Industry 4.0: Avoiding digitisation and modernisation ‘not an option’

By Ben Hargreaves contact

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Jiraroj Praditcharoenkul)
(Image: Getty/Jiraroj Praditcharoenkul)

Related tags: Industry 4.0, Gsk, Artificial intelligence

If the industry wants to maintain control of manufacturing operations, it has to adopt digital technologies or face being ousted by Amazon, suggested GSK’s Pharma 4.0 director.

This month, a discussion at Pharma Integrates focused on what benefits can be reaped from adopting some of the technologies synonymous with Industry 4.0, such as greater use of data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and greater automation.

One company that has direct experience in attempting to find applicability with this wave of new technology is GSK, which created a ‘factory of the future’​ in Stevenage, UK, to find improvements to current manufacturing processes.

Employing Industry 4.0 technology is not about working towards future goals but about applying them now with “a very deliberate purpose to reduce overall capital spend,” ​Patrick Hyett, Pharma 4.0 director at GSK, told delegates at the event.

The project was, in part, inspired by digital innovation in a variety of industries, including the gaming industry, he explained.

“We had to be humble enough to admit that we needed to learn in this digital space,”​ he acknowledged.

Applying the technology

GSK used knowledge gained from hearing about other industries to develop its own project in Stevenage that tested a number of different Industry 4.0 technologies, to see where they could be applied.

“It has been successful in developing a key project. We had 25 different programmes, run by one group on one product, located on one site, at the same time. We had a razor focus on delivery, to bring this factory into a digital world. The project was about going paperless and very specific productivity goals, you could consider it an infrastructure project,”​ he detailed.

Beyond this, Hyett also suggested the firm used the space to work with regulators, and as an engagement space within the company to develop actual solutions to problems the business had been facing.

How did we get to the fourth industrial revolution?

Industry 1.0:​ Society becomes industrialised, harnesses steam power, and develops textile and iron industries

Industry 2.0:​ Electrical power allows for mass production, emergence of oil and steel industry

Industry 3.0:​ Otherwise known as the Digital Revolution, advent of the internet and personal computers

Industry 4.0:​Development of new ‘smart’ digital technologies, such as robots, AI, nanotechnology and IoT

The payoff

Hyett was able to show the benefit to colleagues within GSK when solutions discovered were applied through its manufacturing network and cost savings were made.

“We are starting to apply these technologies and get real value strategically within the organisation. One project saved £80m ($102m) in lost profit revenue and another project, using artificial intelligence, also had a major impact, over £5m,”​ he outlined.

More than cost savings, Hyett stressed to the audience that, in the future, it may not be possible to avoid the adoption of these technologies. He warned that if the pharma industry, and those dependent on manufacturing for the space, did not innovate then other companies looking to disrupt the sector would.

“One of the things that I haven't heard enough is that [manufacturing and supply chain operations] won't go to rival companies, it will go to Amazon – it absolutely will.

“We need to, as a group, start thinking about disrupting the disrupters. We're on a journey and we're learning how to innovate, in a manufacturing sense. The mindset has to be to stop seeing [this technology] as a barrier and to start looking for solutions to move forward.”

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