Slowly and gradually, we’ve been experiencing a new wave of industrial revolution and growth in terms of forms of production. This is not just due to mechanization but control and information systems, which can deal with machinery and complex processes much more cost-effectively and efficiently than humans can.
The Internet of Things (IoT) isn't new. Instead, it has affected everything from how our vehicles operate to how we exercise for over a decade now. The recent phenomenon that has had a significant implication for industrial operations and IoT alike is Automation Industry 4.0 – the next evolution of digital technologies and smart manufacturing.
In this ultimate guide, we look at everything you need to know about the Automation Industry 4.0 and its historical context, the top technologies that are already accessible today, how they are changing the manufacturing sector, its numerous benefits, and the future of Industry 4.0.
What is Industry 4.0?
The term “ Industry 4.0 ” signifies the commencement of the fourth industrial revolution, with the former three revolutions being from mechanical production, mass production, followed by the digital revolution. It can be debated that Industry 4.0 is simply just a combination of the three former eras in manufacturing.
However, Industry 4.0 is well poised to be more significant than that. Industry 4.0, outlined in Professor Klaus Schwab’s book - The Fourth Industrial Revolution , encompasses many novel technologies that combine the digital, physical, and biological worlds, influencing all economies, disciplines, and industries.
These new technologies have excellent potential to continue connecting billions of additional people to the web and considerably enhance the efficiency of businesses and companies. In its universal understanding and application of Automation industry 4.0, this term most directly relates to the manufacturing world.
In fact, it can also be rightly called Manufacturing 4.0. In return, this industry is seeing transformation and growth unlike ever before. In its applications to manufacturing, automation industry 4.0 is:
- The seamless integration of equipment, software, and people boosts the speed, flow, and reliability of information between all manufacturer systems.
- The growth of data technologies and automation is powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), the cloud, robotics, people, and advanced computers.
The Historical Context for Industry 4.0
From the first industrial revolution entailing mechanization via steam power and water to the assembly lines using electricity and mass production in the second, the fourth industrial revolution takes what began in the third with the integration of automation and computers and enhances it with autonomous and smart systems powered by machine learning and data.
Here is a brief historical context for the fourth industrial revolution.
First Industrial Revolution
Commencing in the late 18th century in Britain, the first industrial revolution made mass production possible by using steam power and water instead of simply relying on using animal and human power. All the finished goods were created with machines, and the need to produce goods painstakingly by hand was no longer needed.
Second Industrial Revolution
A century followed before the second industrial revolution came around, introducing production lines and the use of gas, oil, and electric power. These new energy sources, along with more progressive communications through telegraph and telephone, brought mass production and some level of automation into the manufacturing processes.
Third Industrial Revolution
The third industrial revolution commenced in the mid-20th century and added computers, data analysis, and advanced telecommunications to the manufacturing processes. This digitization of factories started by embedding programmable logic controllers (PLCs) into equipment to automate some processes and gather and share data.
Fourth Industrial Revolution
We stand at a point where the fourth industrial revolution, more commonly known as Industry 4.0, is in motion. Industry 4.0 is characterized by ever-growing automation and the employment of smart factories and smart machines.
The informed data helps manufacture goods more productively and efficiently across the value chain. Flexibility is enhanced so that manufacturers can meet customer demands more effectively using mass customization – ultimately looking to achieve efficiency with a lot size of one, in most cases.
A smart factory can make better decisions and achieve information transparency by gathering more information from the factory floor and combining that with other enterprise operational data.
Role of Automation in Industry 4.0
In order for automated production to reveal its value, it must be employed as a complete solution that includes all the processes of a firm, making it possible for the information to flow seamlessly through all its parts.
Industry 4.0 automation's added value does not only focus on its profitability and efficiency but also on greater flexibility and significant improvement in the quality of the manufacturing processes, considerably minimizing the task margins of error.
The fourth industrial revolution is also associated with digital twin technologies , which are digital technologies that can create online versions of real-world applications, processes, and installations. These can be powerfully tested to make decentralized decisions.
Digital Twins observe the process development, working out virtual models that serve as the foundation for making suitable decisions. In specific processes where the margin of error can go up to 10% when human workers perform a task, a process automation platform can minimize it by 0.00001%.
These virtual copies can be generated in the actual world and connected through the IoT, allowing for cyber-physical systems to cooperate and communicate with the human workforce to create a joined-up real-time automation process and data exchange for Industry 4.0 manufacturing.
