Can Industry 4.0 Bring 6th Sense to Inspection Activity?

Oh Really?

Human ability to see when something is failing has become better through non-destructive evaluation methods. It has evolved from highlighting surface to looking inside and now getting to point, where data analytics from diverse sources could provide a digital indication of damage that is yet to appear on the physical structure, kind of a sixth sense!

Can Industry 4.0 Bring 6th Sense to Inspection Activity

The Revolutions in Non-destructive Evaluation (NDE)

For centuries humans have taken care of their safety using the five basic senses – touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste. The revolutions in manufacturing, infrastructure, and transportation systems came with unfortunate incidents and fatal accidents. The engineering community rose to the challenge of quality, safety, and reliability through non-destructive inspections. This important domain serving so many industries, has also seen its share of revolutions, aligned with the changing needs of the industrial revolutions, and enabled by similar suite of technologies.

The first inspection revolution was around highlighting the surface for human organic sensory perceptions. Tools such as lenses, colors or stethoscopes improved the detection capabilities of naked eye and human ear. Procedures made the outcome of the inspection comparable over time.

The second revolution in NDE used physical understanding of material response to electromagnetic or acoustic waves, which lie outside the range of human perception, into signals that can be interpreted by humans. This resulted in a “look inside” into the components or a better visualization of material inhomogeneities behind or close to the surface. For example – X-ray, gamma testing, ultrasonic, Infrared and terahertz detection, eddy current, etc.

The third revolution in NDE came along with computers and digitalization that simplified imaging and analysis of signals, such as X‑ray detectors, digital ultrasonic and eddy current equipment, and digital cameras. Robotics automated the processes, making them convenient, fast, and repeatable. The digital technologies offered another leap in managing inspection workflow data from acquisition, storage, processing, 2D and 3D imaging, interpretation, to communication. Data processing and sharing became the norm, and data security and integrity came in as a new challenge.

The fourth revolution in NDE (now) integrates the digital techniques (from the third) and physical methods of interrogating materials (from the second) in a closed loop manner transforming human intervention and enhancing inspection performance. Within the context of the physical-digital-physical loop of NDE 4.0; digital technologies and physical methods may continue to evolve independently, interdependently, or concurrently. The real value is in concurrent design of an inspection through application of Digital Twins and Digital Threads. This provides the ability to capture and leverage data right from materials and manufacturing processes to usage and in-service maintenance. The data captured across multiple assets, can be used to optimize predictive and prescriptive maintenance, repairs, and overhauls over the lifetime of an asset. The relevant data can be fed back to OEM for design improvements. NDE 4.0 also serves the emerging trends in custom manufacturing. Remote NDE can keep the inspector away from harm’s way and integration by “tele-presence” can bring additional specialists in the decision process from anywhere in the world quickly and affordably.

The role of human is changing from ‘human-in-the-loop’ to ‘human-on-the-loop’ from ‘human-outside-the-loop.’

Game Changer – Intelligent Inspection System

The continuous improvement in inspection capability is driven by the need and desire to pick smaller and smaller damage or material discontinuity (Crack, corrosion, delamination, foreign object inclusions) with higher and higher likelihood. It is called probability of detection (POD), typically characterized by an S-shaped curve. Just like with naked eye, we all have slightly different probability of seeing small stuff on the floor. Most of the time a small shiny spec on the kitchen tile floor could go unnoticed, however it is different, if you knew that your child broke a glass yesterday.  You will likely scan a larger area looking for more such pieces. That is the power of knowledge, experience, and intelligence.

The Industry 4.0 can bring the ability to synthesis all of the data right from manufacturing, usage, environment, (digital history acting like a lifelong blackbox) and combine it with data from detected damage in other older assets (experience), the intelligent inspection system could predict with a certain probability that there is a discontinuity hiding here smaller than equipment’s ability to detect.

We have seen such capability in many domains. Ten years ago, Target store figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did (Forbes Feb 16, 2012). Amazon regularly ships products to the distribution centers nearest to your house based on your shopping patterns to cut down delivery time. Law enforcement agencies can thwart threats from social media chatter. That is the power of the data and intelligence augmentation.

The probability of detection by cyber-physical system using digitalized history can get better than intrinsic capability of the physical equipment, in a sense the 6th sense of the machine. Machine can predict with certain confidence that there is a signal here hidden in the noise, from an anomaly that will be detectable sometime in the near future. 

Discontinuity Size

In Summary,

The NDE 2.0 changed the game providing inspectors with equipment to see hidden damage using physical waves.

The NDE 4.0 could change the game again by augmenting an inspector with an intelligent system to foresee a damage on the digital twin before the inspection equipment can pick it up on physical structure.

If you like this blog post, you will like our upcoming book “Welcome to the World of NDE 4.0” DM me or Johannes Vrana and we can alert you when it is available on Amazon.

For a dedicated session for your company, please reach out to Ripi Singh directly.

Why everyday workbench innovations matter?


