Industry 4.0: Future solutions, today

By : Azrin Abd Shukor, Country Manager, NetApp Malaysia, Brunei & Singapore  

Manufacturing is expected to be a huge driver of Asia’s economy in the future. Deloitte forecasts that by 2020, 10 out of the 15 most competitive manufacturing countries will be from the Asia. Malaysia for example is poised to become the leader among the MITI-V (pronounced ‘Mighty Five’) manufacturing nations in South East Asia[1]; with its manufacturing sector contributing RM254billion, or 22% to the national GDP in the last five years.

The rise of Malaysia as part of the Mighty Five can in part, be attributed to Industry4WRD; the country’s National Policy on Industry 4.0, a four-pronged strategy to boost Malaysia’s manufacturing sector via higher productivity, contribution, innovation and more high-skilled workers[2].

While the government’s support in targeted funding and incentives to Malaysian manufacturers under the policy are essential in ensuring their successful transition towards the 4th Industrial Revolution, they also need to understand the importance of moving away from traditional manufacturing to advanced or smart manufacturing.

Smart manufacturing technologies are underpinned by emerging technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), 3D Printing, Advanced Robotics and Wearables being used across the manufacturing value chain. These technologies are essential in improving productivity, efficiency and cost; enhancing organisational, management and production capabilities.

A key result in the implementation of these technologies is data. By adopting them, organisations will create large volumes of data that when harnessed correctly could be used to deliver actionable insights for the business. As data increasingly becomes the lifeblood of an organisation and the cornerstone of the manufacturing evolution, manufacturers must turn to digital transformation to accelerate business outcomes and minimise loss.

Manufacturers are progressively leveraging Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect their machines, systems, and products – which are traditionally siloed – through networked sensors. Through data and a holistic approach to digital transformation, traditional, linear manufacturing supply chains can be turned into dynamic, interconnected systems[3], enabling manufacturers to improve operational efficiency and gain competitive advantage.


The integration of data-driven solutions into the manufacturing process may seem dauting, given the limitless configurations of smart factory solutions and the journey manufacturers will need to navigate in order to reach a pace appropriate and suitable for the organisation. As manufacturers grapple with the steps they can take towards building their smart factory, a data management strategy that covers the workflow across the factory-floor should cover five key areas:

  1. Collect – capturing sensor data and making it transportable
  2. Transport – focusing on ensuring data from connected things are securely and reliably transferred to the data centre
  3. Store – storing the sensory data and making it available for analysis
  4. Analyse – analysing the sensor data for application
  5. Archive – recording the sensor data and storing them in archives

Once manufacturers find a way to store, manage, make sense of, and act upon the data gathered, the right talent and tools to drive the data journey and processes need to be put in place. Regardless of where the data resides – at the core or at the edge – the smart factory would be able to observe the entire digital supply network and make changes to achieve a truly successful outcome.

A connected robotic arm in a production line, for example, can collect on its performance, filter out the unimportant information, and only send alerts to the operator if there is an anomaly, such as overheating or parts failure. As manufacturers increasingly adopt hybrid cloud (storing and managing data from the edge to core to cloud) for flexibility, they will need to have a uniform data format to be able to easily combine data from different environments for analysis, eliminating data silos and having the ability to access data wherever needed to increase efficiency and accelerate innovation.


Given the complexities in data management and its inimitability from one manufacturing plant to the next, there is likely no common path to achieving an end-all smart factory solution. Having said that, the components needed to enable a successful smart factory are largely universal, and manufacturers can look at several key areas to meet specific objectives:

  • Data management and automation – Forming the backbone behind all processes and operations in the smart factory, manufacturers will have to manage the ongoing streams of data, storing the massive loads of generated information, and analyse the collected data. For a manufacturer to truly run a smart factory, it must also achieve autonomy – one of the most valuable features. A factory’s ability to process data for self-optimisation, self-adaptation, and executing production processes can fundamentally alter traditional processes. As the business achieves higher levels of maturity, manufacturers will ultimately have to consider a holistic plan in managing and leveraging on data.
  • People – Despite the increasing automation present in a growing smart factory, people will still be a crucial part to reach success. While some roles may be replaced by robotics, automation, and AI, new roles will emerge to fit in this hyper-connected setting. The factory of the future will require its people working in tandem with its processes to embrace greater impact in their roles.
  • Cybersecurity – Given the nature of its connectedness, manufacturers will have to consider cybersecurity more than ever before. While the threat is less pronounced in a traditional manufacturing facility, a smart factory with a fully connected environment can see cyberattacks spread rapidly, affecting operations and potentially more difficult to protect against. Manufacturers should prioritise cybersecurity from the start and emphasise its importance even as operations grow.

As we head into the future, data-driven innovations in the manufacturing sector will have the potential to push Malaysia, along with the rest of the Mighty Five, to pierce the top 15 nations worldwide on manufacturing competitiveness over the next five years. NetApp, the data authority for hybrid cloud, understands the pivotal role data plays in the industry.  With consistent data services for data visibility and insights, NetApp’s Data Fabric is here to help businesses and manufacturers simplify the integration and orchestration of data for applications and analytics in clouds, across clouds, and on-premises to accelerate digital transformation.

About NetApp
NetApp is the data authority for hybrid cloud. We provide a full range of hybrid cloud data services that simplify management of applications and data across cloud and on-premises environments to accelerate digital transformation. Together with our partners, we empower global organizations to unleash the full potential of their data to expand customer touchpoints, foster greater innovation, and optimize their operations. For more information, visit www.netapp.com. #DataDriven