This automation includes information transparency, interconnectivity between processes, and technical aid for decentralized decisions. Simply put, it will permit autonomous and automated manufacturing with joined-up systems that work together. This technology will help track processes and solve problems while also boosting productivity.
Industry 4.0 Technologies
Industry 4.0 has made the smart factory a reality, thanks partly to the prevalent use of digital technologies in the previously manual processes. Automation, connectivity, and optimization are driving the Industry 4.0 digital transformation. However, several technologies are working collectively to understand the full potential of the manufacturing 4.0 movement.
The ultimate objective of a connected factory is maximizing productivity and efficiency, thus maximizing profits. To obtain that, companies must adopt partial or complete automation into their manufacturing processes.
Automation, via artificial intelligence (AI) or robotics, is made possible by the communication and connectivity across an automation industry 4.0 optimized facility.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
Industrial IoT (IIoT) pertains to the collaboration and interconnectivity of machines, data, and people in the manufacturing world. Essentially, it takes IoT – machines, data, and sensors all connected and interfacing faultlessly – and applies it to manufacturing.
Every aspect of the manufacturing task can be connected in the Industrial IoT, and the data created by it can be leveraged into optimizing productivities across the manufacturing operation.
Through the Industrial Internet of Things, Industry 4.0 automation technologies connect, monitor, and control networks of devices, robots, gadgets, machines, and cloud information in real-time (via Cloud Monitoring).
This way, it enables them to learn, function, and operate automatically, optimizing production and reducing human intervention.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI and its subset machine learning (ML) are practically required for a smart factory that is enabled with Industry 4.0. The entire premise around this novel industrial revolution is to wipe out manual processing, and AI is the primary tool to utilize in its place.
AI can use the data created from a connected factory to reprogram workflows, optimize machinery, and detect overall improvements that can be made to drive productivity and eventually revenue.
A smart factory is a computerized manufacturing facility that uses machines, connected devices, and production systems to constantly gather and share data. This data is used for making informed decisions to enhance processes as well as cater to any issues that might arise.
The smart manufacturing practices used for smart factories are enabled by several technologies, including AI, cloud computing, big data analysis, and IIoT. Smart factories connect the physical and digital worlds to observe a complete production process, from the SCM (supply chain management) to manufacturing tools and even the individual operators’ work on the shop floor.
Fully integrated, collaborative manufacturing systems offer an array of advantages for operators, including permitting operations to be readily optimized and adaptable.
Manufacturers do not want to have to use the enormous amount of space needed to physically preserve significant volumes of data created in an Automation Industry 4.0 operation. This makes computing and cloud storage a key cog and an absolute must in a connected factory.
In addition, cloud usage permits a single source of truth and information sharing across the entire company at the speed of light. Finally, cloud storage also gives you remote access or permission to monitor all machine operation systems and data, offering efficiencies and excellent visibility into operations.
Big Data & Analytics
Since every function of the manufacturing tasks is being examined and producing data, there is a substantial amount of data to sift through. However, big data analytics systems can use AI technologies and machine learning to swiftly process data and provide decision-makers with the necessary details to make enhancements across a whole manufacturing operation.
Predicting outcomes can be a massive game-changer for many companies in the age of manufacturing and Industry 4.0. Before the factory digitization, changing over an assembly line and optimizing its production and speed always involved some kind of guesswork and mainly was imperfect.
Luckily, the present-day advanced simulation models powered by AI and the IoT data enable manufacturing operations to optimize the machine for all their product runs, thus saving money and time.
Since every touchpoint in the manufacturing setup is digitized and connected in Industry 4.0, there’s an additional need for strong cybersecurity. Computer systems, manufacturing machinery, the cloud, data analytics, and any other system connected through the Internet of Things needs to be protected.
How Industry 4.0 Technologies Are Changing Manufacturing
Industry 4.0 is transforming how firms manufacture, improve, and distribute their products. Manufacturers are adopting new technologies, including cloud computing and analytics, the Internet of Things, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, throughout their operations and mainly into their production facilities.
These smart factories are well-appointed with embedded software, advanced sensors, and robotics that gather and analyze data for better decision making.
In addition, higher value is generated when data from production operations is amalgamated with operational data from the supply chain, ERP, customer service, and other enterprise systems to create an entirely new level of insight and visibility from previously siloed information.
This digital technology results in predictive maintenance, increased automation, self-optimization of process enhancements, and most of all, a new level of responsiveness and efficiency to customers that weren’t possible before.