Safety and Innovations are both an outcome of mindset or a cultural issue. They both require constant situational awareness, creativity, ideation and risk reduction at operational level, and management commitment at the top levels. That mean Heinrich’s triangle for shop floor safety should also be applicable to enterprise innovation.

Corporate Innovation Triangle

Heinrich’s safety triangle model in a workplace states that for every accident that causes a major injury, there are 29 accidents that cause minor injuries and 300 accidents that cause no injuries. His theory, given in 1931, was an empirical finding based on actual data from the 1920s. Today the numbers may be different for different sectors, but the concept of the triangle or pyramid is still valid.  Frank Bird’s analysis in 1966, based on over 1.7 million accident reports from over 300 companies depicted similarly, but with 600 incidents at the base and a single death at the top.

I believe the same triangle law applies to innovation. For us to get one disruptive innovation, we need to get a few breakthroughs and trendsetters, many evolutionary innovations, and a continuous improvement in business processes, all supported by widespread workbench innovation.

In some sense, companies like 3M and Google are where they are today because of this very fundamental cultural aspect. They encourage a widespread innovation mindset. Almost everybody is encouraged to engage in novel value creation most of the time. Multiple things go into building a mindset. It all begins with questioning the well-known wisdom around the business (status quo).

Strategy, roadmap, capital, tools, and processes discussed in the first three sessions are necessary, but not sufficient, to be a consistent innovator. Having the right mindset is what brings success.

Some workplaces respond to safety issues only there is an accident. Others build it into the mindset through everyday discussions. During my corporate career, we used to have “Safety Minute” which was a one-minute discussion in every staff meeting around how an employee has improved safety in their workplace.

Some companies try to launch innovation projects when they are losing customers or falling short on deliverables. Others build it into the mindset through everyday discussions. I have successfully copied the safety concept   to “Innovation Minute” which is a one-minute discussion in every staff meeting on what someone might have read about innovation outside of the company/industry and may have relevance to their workplace.

The ‘Innovation Triangle’ needs an innovation mindset at the bottom, like safety mindset in the industry built over the years. This requires some unlearning and reprogramming at the leadership level, which ignites creativity, encourages exploration, and accepts failure while exploring.

In Summary,

Just like cost of accident prevention is lot less than cost of serious injury or death. Cost of innovating is lot less than cost of not innovating. We all talk about ROI. We rarely talk CONI “Cost of Not Investing”. How much will it cost you, if a competitor launches a product or service before you do and you are now forced to respond, rather than forcing your competitors to respond to your great ideas?

If you like this blog post, you will like my book “Inspiring Next Innovation Mindset” available on Amazon

If you wish to engage with me in a conversation on innovation mindset, please register for online session scheduled on April 01, 2021 from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM ET (-4:00 UTC) co-hosted by Nerac.

Why Not Start with a Why Not?


There has been a lot of hype about Start with the Why on social media, after the Ted Talk by Simon Sinek, and his book in 2009. I am personally having a tough time with that.

Why Not Start with a Why Not

Innovators question more than comment.

I strongly feel that innovators and trendsetters start with a ‘Why Not’ in their hearts. It most likely leads to the ‘Why’ as a form of expression to engage others. Novel solutions come out of asking ‘Why not’ and they get communicated with ‘Why’.

So, I engaged many fellow innovators in a debate of ‘Start with Why’ vs ‘Ask Why Not’ and I was quite encouraged to learn that so many of them have been able to solve tough research problems and customer engagements by coming up with wacky ideas and asking their team “Why not we do …this…?” “Why can’t we try … that …”  A good friend Dr. Pavan Suri felt that these may be two sides of the coin and which one comes first is a tossup. Is it?

I also found the following quotes, which further substantiated this.

The common question that gets asked in business is, 'why?'
That's a good question, but an equally valid question is, 'why not?'
                                                     - Jeff Bezos
You see things; and you say ‘Why?’
But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’
                                                     - George Bernard Shaw
Others have seen what is and asked ‘why’.
I have seen what could be and asked ‘why not’.
                                                     - Pablo Picasso
‘Why not’ invest your assets in the companies you really like?
As Mae West said, 'Too much of a good thing can be wonderful'
                                                     - Warren Buffett
Why pay a dollar for a bookmark?
‘Why not’ use the dollar for a bookmark?
                                                     - Steven Spielberg
I remember my dad asking me one time, 'Why not you, Russ?'
You know, why not me? Why not me in the Super Bowl?
                                                     - Russell Wilson

As a consumer, you go buy the product that gives the best value, not why the business owner is in business in the first place. Apple products sell because of the finesse and performance not because of why Steve Jobs was in business. However, I submit that when business leaders have a strong Why statement, they align the employees on that purpose, and the resulting products and services are excellent, which the consumers flock to, helping the business grow.

Once the purpose is defined and a culture of questioning can be built, the golden circle can have an innovative sibling. Innovative solutions come out of “Why not” and get communicated with “Why”  to convince the buyer.

In Summary,

Why not? How about? And what if? define an innovator’s mindset.

