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Introduction of Industry 4.0 in Kazakhstan, or how smart factories worked during quarantine period and global pandemic

Monday, 14 September 2020, 22:47:25

The fourth industrial revolution is increasing the demands on the knowledge and competencies of workers. Last year, the Head of State instructed to develop a training plan for 10 thousand specialists for key industries until 2025. Industry 4.0 is a production organization concept where added value is provided through the integration of physical objects, processes and digital technologies. At the same time, digital technologies allow real-time monitoring of physical processes, independently make decisions, and control the interaction of machines between themselves and people.

At the moment, many enterprises in Kazakhstan have begun introducing digital technologies into production processes, which made it possible to switch to online production control mode with minimal damage. For example, the introduction of artificial intelligence technology at the gold recovery plant of the Aktogay branch of AK Altynalmas JSC, a well-known manufacturer of gold bars in Kazakhstan, allows remote control of the grinding process in real mode based on predictive analysis of the technological process and big data management.

In a new reality and considering the difficulties of adapting to a remote mode of operation, Industry 4.0 allows enterprises to be prepared for the so-called “black swans”, in this case, the coronavirus pandemic.

Today, the introduction of Industry 4.0 is already in full swing, and no country has managed to stay aside from it. State programs to improve the competitiveness of industries using Industry 4.0 technologies have been adopted in many countries, in Germany, China, Mexico, Italy, Latvia, Russia, etc.

The transition to the concept of Industry 4.0 in countries is due to the possibility of increasing the competitiveness of enterprises by optimizing production costs, the emergence new sources of income, the emergence of new niches, improved working conditions, reduced accidents and injuries at work.

At the same time, COVID-19 acted as a trigger for the introduction of Industry 4.0 technologies not only in countries where government programs have been adopted, but also in countries that lack a single policy for the development of Industry 4.0.

During the pandemic, Industry 4.0 is an effective way of adapting to rapidly changing conditions and, as a result, a tool for survival in the competition. Those companies and, by extension, countries that are slowest to adopt digital technologies in the pandemic will be the hardest hit. There will be a risk of lagging behind in technological development and impossibility to integrate into global value chains, which will ultimately lead to a loss of competitiveness.

Is Industry 4.0 in Kazakhstan ready for protracted pandemic?

At the moment, most industrial enterprises are continuing projects for the implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies in full. As a rule, these projects were approved in the previous period, and what is planned for 2020 will be implemented. Probably, there will be an adjustment for projects for 2022-2025.

The pandemic has only accelerated the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies, which provide remote communication and make it possible to organize production processes with minimal human involvement.

In general, much will depend on which industries are developed to one degree or another. The biggest hit will be in industries with a high proportion of non-digitized production processes.

Regarding the benefits from the introduction of Industry 4.0 technologies, these technologies made it possible in a short period of time to reorient production to a remote mode and even deploy new production such as: protective screens and spare parts for ventilators (artificial lung ventilation). In addition, technologies such as big data analysis, sensors and telematics allow you to quickly and efficiently carry out operational work and in a timely manner, to respond and make adjustments to production processes through remote access.

Thus, Industry 4.0 technologies allow not to stop production during a pandemic and continue its activities, which ultimately allows the country's economy to be at its optimal level.

How promising is it for Kazakhstan in current world situation to unite into global industrial network?

Currently, export-oriented enterprises with high added value (mining and metallurgical complex, mechanical engineering, chemical industry, pharmaceuticals) are at the forefront of digitalization plans. This is not surprising, since the competitiveness of their products in international markets directly depends on production efficiency.

In addition, enterprises in these industries have sufficient resources to implement digitalization projects. At the same time, today there are already many examples of the introduction and application of Industry 4.0 technologies in domestic industries.

In the engineering industry, Maker LLP has fully automated the production process from design to manufacturing. Prommashkomplekt LLP has implemented a project to put into operation a high-tech automated complex of a full cycle for the production of solid-rolled railway wheels.

Speaking about the process of integration into global production chains, it is necessary to note the enterprise JSC Ust-Kamenogorsk Titanium and Magnesium Plant, which together with the South Korean company POSCO created a joint venture, LLP POSUK Titanium. At this enterprise, a project is being implemented to automate and control all stages of production, which will allow the issuance of an electronic certificate with a confirmed production passport for manufactured products for their subsequent sale to large shipbuilding companies.

