In order to meet rising demand for customized smart products and services, Hong Kong manufacturers should migrate to “Industry 4.0″.
What exactly is Industry 4.0?
Thomas Lee Kwok-keung, general manager of the Hong Kong Productivity Council, explains the challenges for companies in the process of such a transformation.
“Some thought what they have to do is use more machines and less human labor, but that’s not what Industry 4.0 is about: that is just computerization,” Lee told the Hong Kong Economic Journal in an interview.
He said Industry 4.0, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, refers to a new business model that integrates various information and production systems to “get the machines to ‘talk’ to other machines” and link up data, processes and services “to produce real-time data transfer, achieve automated management, and meet the demand for customized smart products”.
Industry 4.0 is expected to disrupt the whole production process in a significant way. Lee said a manufacturer will start its automated procurement once it receives a purchase order online, while notifying the production line at the same time. The company will be able to adjust the materials used and offer personalized products, then arrange them for delivery.
“All data among different departments isshared, so that the manufacturer is able to more accurately predict consumer needs and optimize inventory,” he said.
In case of insufficient inventory of materials, the computer system would release an alert, ordering from the supplier selected from its database.
Lee says Industry 4.0 can have a huge impact on the manufacturer’s inventory management, enabling it to forecast the production to avoid risks and errors, and to manage inventory in real time.
The machine-to-machine communication, the human relationship with machines, as well as the connectivity with a cloud platform – these elements must be present in order to unleash Industry 4.0’s potential and bring about a “smart” factory, Lee added.
This workplace revolution has left many worried that automated machines will steal jobs from humans. Lee said the automation anxiety in the workforce is challenging for organizations embracing Industry 4.0 transformation.
But he believes that while machines may replace repetitive and physical work, they allow human workers to have the capacity to work on innovative tasks.
“The machines are not taking our jobs, they are leaving us with a chance to move on to high-tech related duties,” Lee said.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 22
Translation by Ben Ng
[Chinese version 中文版]
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