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How Can People Realistically Use Industry 4.0 Technologies?

Industry 4.0

How Can People Realistically Use Industry 4.0 Technologies?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a good portion of the HVAC&R industry moved from the office to working at home. This transition facilitated the implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies and strategies, such as digital twins, generative design and off-site construction. 

“All stakeholders in the HVAC&R ecosystem are pivoting to digital connection to survive and thrive during the pandemic. We are living the realities of virtual capacity strategically replacing the need for face-to-face gathering,” said 2020–21 ASHRAE President Charles E. Gulledge III, P.E., HBDP, Fellow ASHRAE.

Four months into his presidential term that has not looked the way anyone predicted, Gulledge talked with ASHRAE Journal staff about what he has learned about Industry 4.0 during his presidency as it relates to the pandemic and how people can realistically use these technologies.

1. What are some lessons you’ve learned during the first few months of your presidency?

Our ASHRAE members, chapters and regions are resilient. The global COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped our ability to participate, engage and contribute. If anything, the pivot to digital connection has afforded us the opportunity to participate more. Our global engagement is flourishing.

All stakeholders in the HVAC&R ecosystem are pivoting to digital connection to survive and thrive during the pandemic. We are living the realities of virtual capacity strategically replacing the need for face-to-face gathering.

2. Have you learned anything new about Industry 4.0 during your presidency?

Transformation naturally exposes excitement and fear. Both reactions are on full display as we embark on the evolution of lean collaboration, value, digital and off-site narratives.

Fear is apparent from the perspective of delivering built solutions differently. For some, the refinement of work, workforce and workplace remains in an analog world mindset. Improving productivity and uncovering value both lose out to the “this is the way we have always done things” status quo. Resistance to change remains.

What is refreshing is realizing various stakeholders from all facets of the HVAC&R ecosystem understand the path of relearning ahead and are embracing change. Digital technologies are being implemented to improve productivity throughout the three-part design, build and operate relationship. Owners are evolving to focus on a value path instead of low first-cost delivery models.

The entire ecosystem is realizing the importance of connected knowledge and how it eliminates waste along the path.

3. How can Industry 4.0 strategies/technologies help people who are working remotely?

Cloud-based platforms are affording us the ability to connect work, workforce and workplace as we practice optimal social distancing and alteration of occupancy strategies. Other technologies being used are:

  • Virtual design of 7D building information modeling (BIM) models is taking place from home, the office and the field.
  • Team meetings are migrating to virtual format.
  • Project review meetings are being conducted virtually from the digital model.
  • Procurement of materials and equipment is being done digitally.
  • Physical work that is being performed in the field, or off-site, is being linked to the digital model for all stakeholders to reveal true progress.
  • Real-time data is being linked to remote assist to help support effective building operations.

4. Why is now a good time for the HVAC&R Industry to adopt Industry 4.0 strategies/technologies?

Force and maturation are driving the need to evolve with Industry 4.0 now.

From a force perspective, the COVID-19 pandemic is exposing the need to distance people and exercise responsible administrative control as just one element of an overall risk mitigation response. Touch points, paper and face-to-face are being minimized.

From a maturation perspective, innovators are realizing that connected knowledge is critical to holistic collaboration, increasing productivity, removing waste, improving profit margins and eliminating rework. The benefits of evolving are being realized by all stakeholders. Innovation is driving the market.

5. What are some realistic ways people can start using Industry 4.0 strategies?

The journey to Industry 4.0 begins with all HVAC&R stakeholders embracing a shift in how we approach work. The simple, but monumental, pivot from static geometry to dynamic information is where it all begins. Allow me to expand on what that foundational evolution yields: the application of smart objects allows us to create an evolving 7D BIM model of our built solution. One model, not multiple, created by all project stakeholders collaboratively then reveals:

  • Virtual precision that shows exactly where all work results are to be performed. The model provides a constructible template.
  • Procurement detail can be embedded with the objects to track cost.
  • Labor factors can be linked to develop realistic schedules for on-site and off-site work results.
  • A smart model provides the basis for real-time performative simulation and comparative analysis, all linked to economy and time.
  • Operations and maintenance information can be embedded with the smart objects to facilitate knowledge transfer to the owner.
  • The embedded model knowledge can now be used to facilitate vertical supply chain management of procurement for materials and equipment. Touch points are minimized.
  • Data can be extracted from the model to cut and configure pipe, duct and supports. Productivity is improved. Waste is minimized.
  • The vertical precision of the model allows work results that would normally all be done in the field to be strategically moved off-site. Correctly applied off-site work results can result in shorter project schedules, reduced field overhead costs, improved job-site safety, reduction of waste, improved labor productivity and better quality control.
  • The knowledge capacity of the model evolves into a dynamic digital twin for the owner to use for effective building operations. Data collection points are identified and linked. Data is collected and stored representing an evolving profile of past and current behavior. Algorithms are used to mine the data lake searching for trends and patterns. Actionable intelligence, reactive and predictive, is identified for owner resolution.

This is but a simple narrative of how we connect the cyber-physical transformation that Industry 4.0 offers. It all begins by shifting from geometry and paper to dynamic information and connected knowledge.

To learn more about Gulledge’s Industry 4.0 presidential theme, visit this website.