July 22, 2021
There is no underestimating the impact that the process manufacturing industry has on society today.
There is no underestimating the impact that the process manufacturing industry has on society today. Process manufacturing deals with formulas and basic ingredients, as in biotech, pharma and chemical operations (contrasted with discrete manufacturing, which deals with assembled parts and bills of materials). Chemicals are ubiquitous in our automobiles, particularly EVs, and the new light-weight materials used to reduce carbon emissions, windmills and solar panels. On top of this, pharmaceuticals are saving lives with innovative drugs and vaccines.
But in the near future, a new wave of cognitive computing applications and infrastructure, collectively known as Industry 5.0, will transform chemical, pharmaceutical and biotechnology manufacturing, leading to innovations in drug therapies and dramatically accelerating new drug discovery.
The Contributions Of Industry 4.0
These new “smart” applications in Industry 5.0 were made possible through computing design innovations and the evolution of the internet of things (IoT), a pillar of Industry 4.0, which describes the wave of industrial automation affecting manufacturing today. With the advent of Industry 4.0, the process industry has been redefined with a wave of intelligent applications consisting mainly of cyber-physical systems, in which applications interact via machine to machine. This evolution has been focused on sensors and data that have radicalized production and brought greater transparency to processes, particularly for a single product or batch.
While their contributions have been many, Industry 4.0 and industrial IoT concepts have their limitations. Traditionally focused on automation, they have only recognized the role of the human factor as simply another component, rather than an integral and creative contributor to the success of the process. Implementing machinery has created fewer problems, but when things do not go as planned, the consequences may be greater. Machines can only deliver what they have been programmed to do. People, however, bring innovation and creativity, particularly in solving anomaly situations in complex and hazardous manufacturing processes.
Industry 5.0 Enhances The Human Factor
The next step in the evolution of manufacturing processes is the notion of a machine-assisted human. This will involve today’s industrial IoT as well as the nascent industrial AI. Today, artificial intelligence has transformed the science in laboratories and in R&D. Now, these achievements are needed to support processes on the shop floor with powerful cognitive applications — that is, to make data useful for people so that people and machines can work together as teams to build a stronger, more resilient system.
A perfect example of this concept is Boeing’s new Airpower Teaming System. Nicknamed the “Loyal Wingman,” these smart team members are AI-controlled drones that can fly independently or in support of manned aircraft, thus expanding the abilities of military airborne missions. This expansion of human endeavors with machines is enabling a new level of machine-assisted human collaboration that will achieve far more than ever before.
Not just on the horizon, but already being implemented, as in the Boeing example, Industry 5.0 will deliver the recognition and acceptance that is needed to combine the speed and accuracy of technology with the creative and cognitive skills of people. This will promote a more robust and competitive environment. Coexistence opens up many new avenues for exploration, including exciting new job opportunities. For example, people will be even more removed from routine and monotonous tasks and will instead be empowered to use their inherent cognitive skills to bring even greater value to the plant floor.
Industry 5.0 may even bring the development of new social contracts on the factory floor. While there will be communication between humans and their robots, there will also be the necessity for human-to-human collaboration to share the critical information that ensures resilience, accountability and compliance. For example, human lead operations can respond quickly to adverse events or even major disasters. In the end, people are responsible; machines are not.
Intelligent Plant Process Management
This is where a concept like plant process management (PPM) comes into play. Machine data, reconciled with human context, ensures a safe and efficient plant. This requires a well-managed communications process such as PPM, which can be deployed across an enterprise no matter the sophistication levels of their local IoT implementations. A key advantage of PPM is its ability to capture and analyze information at any point in a manufacturing process.
Knowledge is captured from the people in the production process at intervals like shift handover or inspection routines. Digitally captured, this information can be immediately delivered to all constituents in the production process — from the plant floor all along the chain to the upper echelons of the organization, so there is complete transparency for all.
As Industry 5.0 proliferates manufacturing environments, we can expect to see the delegation of far more complex tasks to machines in production plants as naturally as we say, “Alexa, play music!” at home today. At the same time, people will remain responsible for their manufacturing plants’ performance and held accountable for any and all decisions.
Since the Industry 3.0 wave that began some 40 years ago, manufacturers have chased the dream of the fully automated, lights-out operation. However, due to concerns regarding safety, environment and efficiency, this goal is both elusive and impractical, especially for pharma and chemical operations. The aim should rather be to use technology to enable people to use their natural talents and capabilities to increase productivity. But, in the future, successful manufacturing enterprises will implement technology that enables this human-machine network together with a high degree of collaboration. This will ensure more transparency, reliability and visibility across all plant functions to help teams better communicate and optimize outcomes. Human-centric technology that has been designed with people in mind enables organizational teams to improve productivity, cost efficiencies, quality and safety.
For manufacturers to energize the opportunities abundant in 5.0, decentralizing data capture with information and communication models is the foundational platform for success. But, most importantly, change management is best done with all constituents involved in the process — having them participate in decisions will provide a solid basis for buy-in.