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The Core of Industry 4.0- Product Data Architecture
2023-09-09

        In enterprises, the market demand we face is variable, and different customers or the same customer may have various requirements in different batches of products. Customers also need to put forward different requirements to you.

        On the cover, there are many cars painted, including those with flat heads, diesel engines, cars with carriages, and flip buckets. Is it a product or a different product on the surface? From a customization perspective, there are only two products above, one is a small vehicle and the other is a large vehicle.

      When people mention Industry 4.0, a scene comes to mind: fully automated workshops and equipment, where a command is issued and the product is produced. Is this impression really the essence of Industry 4.0? I checked online and found that Industry 4.0 was proposed by Germany at the Industrial Expo. Industry 4.0 can enhance Germany’s national strength because the purpose of this concept is to increase the export of automation equipment in Germany. As for whether all workshops in Germany have become fully automated, this is a question worth considering. Can we create a workshop where a truck of sand can be transported in and color TVs can be produced? If possible, is there still a need for division of labor in society? There is no strong company in this world, and it is impossible to do everything. We still need to carry out industrial cooperation.

        Industry 4.0 is a highly flexible, personalized, and digital production model for products and services. We provide customers with whatever they want. I personally believe that this is not achievable, and there is still something missing in the middle. Because the reason is very simple. If you have a product that needs to produce 10000 pieces, it is the cost model on the left. When you implement the current industrial 4.0 mainly promoted in Germany, you find that the labor cost has been replaced, and your product cost is almost the same as before, because the equipment cost has increased, and the preparation cost of the product has also increased. When you truly produce 100 types, but only 10000 pieces, and use the existing Industry 4.0 architecture to solve this problem, you will find that the production preparation cost will be greatly increased, and the equipment cost will also need to be increased, because you will have to face more complex process.

        The Relationship between Production Factor Cost and Industry 4.0 Production Model

        I searched for an image online that classic showcases the concept of Industry 4.0, which is “network+manufacturing”. After considering it, can “network+manufacturing” add up? The internet is extensive, diverse, free, and personalized. The reality faced by China or generally by moderately developed countries is that manufacturing involves concepts such as flow, logistics, economies of scale, supply chain strategies, as well as requirements for customization and production batches. The network is dynamic and unpredictable, and manufacturing is predetermined and regulated. How can they be combined?

 

Does Network+Manufacturing Form Industry 4.0

      Of course, we have many strategies, including interface strategies and modular strategies, which can achieve different product configurations. If a company wants to truly face such changing demands, can we produce and operate well? Our company still has an annual personnel turnover rate of 10%. After ten years and 100% of our employees have been replaced, can the platform we worked hard to establish ten years ago still work? This is a question that we need to consider. The architecture is very good, but it needs to be sustainable, maintainable, and able to maintain normal operation even when personnel skills are not so advanced. So, this is a question mark, what can we do today?

        The most important thing is that there is a very strange phenomenon in our manufacturing enterprise production. We often draw a flowchart, which includes one process from research and development to sales to service, and another process from sales to production to service. These are two situations, one is production – developing new products is production; Another type is production scheduling – repeated production is production scheduling. There are only two processes for enterprise operation, one is the process of making money, and the other is the horizontal flow; One is the process of spending money, vertical flow. These two processes are closely related, which constitutes how we manage the enterprise.

 

Cross flow and longitudinal flow

      The product development is not static and will be modified later. There is a lot of information exchange in this process. Each of our sales personnel has a thorough understanding of the customer’s specific cabinet size, which wall to stick to, and whether there is glass behind the wall when signing a contract with the customer. But when formulating product research and development requirements, modularity involves collecting information from numerous sales personnel to form an architecture. Based on this architecture, the laws of product changes are studied, so what will be produced in the future is not a blueprint, but a variable formula. Of course, there are many current concepts, but truly operating them requires a lot of top-level support, including sales management and market management. The design goal of R&D is to design a set of rules, not to design a product. More negative feedback is needed in the later stage to promote product quality improvement.

        The real thing to do is to manage the product file architecture and the product definition hierarchy, which together are called “data architecture”. When dealing with these two hierarchical relationships, automated machine tools and the internet are both tools. We cannot let tools affect our mindset and spirit in running a business. The sedimentation of tools and concepts is the product’s document architecture and product definition hierarchy. The definition level of this product only exists in the context of large-scale production. It is not a product, but a set of laws. After having a product data architecture, we have sophisticated production equipment, not so sophisticated people, and with reasonable planning, we can enable enterprises to meet various needs in a highly changing world in the long term. It’s not that the best things are always suitable, but to find the products that are most suitable for the current stage of the enterprise, so that the enterprise can survive in the long term.

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