How Does Industry 4.0 Differ from the Previous Generation?
Industry 4.0 is the next step in the digital industrial transformation of the manufacturing industry. Some like to think of it as the fourth industrial revolution which is how it got its “4.0” tag. It essentially implies the use of the latest digital technologies in the manufacturing sector. Whenever there are significant improvements made over an old product, a new version of that product may be launched. Industry 4.0 is a combination of such changes happening in manufacturing which distinguishes it markedly from the previous generation.
Here is a visualisation of the different stage of industrial production and where we are in 2019:
Image Credit: “Christoph Roser at AllAboutLean.com“
What makes up Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0 is a combination of different changes that have come about in manufacturing or are being adopted by industry leaders. These changes can be processes, principles, technologies or anything else that is significantly different from before. Here are just some examples:
In addition to the vast treasure troves of data from production and operation systems, customer data is also being fed in to achieve real-time decision making in the manufacturing process.
This goes hand in hand with Big Data and an example of this would be a car maker getting live data from their online configuration tool and analysing that data to suggest profit maximisation actions
Machine Learning allows computers to learn new things on their own without having to rely on pre-programmed algorithms. This greatly increases its utility in all processes.
Additive Manufacturing aka Digital to Physical
A good example of this would be 3D printing which has been disrupting how traditional manufacturing works. Industrial giants are now using this not just for rapidly building prototypes but even final production models.
A new generation of hardware and software tools are emerging which allow operators to better monitor and control industrial processes with better safety and operational efficiency than ever before.
Using augmented reality to inspect virtual designs before committing to fabrication has so many potential applications.
Industrial Internet of Things
The IoT is already a reality in our homes and is rapidly spreading across manufacturing floors as well. Devices that can communicate digitally with each other and greatly reduce downtime.
Another technology making its way from the service sector into manufacturing. It offers the same scalability benefits, redundancy and cost advantages to manufacturers as it does to the service sector.
With all this new connectivity comes new risks. Robust cyber security is critical to protecting vital data and instruments.
This is certainly not a comprehensive list of Industry 4.0 technologies but just a small sampling of how manufacturing in 2019 and beyond is going to look quite different from what it did before. Industry 4.0 is essentially the digitisation of existing processes which was something that was just not technologically possible before. Just like the original industrial revolution drastically increased productivity, so will this digital one. The key to success here, for both companies and employees, is to embrace the technologies, master them and become a champion/ industry leader.
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