Industry 4.0 refers to the production and marketing environment. According to the experts in the retail sector and other business domains, digitization of processes and record-keeping has experienced a quantum jump, from where it has been in the past decade. Industry 4.0 marks a disruption in the way service and manufacturing is executed in what may be called the traditional way of doing things, that is Industry 3.0, and earlier models of partnership and collaboration. Eight to seventeen technologies combined leads to what is loosely aggregated as Industry 4.0.
In the context of supply chains, instead of the linear model of thinking, from suppliers to consumers, the new model is more of a network, with data such as Point of Sale (POS) reaching the producers and wholesalers directly instead of being relayed along the chain. It enables smart procurement and warehouse management and nullifies the bullwhip effect substantially, since accurate data reaches dedicated partners almost immediately. The bullwhip effect which is actually a problem faced in the supply chain is the distortion of demand forecasts as it is shared along the supply chain, by the various partners, even, if it is integrated.
The Production and Operation Management Society of India conducted an international conference at K. J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research, on this theme of “Supply Chain in the new environment of Industry 4.0”, on December 13th and 14th. There were memorable keynote addresses, by distinguished professors from India, such as Prof. M. R. Rao from ISB Hyderabad, and from abroad. Many delegates, from a number of countries made their paper presentations, in the parallel tracks.
One keynote address, that was considerably grand, was by the representative of Larsen and Toubro (L&T), T. Sasidhar, Chief Engineering Manager. It was about their recent project of the Statue of Unity. This statue is of the “Ironman”, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, who integrated 565 princely states into the Republic of India during the independence movement. This statue which has its foundation in the Narmada river and faces the dam is colossal compared to the Statue of Liberty, had a budget of Rs. 3000 crores. Out of this amount 750 crores are ear-marked for maintenance. The statue skin is made of 8mm bronze skin, around a concrete and steel structure. The Statue of Liberty, in contrast, has a 2mm copper skin, which allows it to be hammered into place over the frame of the statue. The 8mm thickness of bronze made it impossible to follow the same method, and instead thousands of panels were made, and fitted together. The bronze is expected to be preserved for over 100 years. There are elevator shafts that run up the legs of the statue, and there is a viewing gallery at the chest level. One problem that the builders anticipate, that was not there in the original specifications, was of parking, for which they expect a huge demand in future years. A large visitor facility has been developed nearby the statue, and this is expected to be a convenience to tourists. There are Tuned Mass Dampers to deal with strong winds, Façade lighting at night, perforations, to deal with temperature gradients due to the materials used, and many other fine engineering touches. The speaker emphasized the strict project management that was enforced, difficult deadlines that were kept, and engineering obstacles that were overcome through sheer perseverance.