The next industrial revolution is upon us, and it’s called Industry 4.0. New technology, like the those connected through an ”internet of things,” versatile robots, and 3D-printing, is taking the manufacturing industry to the next level. Through the connection and automation of cyber-physical systems, smart factories aren’t just becoming more efficient — the fourth industrial revolution is shaping the future of the industry.
What’s Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0 (sometimes called the Industrial Internet of Things) is the term given to this particular industrial revolution. More specifically, this is the Fourth Industrial Revolution as the age of mechanical production brought us the First Industrial Revolution, mass production prompted the Second Industrial Revolution, and digitization and automation gave us the Third Industrial Revolution. Today’s technology, like machine learning and artificial intelligence, is once again taking things to a higher level and bringing about a new industrial revolution. Industry 4.0 creates a fully connected, flexible framework for factories to operate more efficiently as the fourth industrial revolution shifts today’s interaction with technology to a proactive, rather than reactive, approach.
What’s a smart factory?
The Fourth Industrial Revolution builds the framework for these factories. By utilizing new digital technology like the Internet of Things, manufacturers can increase the connectivity of cyber-physical systems to maximize results.
According to Sherlock Holmes, CEO of Genware Computer Systems: “In a smart factory, all relevant data is connected, aggregated, analyzed, and acted on proactively. Sensors, devices, equipment, people, and processes are part of a connected ecosystem.”
Some of the instruments and disruptors driving this innovation include:
- Predictive Analytics — Largely powered by machine learning, big data is analyzed to forecast future outcomes.
- Internet of Things — Using IoT sensors and wireless communication, devices and equipment can “speak” to each other.
- Machine Learning — Computers teach themselves how to process data, find key analytics, and automate certain tasks.
These digital technologies are extremely beneficial in the manufacturing industry, from product development to managing suppliers. Smart factory equipment can learn to predict certain anomalies and respond to events in real-time. Instead of just logging data and storing them in silos, manufacturers can analyze massive amounts of valuable information to improve operations. Innovations like IoT and 3D printing also do social good by improving customer experience and making customization easier.
What are the applications of Industry 4.0?
So what can a smart factory of Industry 4.0/ the fourth industrial revolution accomplish in industry-specific terms? Some of the key manufacturing applications of Industry 4.0 are:
- Process optimization
- Predictive maintenance
- Real-time equipment and process monitoring
- Real-time quality monitoring
- Overall Equipment Effectiveness and factory productivity
- Product yield and root cause analysis
What does the future of manufacturing look like?
The next generation of leaders in the manufacturing industry is already using the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s new capabilities to further innovation. The Internet of Things, digitization, automation, and 3D-printing (additive manufacturing) will be key factors in meeting future consumer demands, and specifically the increased desire for personalized products. Consumers will be able to completely customize furniture, appliances, clothing, and more, and then still expect on-demand, prompt delivery.
Despite what Sci-Fi movies may infer, human beings will always play a crucial role in manufacturing. The fourth industrial revolution is not going to ensure that the robots are going to take over. Instead, the future of the industry will also be a lot greener, as consumer products get sent back to the factory to be broken down and reused instead of ending up in a landfill.
Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work predicts that: “to achieve this vision, the industry will need to adopt a fundamentally different mindset — from its current focus on ‘cheaper, faster and more efficient’ toward ‘smarter, disruptive and more collaborative.’”
Industry 4.0, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the Industrial Internet of Things all mean the same thing — the evolution of factories to self-running, self-healing ecosystems that work with people, and not instead of. But with this current pace of change, and constant innovation, if you don’t hop onboard this industrial revolution now, you’re going to get left in the dust!