The eventual mainstream adoption of embedded software, data and 5G will offer organisations the opportunity to redefine every dimension of what they do and how they do it. This shift is giving rise to the ‘Intelligent Industry’, one in which every type of manufacturer can unleash waves of innovation across their products, their processes, even their entire operation.
The Manufacturer caught up with Capgemini’s Rob Pears and Pratap Yettukuri Joseph to learn how businesses can take advantage today.
Where did the term ‘Intelligent Industry’ come from and how does it differ from Industry 4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
Rob Pears: Intelligent Industry, powered by data, is the evolution of Industry 4.0.
The rapid development of key technologies like 5G, Edge computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) means that every type of company, in sectors as diverse as healthcare, automotive manufacturing, even services, can start to do business in a new way. It’s the next stage of digital transformation.
We know businesses are generating and gathering more data than ever before; we also know that rising numbers are focusing on how to digitise key industrial parts of their businesses and use embedded software, data and new generation wireless connectivity to rethink what they do and how they do it.
These interlinked factors are breaking down non-traditional barriers to work, but that has to be done in an intelligent way. Your thinking has to go beyond logically connecting them, the interaction of these systems needs to be more than just a handshake. By design, you have to be thinking about how change will impact your end-to-end processes.
For example, if your R&D team has received customer feedback as to how to make your product more user-friendly, any design improvement they subsequently make needs to be considered not just in terms of manufacturing, but also your supply chain management, distribution, sales process and any post-sale warranty or maintenance services you offer.
Carrying out such a detailed, multi-faceted assessment can take months. This is where having a strong foundation of data across your entire operation enables businesses to operate more intelligently.
According to Capgemini, the Intelligent Industry enables manufacturers to radically rethink their product portfolios. How do you see that playing out in automotive, for example?
Pratap: We’ve heard more than one CEO refer to the future automobile as being ‘a smart device on wheels’. It’s that fundamental a shift.
Ongoing technological evolutions include new powertrain systems, predictive maintenance, fleet management, material innovation and so forth, but the more transformative shift is in how vehicles are sold.
A car is simply an object that moves you from A to B, it facilitates a journey. What if it could offer more than that? How could the customer experience become richer?
A train operating company is currently exploring what that means for rail passengers. Their focus has gone beyond what happens to a passenger once they enter a station or train to managing the entire journey from door to door.
Is there value, for example, in sending a message to passengers informing them that due to congestion, they need to leave for the station 15 minutes earlier, or informing them that based on current data, compartment B has the most available seats?
In the context of the full journey, how much additional information can be provided to enrich the user experience? This is where many industries are moving to, not just in the field of transportation.
Intelligent Industry capabilities will be fundamental in enabling manufacturers to adapt their business model to move towards servitization, should they desire to do so.
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Where does data ownership fit into such a scenario?
Rob: The debate around data ownership is still very active, particularly regarding autonomous systems and who’s responsible for what and when – is it the driver, the OEM, the software provider or the insurance company?
The end result will largely be driven by regulation, and the UK is seen as one of the more stringent markets in that regard. As a result, many OEMs have the view that if their processes and procedures comply with UK regulations, then those same processes will comply elsewhere.
Pratap: Some organisations assume ownership of their internal data to sit within IT and that’s absolutely not the case. Those who are directly responsible for the process, such as customer, manufacturing or finance, for example, they should be the data ‘owners’.
Customer data, however, is a more contentious issue. GDPR has helped to address many of the challenges and concerns, but not all.
The technologies that enable the Intelligent Industry – 5G, Edge, AI and IoT – do you foresee a step-change in their adoption post-pandemic?
Rob: Given the times that we’re hopefully exiting, I expect organisations to be a lot more measured in the capital investments they make. We are hearing analysts describe a shift from ‘just in time’ to ‘just in case’, reflecting the increased focus organisations now have on operational continuity and agility.
For 5G to become mainstream, it requires a significant layout of infrastructure and a step change in coverage from telecoms providers. Local 5G networks and private arrangements will offer opportunities, but it will come down to how quickly integration allows it to be brought into the mainstream.
