Complexity and Industry 4.0

Keep it Simple
November 16, 2020 by
Complexity and Industry 4.0
G5 Consulting & Engineering Services, David Schultz
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Occam’s Razor

The concept of Occam’s Razor was introduced into our modern lexicon by Jodie Foster‘s character in the movie Contact.  William of Ockham, after whom the concept is named, was a 13th century theologian and philosopher noted that, when given two solutions to a problem, the simpler one is more often the correct one. It was also presented by David Krumholtz‘s character in the TV show Numb3rs which stated, perhaps more correctly, that people tend to add complexity to a solution when trying to solve a problem. This is common with efforts associated with an Industry 4.0 transformation. Are you adding complexity to your efforts?

One of the fundamental misunderstandings with transition efforts is that there are a single complex event, or a number of complex events. Moreover, the effort will require a lot of money, a lot of sensors and tons of processing power. The good news is that these efforts should be a journey and start with basic efforts and expand over time. This better news is that you will not need a large capital budget to get started. The best news is that as simpler, less expensive efforts are implemented, they help pay for future efforts.

Manufacturing Information Management

Manufacturing information management is at the core of Industry 4.0 transformations. From a high level, it is taking data and turning it into information, or more importantly, actionable information. Manufacturing companies have a considerable amount of data that are generally used for historical analysis, whether it is trending or failure analysis. Though the use of Industry 4.0 methods, like Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), you can connect, correlate and extract this data and turn it into useful information. While this can be lead to a powerfull outcome, it is important not to add complexity along the way. Information management efforts should start with simple applications and then become increasingly complex.

Asset Performance Management

While there are a number of aspects to asset performance management (APM), several of them are specific to information management. Like your information management efforts, your asset management efforts should minimize complexity. Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) is a great example of this. The goal of RCM is to ensure the right maintenance strategy is applied correctly to your assets. Reactive maintenance (run to failure) is just as good as predictive maintenance (PdM). However, PdM introduces complexity through the need of sensors, data and analytical tools. Each of these strategies will require some level of technology. Again, do not add complexity unnecessarily.


The next few articles are designed to help you with your Industry 4.0 transition. They will highlight the steps that should be taken for both your manufacturing information management and asset performance management efforts. These will include considerations for both software and hardware (hardware is often overlooked, but equally critical). To be sure, this will not require a lot of complexity. But you should heed the advice of Occam and not add complexity when it is not necessary. A simple solution may be the correct one.

Complexity and Industry 4.0
G5 Consulting & Engineering Services, David Schultz November 16, 2020
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