How will Industry 4.0 transform the project management industry? It’s a valid question and one that we are receiving more frequently across South East Asia. However, the reality of Industry 4.0 and its impact on project management is more often than not different from the perceptions of what it can and will achieve.
This mismatch isn’t misplaced though. The concept of Industry 4.0 itself is defined by the use of technology, robotics and automation in industrial facilities. It conjures images of so-called “smart factories” powered by internet-based systems and processes. In other words, automation and self-optimization of industrial facilities and construction. But in the project management industry, we see the application of Industry 4.0 somewhat differently.
Industry 4.0 is really about connectivity, improving time to market and ultimately, the customer experience. To put it another away, while the fundamentals of how a product is manufactured will tend to remain the same, the biggest change that Industry 4.0 will bring is most likely in the supply chain and the project process itself.
Most noticeably, logistic warehouses can respond quicker to customers’ demand and bring more efficiency to the whole construction cycle via Industry 4.0 innovation. A good example is the fast fashion industry. Well-known brands such as Zara and H&M have managed to cut down the time of manufacturing finished goods to a couple of weeks. The result being, adding new products on shelves quicker. Given that we are in an era where everything is disposable, being able to manufacture and deliver swiftly to customers is crucial to stay competitive in this market.
Outside of supply chain and time-to-market breakthroughs, the rise of Industry 4.0 is also playing a major role in helping companies to refine the manufacturing process by capturing more meaningful data and, most importantly, to drive costs down.
Within the Project Management space, the impact of Industry 4.0 can already be seen. With the increased use of pre-fabrication the focus is diversifying the construction sites into factories but also on how a Project Manager’s daily duties are enhanced by the use of technology. For example, the ability of modeling in 3D stages is now much easier, to the point that you can sequence the way a construction project works. For instance, if you have a challenging project, you can create models based on drawings before you go to site and therefore identify any major problems and resolve them before construction starts.
Not only that, there are now online documentation systems and apps changing the Project Management cycle. CBRE internal platform Kahua is one example, which gives you the ability to just take a photo, upload it on the system and share it within the team involved in that specific project making it easier to deal with any project’s defect rectifications.
One of the major changes that Industry 4.0 will bring in next couple of years is within the 3D printing area in terms of the complexity and the type of products that can be manufactured. Currently, 3D printing primarily functions to make simple or static shapes. Via ongoing technology investment and innovation, achieving a level of accuracy required to print out an actual working object, cutting down on assembling time and increasing time-to-market is a closer reality than ever before.
This whole revolution is also bringing the designer much closer to the machinery. Specifically, that whoever is designing the product would sit somewhere remotely in the world customizing the drawing and then send it to the 3D printer to fabricate it. The possibilities are truly broad.
Flexibility is key here. Major industrial clients operating globally across multiple sectors which are not connected from a manufacturing perspective are looking at template designs. This is to standardize their real estate portfolio internationally and to allow them to switch a facility from one totally un-connected product to another in a short time frame. In doing so, these companies are improving their ability to respond faster to an increasingly dynamic market place.
There are no doubts that the impacts of Industry 4.0 will be considerable as technology improves. Ultimately, this is not necessary changing the appearance of construction per say or its fundamentals but rather reinvigorating the entire process. We believe this to be the most immediate impact of Industry 4.0 on the project management industry in this region.
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