The learning curve businesses went through with cloud computing and cybersecurity will probably lead to 5G being adopted more quickly in comparison.
Another driver is that the next iteration of equipment and systems that manufacturers rely on, and are looking to refresh, will have themselves moved forward. A lot of modern production machinery, for example, already has a certain degree of connectivity, intelligence and data analytics as standard.
That level of technology and capability will only increase moving forward, so the broader ecosystem will also help accelerate adoption.
Can you share an example of a manufacturer who has adopted an ‘Intelligent Industry’ approach?
Pratap: Skywise is a first-of-its-kind open data platform developed by Airbus. By making the right information available at the right time, the platform provides insights from data that was previously locked in corporate and functional silos.
Image courtesy of Airbus
Skywise is used by airlines, airports, MRO providers, lessors and lessees to improve operational performance, ensuring complete data continuity across the entire value chain. The platform provides all users with one single access point to their aggregated and anonymised aviation data, enriched from multiple sources across the industry into one secure, cloud-based system.
The more data that airlines or OEMs share into Skywise, the more accurate the predictions and models are for connected customers, creating a truly cutting-edge ‘Intelligent Industry’.
Could a similar collaboration platform work in industries outside of commercial aviation?
Rob: One of the things Airbus has done is embed this appetite for change and for working collaboratively across their entire organisation. What’s interesting is that they are seeking out periodic revolutions within the incremental evolution of their business operations.
Another organisation we observe and have activities with is Volvo Car Group, part of the Geely Auto Group which includes Lotus, Polestar and the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC), among others.
Geely has done a particularly good job in sharing innovation across its group by having Polestar largely focus on electric, Volvo on interiors and safety, Lotus on chassis design and LEVC on serviceability. That learning is being shared and leveraged across all the different brands and if you look at the recent Net Promoter Scores for those brands, the improvements have been significant.
In what ways will the Intelligent Industry reimagine what a manufacturing operation looks like?
Rob: The biggest change will likely be in the skillset required to run it. Engineers will become much more skilled in bits and bytes than screws and circuit boards in order to configure and operate machinery, for example.
One use case will be the ability for a manufacturer to be able to provide their salespeople, even their customers’ salespeople, with real-time configure, price, quote capabilities in the field. That enables them to offer dynamic pricing, they can visualise and share exactly what the product will look like and they can map out a precise production schedule based on current or future capacity.
Pratap: The shop floor will definitely see major changes – be it increased use of cobots, an acceleration of automation or real-time feedback loops for production. We can certainly see shopfloors going paperless with digital dashboards and handheld devices, something that has been talked about for a long time but still hasn’t entirely happened.
Another development will be the rise of biometrics and computer vision on the shopfloor to help manage traffic through hazardous areas or to ensure appropriate PPE is worn. If someone is doing a physical task and their heart rate exceeds a given limit, biometrics could also flag that they need a break, for example.
What advice would you give to someone looking to adopt the methodologies and technologies we’ve discussed?
Pratap: Organisations should have a clear vision of what it is they want to achieve and the value they want to create. They then need to identify the technologies and processes that need to be in place to realise that goal.
The capabilities of modern technology are well documented and there are numerous adoption case studies, that’s why Capgemini has stopped referring to ‘proof of concept’ and reframed conversations around ‘proof of value’.
Your organisation may have people who are enthusiastic and excited about data and technology, and those internal champions are vital, but at the end of the day, how much is it going to cost, how long is it going to take and what value is it going to create?
Another point that sounds simple but is often overlooked is that, in many cases, technology can actually fund itself through the cost savings generated.
Rob: My advice would be to free up the money being spent that perpetuates your legacy estate rather than moves your organisation forward. You need to get off that cycle as quickly as possible because it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy of holding you back.
It takes a certain amount of bravery to identify what’s really holding your business back, but making meaningful change becomes so much easier once you have the thinking and capital to do it.
*All images courtesy of Capgemini UK, unless stated