manufacturing methodologies are about sharing information and manufacturers were among the first to see the value of sharing data to aid collaboration. However, problems still abound; even when it comes to sharing data and information across internal departments.

Niraj commented that: “Some organisations see interdepartmental information sharing as a security risk and take pride in their ability to silo data access points. However, being able to understand, classify and govern your data gives the same confidence and oversight of what data can be shared, who it can be shared with and for what purpose.”

Of course, led by certain sectors, the landscape around Industry 4.0 is changing in terms of how and where data is shared, and the variety of opportunities opened up as a result. In the automotive industry, for example, data collected from platforms such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, is not being fed back to the automotive OEM, rather it’s going back to Apple and Google. This would be unheard of a decade ago.

In the aerospace sector, a single flight generates approximately 17 terabytes worth of data. That allows the engineer access to telemetry that can predict failures etc which allows for a different business model within the sector. “All of a sudden, GE, Rolls-Royce, Airbus etc are able to sell engines as a service. That’s the real value of data in action.”

Similarly, JCB are leading the industry in the amount of data they capture from all their vehicles. The telemetry, and all the data that’s fed back to them, is being used as part of the manufacturer’s maintenance service. “They are capturing everything so they can predict if there’s going to be a failure; it costs a fortune if a machine needs to be taken off the road,” added Andrew.

“This ideal of shareability-as-a-service is creating new business models,” added Niraj. “Sharing data a whole new business value chain. Assuming that data needs to be shared means you need to grow very good at managing and farming data – as if it were another product.”

Is there a danger of digital transformation falling behind the pace of innovation?

Andrew explained that it would be churlish for manufacturers to race along on an Industry 4.0 programme without a data first strategy. This will enable the ability to start forming that data governance from the outset, before considering a move into the cloud, for example. “A lot of companies do it the other way around, and put all their apps into the cloud” Andrew added.

“This only serves to create a quagmire which ultimately slows them down. These are problems I’m seeing day in, day out. What [companies] often refer to as digital transformation is not an organisational transformation at all, they’re merely moving from one platform to another. Digital transformation doesn’t start with an application, and it certainly doesn’t start with a platform.”

Of course, that may seem odd to an engineer who may still be thinking of product first, and that data is meaningless unless there is complete understanding around the product that is being manufactured. That is why understanding the product’s journey is key. Value drivers can get completely lost as soon as the product leaves a business and goes into other parts of the supply chain.

Andrew added: “Product journeys are all about aligning value drivers, creating a consistent view and traceability of the product; even into post-production and the product’s demise. Understanding the value drivers is critical to businesses across the supply chain. As we’re getting faster at failing (we’re now testing things quickly to see what works), we need those value drivers more and more. If a product is out there, and the value is decreasing rapidly, then the business needs to know about it. Unless you’ve got that product journey in place then it’s guesswork.”

Data demarcation is tough and IT departments have traditionally been quite protective of their data. This must change and once technology is built, data has achieved governance and is safe, secure and relevant, it’s vital that it is given back to the business in order for manufacturers to drive forward.

“Let the businesses generate ideas and have the technology to build those new insights,” continued Andrew. “Don’t leave it to IT; innovation is going to come from everyone, but if you don’t give them the tools and technologies then it won’t be achievable.”

The role of security

Security has become a major concern for manufacturers, and the sector is now the most attacked industry, having overtaken finance in 2021. And it’s not merely related to cyber; there’s issues around assets and further financial risk that are all avenues that could quickly break the entire company.

It’s therefore vital to understand how and where to put in place the necessary guardrails. “What we did in the old days, certainly in the IoT space, is ring-fence the entire data centre and then have firewalls to get in and out,” Andrew added. “Now there is a zero trust mentality, and so everything needs to be validated.”