Developing smart factories gives you an excellent opportunity for the manufacturing industry to enter Industry 4.0. Examining the significant amounts of big data gathered from sensors on the factory floor guarantees real-time visibility of manufacturing assets.
Moreover, it can provide tools for carrying out predictive maintenance to reduce machine downtime. Using high-tech Internet of Things devices in smart factories enhances the quality and higher productivity. Replacing manual inspection business models with AI-powered visual insights saves time and money and minimizes manufacturing errors.
With a small investment, quality control workers can configure a smartphone connected to the cloud to observe manufacturing processes from practically anywhere. By applying ML algorithms, manufacturers can quickly identify errors instantly rather than later when the repair work is more costly.
The Industry 4.0 concepts and technologies are applicable across all industrial companies, including gas, oil, mining, discrete and process manufacturing, and many other industrial segments.
Benefits and Outcomes of Industry 4.0
Automation Industry 4.0 has a global impact in terms of connectivity across all the continents and how it is changing our international economies. According to a report from Deloitte Insights , these novel technologies helped in the creation of 3.5 million new jobs between 2001-2015 in the United Kingdom (UK) alone.
These changes are helpful to understand on a broad-reaching scale. Still, there are other ways in which they impact the manufacturers individually. Here are the 5 most prominent and remarkable benefits manufacturers can expect from Automation Industry 4.0.
The Industry 4.0 connectivity, such as IoT, sensors, AI, etc., serve one primary purpose: optimizing the manufacturing processes.
Automation enables manufacturers to work more speedily, data analytics allows leadership to make data-driven decisions to boost efficiency, predictive maintenance indicates reduced downtime for machines, and monitoring systems provide real-time revenue optimization across the entire operation.
What do maximized efficiency and optimized processes mean to a manufacturer? In digital transformation and Industry 4.0’s case, it translates to increased revenues and enhanced customer service.
When manufacturers can optimize production with sensor-monitored machines, all while giving fast service and personalized attention to customers through field service and AI, they can observe the benefit of the connected factory.
Higher Labor Productivity
Worker safety is one of IoT solutions’ biggest benefits on the manufacturing floor, where sensors worn by the worker and on-site are constantly monitored to guarantee a safe and healthy working environment. When workers feel safe and secure on the job, they can better focus and complete more tasks during the day.
Industry 4.0 is also expanding many manufacturing workers’ skills repertoire. As new technologies become operational, employees learn new skills that enhance their skill set and operational efficiency. Think of collaborative robots (cobots) – robots and people working together in manufacturing workflows, maximizing revenues and efficiencies.
Greater Asset Utilization
Industry 4.0 allows for more flexibility across the manufacturing operation. This translates to better utilization of assets and, therefore, a potential for revenue increases. Think of automation – autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) can take care of menial tasks like product transportation, leaving proficient human workers to do higher-value tasks.
The pillars of Industry 4.0 - virtual reality, predictive analytics, and remote monitoring - convert to the consumer space after manufacturing. While this does not directly affect a manufacturer, they can significantly enhance field and customer service offerings if they produce goods capable of IoT connectivity.
Exemplary customer service is a competitive differentiating point for several companies, and connected machinery in field service is considerably helping to up the customer satisfaction levels.
With connected devices, manufacturers can observe the performance of a product, schedule maintenance before a problem arises, and thus prevent any kind of customer dissatisfaction. As per the State of the Connected Customer Report, 80% of customers express the experience provided by companies is just as vital as their services and products.
Supply Chain and Inventory
IoT-enabled sensors and data analytics provide manufacturers in-depth insights into the entire production process and supply chain. Together with machine learning and AI capabilities, this degree of visibility indicates that supply chain optimization can be achieved in real-time.
Some also call it the Supply Chain 4.0 , defined as “the application of the IoT," the use of advanced robotics, and the application of advanced big data analytics in supply chain management (SCM):
- Create networks everywhere.
- Place sensors in everything.
- Automate anything.
- Assess everything to considerably improve customer satisfaction and performance.
The Future of Industry 4.0
Even though many companies worldwide haven’t yet developed an all-embracing strategy to immerse themselves in the novel Industry 4.0, the truth is that there’s already a more progressive booming trend on its way: Industry 5.0 .
It focuses on prompt customer service, customization, and integration between people and collaborative robots. The intention is to accomplish a smooth blending between human beings and technological development, with the primary objective of machines and people complimenting their activities instead of people being replaced.
In this disruptive approach, education must change its traditional approach to achieve an intelligent society. As a result, people should be qualified and trained to be proactive in this novel model of society.