by Dean Douglas | April 23, 2021 | 6 min read
We could be forgiven in thinking that when we talk about the 4th industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 or construction 4.0, that we are referring to some great technological advancement that is about to sweep across the world changing everything in its wake. In previous iterations that was definitely the case, with the first industrial revolution forever changing life with the introduction of mechanisation, steam and hydro powered machinery and the locomotive bringing everyone closer together1. The second, brought mass produced goods and electricity into people’s homes, making lots of today’s household items cheaper and more accessible2. And then in its third iteration the advancement of electronics, IT systems and automation; introduced computers and the internet into almost every aspect of our lives3. So how is industry 4.0 any different?
There are a number of answers to this and one of the first ones we should always keep in mind is that for the first time we are defining what the next industrial revolution will be before it happens4. We are trying to anticipate and understand how this monumental change will impact the way in which we work. All while we are still defining what that change will be.
The second difference that sets industry 4.0 apart from its predecessors is that there isn’t a single technological advancement, the movement is centred around driving change2. This time we do not have to build new factories, develop production lines, lay railways, or buy computers. Instead, industry 4.0 builds itself around a single premise; connecting the physical world with the cyber/digital world to unlock a greater understanding of assets and processes5. In connecting the components of assets and systems with their counterparts in the form of digital data; and going on further to link these digital representations to ever more disparate datasets, will allow us to develop a greater understanding of an asset or a system. Beginning our journey on the development of a Digital Twin.
In saying this, we need to shift our perceptions away from a fixation on looking for a technology or software that will solve all our troubles, instead, we should be looking for the first steps we need to take to establish how we unlock value from our assets. This will allow us to begin to lay the groundwork for the development of a Digital Twin and begin to understand how to make use of the data that we are already collecting and storing about our assets. We need to shift away from this idea that we have not only in the built environment but also in our daily lives; that we always need to be buying or updating to the latest gadget or piece of tech, that will fix all our woes.
But instead taking more of a ‘make do and mend’ mentality, understanding that through making slight improvements to how we use tech we already have can make a considerable difference to the impact that it has on our lives.
Taking this mentality and looking at the first steps along the way to realising industry 4.0 and the Digital Twin; is all about realising the wealth of data that we are sitting on and making changes to existing processes that will enable the realisation of its value. Here we take a quick look at what those first steps could look like.
One of the first hurdles that we must begin to address is how we structure the data that we already collect on a daily basis and have done for a great deal of time. Stepping away from the idea that simply collecting as much data as we can in a digitised manner will be beneficial to us at some point. And instead understanding that the key to gaining benefit from this data is to collect and store it in a structured manner that allows for it to be easily interpreted, understood, and compared.
When we talk about sharing data the same apprehensions always prevail: the fear of security risks, of business critical information being leaked, or competitive edge being lost. However, the first step to better sharing of data is not necessarily to share our information externally, but instead to better understand how data circulates throughout an organisation. We must strive to ensure that data is effectively and efficiently shared internally within teams and between departments, limiting the siloing within the organisation. This in turn will enable better informed decision making by ensuring that people have the appropriate and necessary data at hand.
The significance of generating insights from our data is encapsulated by W. Edwards Deming; “In God we trust, all others must bring data.”6. Highlighting his strong belief that by having well-structured data more readily available we can begin to generate better insights and understanding into the impact that our decisions have on our working processes, and the way in which we manage our assets. It is through the accumulation of robust data that will allow us to make informed, measured changes based on data already being generated and collected. This process will enable us to ask more and more of our data, opening up the possibility to ever greater levels of digitalisation and Digital Twin. That can establish long term trends and predictions or run simulations of decision scenarios.
While these may be laid out as simple first steps towards the realisation of industry 4.0 and a Digital Twin, they are no mean feat. Each represents a great shift in how we view our data and make use of it, as well as how we view and anticipate the wider digitalisation movement. We don’t need a new technology or software. We don’t have to wait for the development of a Digital Twin standard to begin these steps. We can already start to take our first steps towards Industry 4.0 and Digital Twin, by taking stock of what we are already doing and ensuring that we understand the value of the data we are producing and through changes to these processes we can ensure to maximise its worth. It is this idea that drives the research currently being done at BIM Academy, which looks to develop a measured framework that provides steps towards the realisation of Digital Twin.
If you’d like to know more about the research, please contact: [email protected]
Member of the Ryder Alliance
+44 (0) 191 269 5444 [email protected]
Subscribe to our newsletter for our latest insights into all things digital.