In a paper published last year, Carla Reinhardt, then at University College, Cork, Ireland, and now a project lead at Johnson & Johnson, also in Cork, surveyed Irish biomanufacturing professionals for their awareness of Industry 4.0 and industry-wide adoption efforts.
Among her observations: Awareness of 4.0 varies according to job function and experience, with senior managers and individuals already working in IT or automation being more aware. Reinhardt arrived at some interesting conclusions, which she extrapolated to bioproduction globally.
GEN: How is the Irish biomanufacturing sector reflective the global industry?
Reinhardt: Eight or nine of the top 10 biopharma players have production facilities in Ireland, many of them in Cork city. Plus since Brexit, Ireland is the only native English-speaking country in the EU, which is a plus.
GEN: Industry 4.0 is about competitive advantages through adoption of digitization, cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), and Big Data. Is it possible to adopt these components one at a time as they become relevant to an organization?
Reinhardt: To a large degree step-by-step adoption is the most realistic approach to 4.0. The larger the organization, the harder for them just to jump into the deep end. In research settings, adopting 4.0 from proof of concept to full scale deployment may be achieved as rapidly as is economically feasible.
But achieving that is much more difficult for a large organization, at the manufacturing level and at scale. That is why we often see adoption of one component, for example IoT, by one department at a time. Full adoption is risky because change always involves risk, and a lot of changes need to occur before you can even arrive at a process that is fully IoT or Big Data-enabled.
Things will move a lot faster after a very large company adopts 4.0 globally, so you could say that reluctance at this level has been a significant drag on wider adoption.
GEN: Do all 4.0 components apply to all biomanufacturers? Is it possible to benefit from one or several without adopting all?
Reinhardt: The big point is that industry 4.0 is not a “take it all or leave it all” situation. If organizations want to embrace IoT they can stop there, but in the future these companies will be at a disadvantage because everyone else will just keep going with related components like digitization or big data. Ultimately, 4.0 is about getting people off the production floor and onto tasks that create more value. It’s not only about machines.