What is Industry 4.0 and why is it important?
Manufacturing is undergoing major transformation. The fourth industrial revolution, known as ‘Industry 4.0,’ is rapidly integrating the physical with the digital; disrupting manufacturing with automation, digitisation and new materials. With automation and interconnecting machines and processes evolving business operations, it impacts products, supply chains and continually pushes manufacturers to innovate.
You can see the impact of Industry 4.0 through society’s reliance on technology, including:
- Automation and robotics
- Machine-to-machine and human-to-machine communication
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning
- Sensor technology and data analytics
The manufacturing sector has undergone many transformations. The first industrial revolution saw a shift to mechanisation through water and steam power; the second was the era of mass production and the introduction of the moving assembly line. Then came the third industrial revolution, known as the digital revolution, which saw the invention of semiconductors, computers and the internet.
Industry 4.0 is the natural next step, Industry 4.0 optimises the computerisation of Industry 3.0.
While computers initially caused disruption by introducing an entirely new technology, their vastly enhanced connectedness has changed the game yet again. A combination of cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things and the Internet of Systems make Industry 4.0 possible and the smart factory a reality. The support of smart machines, that are continually becoming smarter as they get access to more data, means our factories will become more efficient, productive and less wasteful. Ultimately, the true power of Industry 4.0 lies in the network of these machines that are digitally connected with one another and create and share information that results in the true power of Industry 4.0.
The concept of Industry 4.0, is not a simple one. It envelops many technologies and is used in a variety of different contexts. There are five pieces that define Industry 4.0 at its core. Each piece is similar in nature but, when integrated together, create capability that has never before been possible.
As per Forbes, Big Data is a collection of data from traditional and digital sources inside and outside your company that represent a source for ongoing discovery and analysis. Today data is collected everywhere, from systems and sensors to mobile devices. The challenge is that the industry is still in the process of developing methods to best interpret data. It’s the evolution of Industry 4.0 that will change the way organisations and solutions within those organisations work together; teams will be able to make better, smarter decisions.
The concept of Smart Factory is the seamless connection of individual production steps, from planning stages to actuators in the field. In the near future, machinery and equipment will be able to improve processes through self-optimisation; systems will autonomously adapt to the traffic profile and network environment. Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), are an integral part of the Smart Factory, as their autonomous intelligence connects the factory together, allowing seamless operations.
Leading by example is the Siemens Electronic Works facility in Amberg, Germany. Smart machines coordinate production and global distribution or a built-to-order process involving roughly 1.6 billion components. When the Smart Factory is achieved, it will represent a pivotal shift for Industry 4.0, as the revolution will begin to roll out across multiple verticals. Various markets spanning healthcare to consumer goods will adapt Industry 4.0 technologies initially modelled in the Smart Factory.
Cyber Physical Systems
Cyber physical systems are integrations of computation, networking and physical processes. Computers and networks monitor and control physical processes with feedback loops; the physical system reacts, the system uses software to interpret actions and tracks results. The notion centres on computers and software being embedded in devices where the first use is not computation, rather it is a loop of action and machine learning.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a simple term for a grandiose concept. IoT is the connection of all devices to the internet and each other. As Wired said, “it’s built on cloud computing and networks of data-gather sensors; it is mobile, virtual, and instantaneous connection.” This interconnection will enable “smart factories” to take shape as equipment will use data to manufacture, move, report and learn at astounding rates, efficiently.
Interoperability is in essence what happens when we bring the above elements together. It is the connection of cyber-physical systems, humans and smart factories communicating with each other through the IoT. In doing so, manufacturing partners can effectively share information, error-free. Consider that no single company can dictate all its partners use the same software or standards for how the information is represented. Interoperability enables error-free transmission and translation.
From 3D prints to self-driving vehicles, Industry 4.0 technologies are propelling the manufacturing industry with new means of efficiency, accuracy and reliability. The level of intelligence offered today is only the beginning for what is to come.
Why Industry 4.0 matters?
Through everything from autonomous equipment and vehicles to additive manufacturing (3D printing), Industry 4.0 has vast potential across many aspects of business, including:
Although initial investment in this technology can be stumbling block for many, the benefits of shorter production lead times, more efficient planning and optimised maintenance schedules have the potential to far outweigh this cost in the long term.
Elexon Electronics is uniquely positioned to be able to provide our clients with industry 4.0 solutions, providing engineering, design, manufacturing, set-to-life and through-life support.
We have been enabling businesses to transition from small operations to leaders in their industry for over a decade. To chat with us about your manufacturing needs, get in touch today.