2013 was a watershed year for Industry 4.0, moving from the concept pages of the German Academy of Engineering to becoming strategic pillars of investment across governments and enterprises. Half-way around the globe that year, deep learning neural nets achieved human level accuracy at the ImageNet image classification benchmark for the first time in history, signaling the arrival of truly disruptive enabling technologies.
Since then, we have seen an ever increasing amount of investment, attention and focus on AI and robotic automation – from factories to warehouses to the broader supply chain (see Figure):
A key question remains however – What about the Human Element? We surveyed more than 100 manufacturing leaders to find out.
The results suggest that while the majority of value added activities in the forseeable future will still be driven by humans, a disproportional amount of digital transformation effort largely focuses on machines.
Consider the following three findings:
(1) 72% of tasks in factory are still performed by humans, while 68%-73% of defects and variability are also driven by human workers
(2) More than 30-40% of engineer’s time are spent on doing decades-old time and motion studies and root cause analysis, rather than on higher value adding solution and problem solving
(3) Respondents also noted that there’s an almost universal lack of data into the activities that people perform in the factory. Over 70% believe access to better human digital data and analytics can drive better planning, staffing, and optimization decisions. (see Figure):
We believe this massive imbalance in the analytics footprint leaves manufacturers around the globe with a human-shaped blind spot, which prevents them from realizing the full digital transformation potential.
Data illuminates opportunities for productivity and quality improvements; simplifies traceability; mitigates variability; and creates new opportunities for operators to add even greater value. Humans are going to be the backbone of manufacturing for the foreseeable future, and the companies that improve their human factory analytics are the ones that will be best positioned to compete in Industry 4.0