Often mistakenly thought of as another business buzzword, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Industry 4.0 is here — we’re living in it.
Long gone are the steam engines and assembly lines first associated with industrial revolutions. The fourth era sees computers and automation come together to create new ways of communication and working.
We’ve put together what everyone must know about Industry 4.0
What Everyone Must Know About Industry 4.0
We’ll start with the basics — what is industry 4.0?
Also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0 can be best summarised as the digitisation of industries. It is most often used to refer to changes throughout the manufacturing and production industry, but the technologies involved have far-reaching implications for various industries. The digitisation mentioned above refers to smart technologies capable of a variety of new feats like contextualising information, making decisions and analysing data beyond human comprehension.
The need for Industry 4.0 is pretty straightforward. Industries are always advancing and adopting new technologies to work more efficiently. The use of these new technologies can help boost innovation, speed production and react faster to market demands to name just a few.
The nine big advances in technology that are driving Industry 4.0 are:
- The Industrial Internet of Things
- Autonomous Robots
- Augmented Reality
- Big Data Analytics
- Horizontal and Vertical System Integration
- The Cloud
- Additive Manufacturing
We’ll dive into them more in-depth.
The Industrial Internet of Things
A very vague title, but quite a straightforward concept. The Industrial Internet of Things refers to using the internet to connect all parts of a business. This allows machine to machine communication. We’re seeing it implemented most in factories, where machines communicate with each other through wi-fi to do things like monitor, collect, exchange and analyse data. These insights are then used to drive better business decisions.
Autonomous robots have been around a while. In fact, the first one was made all the way back in 1948.
But as the technology driving them has advanced, autonomous robots offer new opportunities and capabilities for businesses. Most obviously, they can work faster. But they can also work smarter. They can interact with each other (through the Industrial Internet of Things) and adjust their actions from this data.
So for example, old autonomous robots have mainly been used in mass production, which is very helpful. However, if a product was produced incorrectly, autonomous robots would just continue production until a human noticed the error and the company is stuck with the mass produced incorrect product. Whereas new technology autonomous robots are able to recognise errors or mistakes and communicate it to other machines.
Engineers have used simulations for a long time now. But this technology is only just expanding to industry.
There are many possible uses for simulations. From having a digital copy of a real product they can test to using simulations of entire factories to test new ways of working, the possibilities are vast.
Augmented reality, or AR, is a new technology comparatively to most. It’s most commonly known throughout the gaming industry with popular games like Pokemon Go using this technology to create new, interactive experiences for users.
But it also has great use in businesses. For example, selecting parts in a warehouse using robotics. The possibilities are plentiful for each unique industry.
Big Data Analytics
Big data analytics is probably the most well-known technology of Industry 4.0. This technology refers to a machine that can gather information and data to create correlations, trends and more.
A great example of this is Google Ads. They’ve been increasingly moving towards what they call “smart shopping” ads, where everything from bids to keywords are automated. While cynical marketers see this as a move for Google to gain more ad revenue, the reality is their machine learning can process far more data than a human. So what might take a person weeks to analyse and action, takes the machine mere moments.
Big data analytics can give businesses useful insights into internal and external operations, to help them make smarter business decisions.
Cybersecurity isn’t a new technology by any means. All businesses should be aware of it by now. But as these technologies expand and as we increasingly move towards a digital landscape, cybersecurity must keep up.
Horizontal and Vertical System Integration
This technology is mainly used in smart factories, but that isn’t to say it couldn’t have possible uses in other industries as time goes on. We’ll break it down to explain it’s current use.
Horizontal integration refers to the networking of machines and systems within a manufacturing line. While vertical integration refers to the process of connecting all levels of production. So this connects the information gathered at each level through horizontal integration to every level of business and even suppliers or customers.
A good example of this is the food industry. There are many quality standards that need to be met and these need to be checked at every level. Horizontal integration can be used to ensure all machines on the manufacturing line have met a given standard and vertical integration can be used to share that information with all relevant parties. It saves the employees involved a lot of time checking, and double-checking, as the information is shared with all relevant parties immediately.
You’ve probably already heard of the cloud. Simply put, it’s things you can access remotely over the internet. A great example of this is Google Drive. This is a cloud-based storage system. Many companies and employees use it as they can increasingly access shared information, anywhere.
Cloud sharing has big implications for industries. Instead of endless email chains sharing information, new processes can be created so that information is readily available for all relevant parties.
Additive manufacturing is an exciting technology that we’ve barely scratched the surface of. It refers to the ability to produce low cost items in-house.
The most famous example of this currently is 3D printing. 3D printers have exploded in popularity, but for a long time they were too expensive to be a reasonable investment for many companies. As the price has come down, more businesses have invested in them to create their own products in-house.
This has big implications for businesses. It could help with sourcing specific parts, custom orders and reducing product shortages to name just a few.
How Will Industry 4.0 Affect Your Business?
As you can see, the term Industry 4.0 is an all-encompassing term that includes many different technologies and the potential for those technologies is vast. But in general, Industry 4.0 includes interoperability, information transparency, technical assistance and decentralised decision-making.
Every business should be reviewing how these technologies could help them gain a competitive edge and become more efficient. But it’s impossible to give an example of how the technology might potentially help each sector and individual company. So do the research.
Industry 4.0 Is Ongoing
Now you know what everyone must know about Industry 4.0, make sure you look into how it will affect your business. Businesses that refuse to invest in new technologies because of the initial cost will fall behind in terms of business productivity and profitability in the long-run. While those who take the plunge now will gain the edge over their competitors that will allow them to out-innovate them for years to come.