This is hard to do, particularly if a manufacturer has legacy systems. “One thing I’m seeing in a lot of companies is they build their cloud like they build their data centres,” he continued. “Again, that’s wrong as there are differences. Cloud is very programmatic. It’s policy-based, and you can set a policy of restrictions, however, there are many layers so it’s easy to form very tight, secure environments in a cloud – much more than it is in a data centre. However, a data centre is dedicated to you, so you’ve got that added safety aspect, whereas public cloud is exactly that – public.”

Therefore, it doesn’t matter whether it’s cloud or a data centre, a cyber asset or finance, understanding that control framework, and setting those policies that work for your organisation, is critical.

Top tips for manufacturers around data and Industry 4.0

“Many people forget that a lot of the good techniques in data actually came from manufacturing approaches,” concluded Niraj, “Manufacturers need to stop thinking as data as a product surrogate and instead imagine it as its own product; this will help you consider data in the right way, with the same mindset and due diligence.”

The benefit of this approach is in the business models that can be applied. Much more value added can be gleaned out of a material product by considering it from a data angle. That can be applied almost universally and that’s what allows for disruption. “What was Uber if not applying data to the model of taxis – it’s disruption. It can be applied to the most mundane products and processes that have been around for hundreds of years to suddenly come up with something that completely alters old ways of thinking.”

Andrew added: “When it comes to data it’s important to be on the offensive in terms of creating, activating and driving forwards on those programmes. It’s pointless delaying and taking your time. You can start small of course, but you must drive forwards.”

He explained that part of that offensive around Industry 4.0 is around driving cultural change and adoption, in terms of how data is treated. Understanding the governance and quantifying the value will enable data to drive new insights into the organisation. “That is only going to come if you’re on the offensive and getting a hold on your data to a level that allows it to be under control. Once an organisation has reached that stage then huge change can result.

“It can be hard, frustrating and it’s costly at the start. Getting buy-in across the organisation can also be painful. Start small, get some data, prove its value in what we would call a lighthouse (to show what value can be generated), and then that data first culture can grow exponentially through the organisation and people can really get onboard.”

andy rawlingAndy Rawling is the UK&I Chief Technology Officer for the Manufacturing, Logistics, Energy & Utilities (MLEU) industry at Cognizant, where he leverages his vast experience to help clients navigate complex technological and organisational changes, delivering successful solutions that meet their unique needs.

He is a seasoned professional with extensive leadership and consultative experience, managing stakeholders and translating business challenges across IT and the C-suite. As a strategist and transformation lead, he thrives in bringing innovation and change to complex, high-profile environments.

He has a deep technical background derived from systems engineering, IT operations, technical account management, enterprise architecture and application development. Andy is an accomplished leader with a wealth of experience in delivering large-scale transformation programmes, with expertise in technology platform change, DevOps implementation, service management improvement and infrastructure management.

niraj sethThroughout his 25-year career, Niraj Seth has established a reputation for delivering complex projects and services to clients across a wide range of industries. His collaborative and innovative approach has enabled him to build strong relationships, leading to notable successes in manufacturing and logistics, energy and utilities and retail and consumer products.

In the manufacturing and logistics sector, Niraj has worked with major clients such as Crown Packaging, Sun Chemical, Ineos, BMW and UPS. He have successfully led a $150m ‘mission-critical’ IT services contract, where a ‘One Cognizant’ approach was a positive differentiator and he has also led the team to win a competitive SAP sole-source deal worth $120m. His expertise was recognised with industry awards, including for a ‘VCE Cloud Solution’ implementation that led to a global IT services contract worth $470m.

As a qualified accountant, he brings extensive experience in IT and BPO shared services, having established a captive centre which delivered services across 16 countries.

His passion for fostering collaboration, creativity and innovation is the driving force behind my success in delivering complex projects and services. He has a proven track record of significant growth, overcoming delivery shortfalls and delivering technology solutions which have helped companies achieve key goals.

For more stories on Industry 4.0 Industrial Data & AI click here.