Industry 4.0 - How to Bring Your Company Into the Future
Industry 4.0 has been described as the vision of industrial production of the future. It is about the future of business technology and the power of new technologies to transform manufacturing.
The Industry 4 revolution, or the fourth industrial revolution, is a developmental stage in the management and organization of the manufacturing industry. It was preceded by Industry 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. – and Industry 5.0 is already on the horizon.
Firstly, let’s define cyber-physical production systems and their effect on manufacturing and then look at how companies can remain competitive.
Cyber-Physical Systems: The Building Blocks Of Industry 4.0
Industry 3.0 was about automating processes and sections of manufacturing plants. The Industry 4 revolution will link all of these separate parts together into an optimized whole.
Cyber-physical production systems (CPPSs) are online communication networks between machines. Moreover, mechanical and electrical components of manufacturing operations communicate with each other, much as people do on social networks.
These so-called smart machines share internal information on issues such as:
- Faults and technical problems
- Changes in orders or demand levels
- Stock levels
- The coordination of processes and deadlines
There is a smart network of links between ICT systems, machines, products and people across the entire value chain and the product life cycle. It majorly includes external fleets, plants, and networks.
Basically, there are two types of integration that define smart factories:
- Vertical integration: It includes connected units on the factory floor, and there are links to the rest of the business – Sales, HR, Finance, Customer Service, etc.
- Horizontal integration: It includes connected parts of the supply chain, within the operation, across multi-sites, and with third parties, both up and downstream. Moreover, the game-changer is when external parties in the supply chain have similar levels of integration.
Moreover, the integration enables collaboration, constant communication and visibility, and flexibility in production.
Critical Technologies For The Fourth Industrial Revolution
These are some of the technologies that are predicted to drive productivity and growth in manufacturing operations:
- Big data and analytics
- Artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing
- Autonomous robots
- Simulation and augmented reality
- The Industrial Internet of Things
- The cloud
- Additive manufacturing (3D printing)
- Augmented reality and simulation
Many of these technologies have been around for a while. But now, experts are integrating them to form smart manufacturing execution systems.
Moore’s Law And The Urgency To Change
Implementation of change is becoming exponentially faster.
Moore’s Law predicts the speed of technological change and growth. The general rule is that there is a doubling of technological development every 18 months. Some technologies start slowly, but the exponential curve means they rapidly reach disruptive levels.
This basically means if your company hasn’t picked up the technology, you will rapidly be left behind.
The Human-Machine Interface
Machines do not replace human decision-making or responsibility for production strategy and implementation. However, devices collect data from multiple sources for human judgement. Simply, AI and machine learning will incorporate feedback into routine operating procedures, making human intervention less necessary.
Even Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, has admitted that “excessive automation” can be a mistake. He has tweeted that “Humans are underrated.”
Before we can catch our breath, Industry 5.0 will be upon us. It will drive a change in the interaction between humans and machines. The goal is to combine machine intelligence with human creativity, adaptability, and problem-solving ability.
The Effect Of Industry 4.0 On Manufacturing Operations
Automation and data exchange across connected devices is the driving force of change in manufacturing. Systems can now predict failures, configure themselves without downtime, and adapt to changes. In the long term, production will be self-managed and self-organized.
There are several projected outcomes.
- Fully integrated, automated and optimized production flow
- Processes that are faster, more flexible, safer, and more efficient
- Increased productivity
- Higher profitability
- Industrial growth
- A changed workplace profile
- Changed relationships among suppliers, producers and customers
- Increased competitiveness for companies and regions
How Do Companies Bring Themselves Into The Future?
Industry 4.0 is a journey towards achieving vertical and horizontal integration.
For example, Manufacturing companies – especially small and medium-sized enterprises - may not have the financial capacity to do all of it. Moreover, legacy systems may not be compatible with new digital technologies.
Perhaps, a phased approach should be taken, starting with robotic process automation (RPA), predictive maintenance systems, or introducing cloud-computing.
It may be advisable to get expert advice. If you feel a bit at sea, you might consider contacting a digital transformation consultant to help you set a course.
Industry 4.0 – The Future of Business Technology
The Industry 4 revolution is driven by online communication networks between machines, systems and people, both within your organization (vertical integration) and along your entire supply chain (horizontal integration).
It also defines the future of business technology and stands to transform the manufacturing industry completely.
Companies that wish to remain competitive should take at least the first steps on this technological journey. Both speed and scope of change are on an exponential curve – and it’s easy to be left behind.