Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Role of Quality in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

As part of its continuing series of Roundtable discussions among the "Influential Voices of Quality" participants, ASQ asks, "As Industry 4.0 continues to evolve, what can quality professionals do to ensure they will be an integral asset throughout this industrial revolution?"

First, let's begin with an operational definition of Industry 4.0.
Wikipedia defines Industry 4.0 as "the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things and cloud computing. Industry 4.0 creates what has been called a "smart factory". Within the modular structured smart factories, cyber-physical systems monitor physical processes, create a virtual copy of the physical world and make decentralized decisions. Over the Internet of Things, cyber-physical systems communicate and cooperate with each other and with humans in real time, and via the Internet of Services both internal and cross-organizational services are offered and used by participants of the value chain".

Accenture released a report in January 2015 that concluded an industrial-scale version of Industry 4.0 could add $14.2 trillion to the world economy over the next 15 years.

Christoph Roser at AllAboutLean.com illustrates the four industrial revolutions:


So, the fourth industrial revolution is the move towards digitization including automation, robotics, artificial intelligence. The Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) in the United States is a non-profit organization comprising manufacturers, suppliers, technology firms, government agencies, universities and laboratories that share the goal of advancing the thinking behind Industry 4.0. Its purpose is to construct an open, smart manufacturing platform for industrial-networked information applications.

In a Forbes article dated June 20, 2016, Bernard Marr states that in order for a factory or system to be considered Industry 4.0, it must include:
  • Interoperability — machines, devices, sensors and people that connect and communicate with one another.
  • Information transparency — the systems create a virtual copy of the physical world through sensor data in order to contextualize information.
  • Technical assistance — both the ability of the systems to support humans in making decisions and solving problems and the ability to assist humans with tasks that are too difficult or unsafe for humans.
  • Decentralized decision-making — the ability of cyber-physical systems to make simple decisions on their own and become as autonomous as possible.

Having defined Industry 4.0, it is clear that assuring such inter-connectedness of software, sensors, devices and data centers requires a quality system that delivers data integrity, privacy and reliability in addition to assuring reliable, rugged, scaleable, fully-integrated systems and processes that seamlessly data-share between networks while consistently meeting producer, governmental and customer needs. Opportunities exist for the Quality professional to make significant, innovative contributions in areas of software quality assurance, reliability, process validation, environmental life testing and accelerated stress testing, Real Time Process Monitoring, multivariate statistics, 1st Principles and transfer functions, advanced calibration and big data analytics. Now, more than ever, product development and commercialization teams must assure reliable machine-human interface ease of use and real-time results-driven feedback loops. And, of course, discover even deeper insights to the ever-changing voice of customer (and voice of process) along with a comprehensive understanding of the customer experience throughout the value chain (e.g. journey maps), and assure that the organization is measuring the right key metrics to deliver success.

Industry 4.0 offers exciting new challenges to the Quality profession while building on our expertise of problem solving, process improvement, and managing the organizational white spaces to sustain customer focus and achieve operational excellence.

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