Industry 4.0 — Are you ready for the next industrial revolution?

Industry40

Key facts about Industry 4.0

  • Industry 4.0 is the nickname for the fourth industrial revolution.
  • It consists of providing intelligence to the factories by interconnecting all the agents, sharing data in real time and processing information by artificial intelligence.
  • Such functionality depends on the development of several new technologies.

Description

Industry 4.0 is a name used to refer to the next industrial revolution. The merge of the digital and the physical workflows in an automated interconnected smart production.

Briefly, industrial revolutions coincidence with a set of technological advances.

The first industrial revolution took place when we moved from agriculture to industry because of mechanization, steam and waterpower.

The second industrial revolution was the replacement of steam for electricity and mass production.

The third one, the digital revolution, was the automation of the production with robots and computers.

The fourth industrial revolution, industry 4.0, or smart factory is considered the current trend of automation and data exchange in the manufacturing context. A new level of organization and control over the entire value chain of the life cycle of products.

What does this mean?

Smart factory as the own name suggests means providing intelligence to the entire manufacturing system.

For that, it is necessary to collect data from each agent in the manufacturing chain. Send this data to a centralised intelligence. Analyse this data together to optimize the whole process and send the information back to each agent in real time.

This new integrated manufacturing ecosystem is possible thanks to the development of technologies such as cyber-physical systems, the internet of things, cloud computing, big data and cognitive computing.

Principles and capabilities

The new era of manufacturing allows a flexible and efficient production that adapts to the specific requirements of each order, increasing cost and time efficiency and improving product quality.

Therefore, the principles of Industry 4.0 are interoperability, virtualization, decentralization, real-time capability, service orientation, and modularity.

This means the ability of machines, devices, sensors, and people to connect and communicate with each other. The ability to provide operators with useful information. The ability of assistance systems to support humans by aggregating and visualizing information comprehensively. And, the ability of cyber-physical systems to make decisions on their own and to perform their tasks as autonomously as possible.

Potential applications

The ground idea of making manufacturing processes smart by collecting, sharing and processing data to return useful information can be applied to any system.

Smart factory

The driving purpose of Industry 4.0 is to make factories more intelligent, flexible, and dynamic by equipping manufacturing systems with sensors, actors, and autonomous systems. Accordingly, machines and equipment will achieve high levels of self-optimization and automation.

Those principles can be also applied to processes such as logistics, transport or construction to mention a few.

Smart product

Smart products integrate two main advantages, the customization of products at a mass scale and the communication of the product itself with the physical agents.

In an Industry 4.0 ecosystem, users can customize products via web in the moment of the purchase. The information is transmitted to the industrial cloud and shared with the manufacturing line. The unique identification of the product, Internet of things, allows the manufacturer to apply the customization.

But smart products can describe not only their properties but also their status and life-cycle, past and future, with the capacity to interact with physical entities without human supervision.

Besides, due to the autonomous decision-making mechanism of the manufacturing chain in that ecosystem, the agents will optimize the production process to produce the product efficiently.

Smart city

When all these technologies become a reality, this technological ecosystem may be applied to a city where all the dynamic factors of the city function efficiently.

Smart economy, smart mobility, smart environment, smart people, smart living, and smart governance.

A place where everything is interconnected and more efficiently organized. Smart city’s goal is to ensure the sustainability of cities and improve the quality of life.

History and future

The term Industry 4.0 was announced at the Hanover International Fair in 2011, has its origin in a project of the high-tech strategy of the German government, which promotes the computerization of manufacturing.

Industry 4.0 now encompasses a group of technologies such as the internet of things, cyber-physical systems, information and communications technology, enterprise architecture, and enterprise integration.

The goal of this revolution is to apply the latest technologies to improve products and processes, to provide mass customization in a flexible, automatic and intelligent manufacturing environment.

Controversies

Industry 4.0 is a revolution with large implications on supply chains, business models and business processes and will not happen overnight. There are several factors that play an important role in the path of this transition.

Disruptive developments are always accompanied by hype and overenthusiasm. Many companies and organizations are exposed to the dilemma of starting too early and making fatal errors or starting too late and losing competitiveness.

Challenges

The fear to start too early is real since the technologies necessary for the implementation of Industry 4.0 are still under development.

Things like information technology and data security issues, reliability and stability of machine-to-machine communication, protection of industrial know-how and other issues like loss of many jobs to automatic IT-controlled processes or insufficient qualification of employees are some of the challenges to face.

Pillars

The path of this revolution will be determined by the evolution and development of all the technologies involved, the main pillars: 1) big data and analytics, 2) autonomous robots, 3) simulations, 4) systems integration, 5) the industrial internet of things, 6) cyber-security and cyber-physical systems, 7) cloud services, 8) additive manufacturing, 9) augmented reality.

The challenges come from the problems of the implementation of each of these pillars and the new paradigm they create together as Industry 4.0.

Globalization 4.0

Finally, the World Economic Forum recently said in Davos that we are moving into a new phase of globalization.

Thanks to technology, everything is now easily scalable on a global level.

This new phase was called globalization 4.0. Are you ready?

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Now it is your turn.

  • Have you already heard about Industry 4.0?
  • What will we do with the people who cannot adapt to this new paradigm?
  • What would you do about the dichotomy of starting too early / starting too late? Which would be worse?

Leave us your opinion in the comments.

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Links

  1. Industry 4.0 A glimpse — Scientific study
  2. Potentials for Creating Smart Products — Scientific study
  3. What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?  — Youtube video

Author: Enrique Morales Orcajo, PhD

I am an engineer, scientist, and traveler based in Europe. I write about how to consume and digest scientific studies in a practical and efficient way. My goal is to help you make more sound scientific judgments.

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