In general, the process of integrating into global production chains through new technologies will increase the brand awareness "Made in KZ", as well as attract new investments in the industry.

How smart factories dealt with their work during quarantine and global pandemic?

Currently, efficient production is unthinkable without modern information technology. The introduction of smart products is essential for the development of priority sectors of the economy and enterprises.

So, as part of the implementation of projects for the digitalization of backbone mining enterprises, the companies Kazzinc LLP, ERG and Ust-Kamenogorsk Titanium and Magnesium Combine JSC implemented Pitram, ERP, mobile personnel management systems, as well as the Smart Quarry project at the Kacharsky quarry. The projects used advanced technologies: ERP sensors, on-board computers, satellite positioning, all in real time.

These technologies allowed enterprises to switch to a new mode of operation with social distancing, monitoring of all work was carried out in real time with minimal operator participation. At the same time, without losing the effectiveness of the work carried out.

Industry 4.0 to have impact on social organization of labor

Due to the fact that Industry 4.0 requires fundamentally new skills from workers, some jobs disappear over time (mainly monotonous manual labor) and new professions appear. Companies provide an opportunity for their personnel to learn digital technologies and move to new jobs after retraining.

For example, Khimpharm JSC, the largest pharmaceutical company, the leader among model digital factories, has opened a digital, engineering and educational center, where it plans to train its employees, college and university students in digital production technologies, equipping the center with 3D printers and augmented reality technology.

With regard to improving industrial safety, in 2018, amendments to the Industrial Safety Rules were initiated with an emphasis on digital solutions.

The use of Industry 4.0 technologies is an effective method of reducing the level of industrial injuries and occupational diseases in particularly harmful and hazardous sectors of production. For example, the use of a positioning system for miners will ensure the detection of the location of a person in all mine workings with the transfer of information to the dispatcher and to the command post of the facility in real time, which will make it possible to quickly respond in emergency situations.

Also, the use of an industrial robot in highly hazardous areas, for example, a smelter or foundry, will significantly reduce the incidence of industrial injuries.

In general, occupational injuries decreased by 2.3% compared to 2018, thanks to the comprehensive measures taken in the field of labor protection and the introduction of new technologies, which made it possible to maintain a positive trend in reducing occupational injuries.

Transition to Industry 4.0 will entail formation of new business models and partnerships

With the development of information technologies, competition is changing fundamentally, many investors have to re-answer the main question: what is the essence of our business?

For the management of enterprises in this situation, it becomes necessary to search for new strategies for creating value and making a profit. New digital industrial technologies known as Industry 4.0 are one of the solutions to this issue.

These technologies are transforming the traditional way companies operate, from R&D to the entire value chain. Therefore, lagging behind this trend will cause the risk of "being left out" and the impossibility of introducing into value added chains, not only in the global sense, but also at the local level.

SMEs are always part of the ecosystem of larger enterprises that are already using and implementing new technologies, in this regard, SMEs need to keep up and introduce solutions that will simplify and reduce the costs of cooperation.

It is important to understand that Industries 4.0 is not only about digital technologies, but also about people and an innovative culture. Only a comprehensive transformation can give the optimal effect in the form of increasing its competitiveness, optimizing production costs, increasing profitability, improving working conditions, industrial safety and the ability to reactively act, and integrate into value chains in unforeseen scenarios, in this case, a pandemic.

Assessment of enterprise readiness for Industry 4.0

A special role in this process is played by technology (including R&D, design development, manufacturing, procurement system, as well as external and internal logistics), management and strategy (IT management, enterprise strategy and product lifecycle management), production organization (traceability products in production processes, quality control, as well as stock management of raw materials and materials, finished products and supplies), personnel and communications (managing the distribution of production tasks, skills and competence, as well as training events).

This analysis will make it possible to assess the current situation for small and medium-sized businesses, rank the production sectors according to the degree of readiness to implement the elements of Industry 4.0, and develop measures to stimulate the digitalization of industry.

The transition to Industry 4.0 will allow enterprises to reach a new technological level of development and find new market niches, and integrate into global value chains.

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