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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Smart Manufacturing / Industry 4.0 - 20 years in the making.

Hello everybody, I am back after a bit of an extended hiatus. I am finding my way back to blogging starting with some reflection on the past and view into the future.

In the late 1990s I was part of a international research effort that lay the groundwork for what we know of today as Industry 4.0 or Smart Manufacturing. I specifically was interested in the architecture of what is now known as IIoT. In 2000 I wrote an article in the Journal of Manufacturing Systems about these new concepts and predicted that it would take 15 years to become mainstream. I guess I was young and optimistic, it has already been close to 18 years and although its still not mainstream it has started to move in that direction.

At that time the Internet was at its infancy and we could only dream of what is now possible with today’s technology. it was called many different thing such as multi-agent systems, Holonic Manufacturing Systems, Adaptive Manufacturing, and a few other such concepts. It was also called Intelligent Manufacturing, there was even an international consortium named that (and it still exists!). It is also one of the reasons behind the name of this blog. The joke was that what we did up to then was not intelligent :-) However the underlying assumption was that it will be a paradigm shift, a new way of thinking and a new way of operating that is brought about with technological advances.

Now, in the last many years I have been deeply immersed in the pharmaceutical industry and I have come to understand how immature this industry is from a manufacturing operations and technology perspective. Yes biologic manufacturing is novel, complex and groundbreaking however looking at the operations of a pharma plant with paper based systems, traditional automaton and maybe some MES it is nowhere close to the likes of Automotive, Aerospace and even CPG. Yes, this may be a broad and general statement but there is truth to it! Risk averseness driven by regulatory requirements is clearly one of the reasons and probably also why there is little innovation in the manufacturing operations space here, however that should not be an excuse.

So where am I going with this? I think that the pharma industry is poised to take a generational leap and may be able to skip the current or traditional manufacturing operations paradigms and go directly to Smart Manufacturing - bold! it is going to take more than putting a smart sensor on some equipment or sending some data to the cloud for analytics, but its a start. Most of all it is going to take leadership and a vision. There are a few people out there that I know will be able to do this - you know who you are. I am also ready for the challenge - It is a paradigm shift, we must think differently and operate differently.


Julie Fraser said...

Great to have your voice back on-line, Gilad! I've been around a long time too, and do see Industry 4.0 as the culmination of visions from the past 20 or even 30 years. For regulated biopharma manufacturers, I think you're right that they may be in position to transform quickly... If they can shift the mindset and leadership. Looking forward to those leaders telling their stories as they implement projects and initiatives!

Gilad Langer said...

Hi Julie, great to see you are following my blog, and thanks for the heads-up :-)

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