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Industry 4.0: Innovation Through Digital Collaboration The ongoing revolution in manufacturing technology or Industry 4.0 is enabling quicker and more efficient processes that make for higher quality products at lower costs

By Jürgen Hase

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The transformation that is underway is boosting productivity, minimizing production challenges, simplifying human jobs and ultimately accelerating the industrial growth across geographies. Advanced technology is already being used in the manufacturing sector across the globe, but industry 4.0 will further give way to some transformational technologies that will allow the industry to evolve at a more rapid pace. A study by Accenture titled 'The Rise of Smart Production' mentioned that the first wave of adopters of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) would witness a 30% boost in productivity while reducing their maintenance costs by another 30per cent. Apart from IIOT, Big data analytics, cybersecurity and augmented reality is some of the several technologies that are leading the 4th industrial revolution from the front.

Building Together: The Growing Need for Collaboration for Enhanced Capabilities

At the brink of industry 4.0, innovation is the only way forward for organizations. This much-needed innovation can only be achieved with the concurrence of digital and physical technology. However, creating and integrating such advanced technologies within an existing organization is not an easy task. Due to the time and cost factor, it is definitely not one that can be achieved, in most cases, without external support. Thus, the need for collaboration with other organizations with suitable technological expertise is apparent. The benefits of collaboration with external organizations are always mutual in nature, as both parties can exchange ideas and resources, leading to partnered innovation.

Many companies are willing to be a part of the 4th industrial revolution, but simply lack the technical know-how and human resources to facilitate such a gargantuan change. Such companies look to collaborate with multiple other players, each of whom brings their own specialized expertise. For instance, a manufacturer can collaborate with different companies offering AI capabilities, IIOT integration, 3D printing and big data analytics separately. In such a scenario where different companies bring together their unique capabilities, scaling is much easier and more efficient. On the other hand, certain organizations prefer collaborating with single players, in order to solve specific problems. Such partnerships are simpler to manage and allow companies to create long-term value in a streamlined fashion.

Why Collaboration With New-Age Start-Ups is in Vogue

Several domain leaders are looking to collaborate with start-up companies that are more open to novel approaches and flexible in their approach towards manufacturing. These start-ups usually focus on creating new technologies that can enhance the capabilities of existing organizations by leaps and bounds. Another major benefit of partnering with start-ups is that they are smaller in size and it is easier for them to adapt to the changing business ecosystem. Finally, services offered by start-ups that are just beginning to gain scale in the market are usually priced low and are easily affordable. Thus, organizations can save huge amounts by opting for start-ups instead of established companies for their collaborations. Finally, start-ups usually come armed with a variety of new-age entrepreneurs that are skilled in several cutting-edge disciplines. The exchange of novel thoughts and ideas between individuals who have worked on and with leading technologies is always a huge plus of evolving companies.

Things to Keep in Mind While Collaborating for Innovation

Manufacturing companies are quickly realizing that the key to market leadership is collaboration. In the past, collaborations have failed due to a lack of data harmonization or a lack of relevant data altogether. As data and digitization are at the helm of these new-age collaborations, intra-industry partnerships are more mature than ever before. These are based on the convergence of multiple technologies, leaving very little room for human error.

Over the past couple of years, as innovations and investments in the digital space have gone up considerably, the opportunities for various global players to collaborate with each other have also gone up. Major events and technology summits like India Digital Summit, Convergence India, International Conference on Electrical, Electronics & Computer Science (ICEECS), and Broadcast Engineering Society Expo are among many such platforms. These events have enabled governments, IT and communications industry leaders, and technology manufacturers to come together to undertake long-term, outcome-driven collaborations.

Keeping in mind that digitization will be at the heart of these collaborations, here are some key factors that can lead to a successful collaboration between organizations:

Hire a Chief Innovation Officer: Appoint an individual who will be responsible for identifying and sourcing innovative solutions for the organization. In a large-scale organization, this task can also be handled by a team of innovation officers.

Take Small Steps: An organization, after collaborating with an innovative service provider, might remain in the stage of implementation for a prolonged period of time. During this time, organizations should focus on acquiring technological capabilities in an efficient manner instead of trying to fast-track the results.

Devise New Products: While looking to collaborate to acquire industry 4.0 capabilities, it is always a good idea to commence the partnership with a fresh product. In this way, the company offering its technological expertise can test its developing technology in tandem with an established corporation.

Look Beyond the first Project: While collaborating with one or more companies, it is important for a manufacturer to focus on long-term synergy. Aligned strategies and goals along with similar long term visions make for more fruitful collaborations between organizations.

Currently, rapidly evolving trends and multitudes of challenges exist in the manufacturing industry. Along with widespread technological uptake, companies will have to go through complete mindset shifts in order to survive in the 4th industrial revolution. Organizations carrying out business alongside each other will be required to become one unit, to share digital technologies and infrastructures and remain competitive in this ever-evolving business landscape.

Jürgen Hase

CEO, UNLIMIT- A Reliance Group Company

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