So far, many investments have been focusing on automation of on-site operations, like manufacturing and warehousing as automation can be planned, established for controlled environments - and stepwise connected into broader „networked“ operations. Machines, sensors, semi- and fully autonomous transport systems, robotics, often for higher precision, increased frequency, and heavy-duty operations. But local innovation would be insufficient to support and deliver towards the promises of a strategic vision like Industry 4.0 postulates.
Digitalization is the key element and prerequisite in the game plan enterprises have to lay out, as a virtual representation of the real-world operation and a physical subject and object of the value transformation has been established – a digital twin – mirroring the real world to be able to monitor and in a first step recognize what is going on. Digitalization is in essence to recognize the subject and object in question. Therefore, Industry 4.0 investments differentiate from pure innovation investments from the past, by establishing the digital representation. This is an absolute requirement leading to potential and intended awareness of FOUR things - a) data representation of individual work centers, objects, and transformation activities, b) the opportunity to relate individual items and transformation activities and recognize dependencies between them, c) to learn, understand those findings and relate them together and firstly react, then understand and finally predict the short and long term future of this connected and pattern-driven operation and then d) introduce pattern-driven influence mechanisms to adjust, control and drive in a predictive way continuous improvements and optimization in real-time.
This seems overwhelming but it isn't. The opportunity to connect local investments with a dedicated ROI can accelerate digitalization. If a more strategic platform approach is the vision to go, the platform moves to innovate an enterprise-wide digital platform like SAP S/4HANA, the SAP Cloud Platform, and a transition program can be your vehicle for success. Along the way or as preparation intentional investments in manufacturing, warehousing, or logistics/transportation can be a key to success and deliver on the focus of the industry and enterprises‘ vision and mission.
As any platform or local optimization in regards to a strategic vision like Industry 4.0 integrates overwhelming opportunities, the investment in process understanding is the key for innovation in any way. In logistics (transportation) and related on-site processes (manufacturing and warehousing), a powerful tool can be to establish increased visibility based on real-time information across the silos. This should include external partners like outsourcing partners in manufacturing, suppliers, logistics service providers, and customers and then use the information at a process level to feed back to individual work centers, e.g. changes in manufacturing trigger adjustments in logistics, booking of ocean vessels, rail capacity, truck tendering and slot booking in warehouses. In manufacturing-driven enterprises, like beverage producing companies, automotive manufacturers and e.g. paper Industry companies – often – output and live loading to transport assets are lacking (bilateral) interactivity and smart integration with manufacturing, inventory buffer staging areas, and communication with logistics.