By Upinder Zutshi

Would you think twice about a simple pallet in a warehouse? For organizations that are linked to supply-chain processes, pallets are the critical worker ants that hold together the supply chain and make a significant impact on efficiency and costs. But today, the humble pallet has turned special, helped along by embedded ‘smart’ tags that track movement, stock, wastage, and all associated processes to optimize its functioning. In this way, digital transformation has touched multiple elements and stages within organizations, establishing the ‘smart factory’—with smart processes, systems, and decisions, and ushering in Industry 4.0

A similar transformation can be seen in enterprises across every industry. This new element of ‘smart’ has been enabled by increasing digitization, and therefore, increased amounts of data, analytics, and predictive models. With enterprises now generating more and more data, IT systems and processes of data-centric technology are infusing every enterprise that is connected to the Internet, or which produces and consumes data. While operational technology (OT) has traditionally not been networked, IT is converging with OT in this Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and communication and networking are become ingrained throughout business processes. Such integration of processes and information flow in the era of Industry 4.0 necessitates a collaborative mode of functioning.

Harnessing the Power of the Network Through Collaboration

It is only when systems are connected to exchange information, and smart devices can communicate with each other that valuable insights can be generated and put to work—enabling better asset monitoring, predictive maintenance, resource optimization, and many more business benefits. As a result, Industry 4.0 thrives in a connected environment, one where people, data, processes, systems, and capital assets can converge to create cyber-physical systems, and propel IoT.

Taking this into enterprises, IIoT encapsulates technologies such as mobility, machine-to-machine (M2M), artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data and analytics to harness sensor data within organizations. The corollary to this is that the ways of working also have to steadily change to support such technologies, and here too, collaboration is key. Increasingly, businesses are seeing how the new ways of working have to be built around a collaborative mode—where the lines between entities, between different stages and providers, are being erased. Collaborating throughout the value chain enables data and IoT to deliver value and practically become ‘smart’. Only then can the chief principles of Industry 4.0 be truly achieved—interoperability, transparency of information, technical assistance, and decentralization of decisions.

Such collaboration requires effective communication, seamless multi-channel access and sharing, and a secure exchange of data—typically an Information Technology approach. For instance, let us look at the inventory process. Inventory management, that is, the ordering, storing, and tracking of products, aims to maintain optimal stock levels. If inventory fails to move, it wastes precious shelf space. At the same time, the reverse is also undesirable—the shortage of inventory leads to items being out of stock and leads to revenue losses. Both conditions act as opportunity costs for an enterprise. But now, collaborative tools can solve this problem. Using these, an enterprise can receive real-time alerts, track products, monitor stock levels closely, and improve inventory management. In this way, from connected technologies and mobility in smart cities to building management systems, technologies such as IoT and big data analytics are adding value to businesses and consumers across a vast spectrum of applications. For instance, one can imagine the immense increase in ease and efficiency for a hospital, which has a secure cloud-based repository of patient health records that are effortlessly shared with patients through different channels.

Similar platforms that allow data, communication, and services to be exchanged along streamlined channels can play a very useful role in enabling such collaboration. This is also the vision that drives Zyter—Infinite’s collaboration platform that will be rolled out across several industries, including healthcare, banking, media, and telecom. While Zyter’s enterprise messaging enables seamless communication between organizations, its intelligent chat facilitates conversation within the organization. Whether it is sensitive information or the ability to measure and visualize data to make business decisions, a platform, such as Zyter supports a high degree of real-time collaboration that enhances organizational efficiency.

Collaborating to Evolve Toward Industry 5.0

Collaborative tools, such as Zyter not only support industrial IoT, but lead from the front in driving communication among humans, too. Among the growing number of smart Industry 4.0 processes, communication among humans is often overlooked. Attention is now being refocused on human creativity as markets evolve and customers demand a high degree of individualization in the products they buy. So even as companies move forward in augmenting their ‘smart’ processes and digital technology, the aim to restore the human touch is gaining ground. This trend is dubbed ‘Industry 5.0’ or ‘collaborative industry’.

In this evolving environment, collaborative tools, such as Zyter not only supplement and enable better connectivity between business processes. but they are also spearheading enhanced and seamless communication among people, in a manner that supports organizational efficiency and growth.

I believe building more bridges will help create seamless cyber-physical streams today, and potentially, the innovations of tomorrow.