If you like this blog post, you will like my book “Inspiring Next Innovation Mindset” available on Amazon

If you wish to engage with me in a conversation on innovation mindset, please register for online session scheduled for April 1 2021 at 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM ET co-hosted by Nerac.

Setting up a Successful Innovation Team


If innovation is a team sport, then right team is more important than a star player. Google learned from project Aristotle, that intangible norms make the difference, more than traditional characteristics of a successful project. 

Setting up a Successful Innovation Team

Building an Innovation Team

There are so many books, articles, trainings, workshops, and consultants on team building. I do not feel the need to add another. However, from personal experience as a career in technology leadership with fortune 500, and now innovation coaching, I am compelled to briefly share the following tips to building a strong innovation team.

  • Pick the right team leader – Innovation mindset, explorer at heart.
  • Provide a clear purpose, values, risk tolerance, and success criterion.
  • Inspire ideation, support exploration, and accept failures (biggest item).
  • Do not box the team in space, time, and policies.
  • Let them challenge the status quo and question the norms and policies.
  • Have fun-filled team events to build trustworthy bonds.
  • Accept the fact that in an innovation team, not everyone is an innovator, nor does everyone need to be as creative either. You also need a social butterfly to stir up collaborations, and resolve personality differences,

True leaders build self-propelled high-performing teams. Individuals are inspired to personally excel and support others to succeed, collectively achieving much more than the sum of individual capacities and competencies. My limited experience and my mentors were not too far off from what Google discovered in a 2-year study through project Aristotle.

Google’s Dream-team

Google launched Project Aristotle to know why some teams excelled while others fell behind. Abeer Dubey, Google’s director of people analytics, put together a team of statisticians, organizational psychologists, sociologists, engineers, and researchers to help solve the riddle.

Over 2 years they studied 180 Google teams, conducted 200-plus interviews, and analyzed over 250 different team attributes. There was no clear pattern of characteristics that could be plugged into a dream-team generating algorithm. Things began to fall into place when Google started considering intangible group norms – the traditions, behavioral standards, and unwritten rules that govern how a team functions when it gathers. The intangible norms may be unspoken or openly acknowledged, but their influence could be often profound.

With a new lens and some added direction from a research study on collective intelligence (abilities that emerge out of collaboration) by a group of psychologists from Carnegie Mellon, MIT, and Union College, Project Aristotle’s researchers went back to the data looking for unspoken customs. Specifically, any team behaviors that magnified the collective intelligence of the group. Through Google’s Re:Work website (, a resource that shares Google’s research, ideas, and practices on people operations, Rozovsky outlined the five key characteristics of enhanced teams.

Psychological safety: Psychological safety refers to an individual’s perception of the consequences of taking an interpersonal risk or a belief that a team is safe for risk-taking in the face of being seen as ignorant, incompetent, negative, or disruptive. In a team with high psychological safety, teammates feel safe to take risks around their team members. They feel confident that no one on the team will embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.

Dependability: On dependable teams, members reliably complete quality work on time (vs the opposite – shirking responsibilities).

Structure and clarity: An individual’s understanding of job expectations, the process for fulfilling these expectations, and the consequences of one’s performance are important for team effectiveness. Goals can be set at the individual or group level, and must be specific, challenging, and attainable. Google often uses objectives and key results to help set and communicate short- and long-term goals.

Meaning: Finding a sense of purpose in either the work itself or the output is important for team effectiveness. The meaning of work is personal and can vary, financial security, supporting family, helping the team succeed, or self-expression for everyone, for example.

Impact: The results of one’s work, the subjective judgment that your work is making a difference, is important for teams. Seeing that one’s work is contributing to the organization’s goals can help reveal impact.

Engineering the perfect team is more subjective than we would like but focusing on these five components increases the likelihood that you will build a dream team. Google found that teams with psychologically safe environments had employees who were less likely to leave, more likely to harness the power of diversity, and ultimately, who was more successful.

On the personal side, during one of the short phone conversations with an HR friend in Google, she asked Ripi, can you help us understand how we can strengthen our innovation culture? I had no answer since I always look up to Google for lessons in innovation. To me, they have the Robust & Resilient innovation profile. A week later, I realized that Google probably never stopped asking that question and that is why they are where they are. I also remember a conversation with a major auto supplier during their time of deep trouble with their product, noticeably confident in their innovation capability.

On the innovation side, I notice that followers claim they know how to innovate, while trendsetters like Google and Airbus keep asking how to innovate better?

“The problem with the world is that intelligent people are full of doubts,
while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”
– Charles Bukowski 

In Summary,

Structured innovation also needs team norms that provide meaning and sense of psychological safety required to explore.

If you like this blog post, you will like my book – “Inspiring Next Innovation Framework” available on Amazon and “Inspiring Next Innovation Mindset” available on Amazon.

If you wish to engage with me in a conversation on developing Innovation Framework and building Innovation Mindset, register for my free webinars on Mar 18, 2021 and April 01, 2021, co-hosted by Nerac.