What is Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0 has given rise to the smart factory: something that goes way beyond the basic computerisation of manufacturing processes to focus on true connectivity. Through this 4th industrial revolution, the various elements of the production line and supply chain can communicate with each other; ultimately being able to take action and potentially even make decisions without human input.
Here’s a closer look at the technologies behind Industry 4.0 and what it means for your business.
What is Industry 4.0?
The first and second industrial revolutions brought us manufacturing at scale and mechanised production lines. Through computerisation, Industry 3.0 opened the doors to greater automation: i.e. many production processes could be handled with little or no human input.
The 4th industrial revolution is a further major step change, and it’s powered by two things: connectivity and data.
Let’s take the example of a typical production line. Under the standard (Industry 3.0) way of doing things, you have multiple pieces of equipment, each of which has its own computer to control, automate and monitor its activity.
Under Industry 3.0, these are mostly distinct, standalone processes. Under Industry 4.0 however, you have a network of machines that are digitally connected with one another, with the ability to share and create information.
So what information do these machines actually share, and how does this benefit the business?
All of the monitors, trackers and other components within the connected manufacturing system can potentially generate large quantities of data. This is where the ‘smart’ element of Industry 4.0 comes in. Through A.I.-based technologies, machines can recognise, analyse and act upon information they receive, reducing the need for manual input.
Systems can potentially ‘learn’ to recognise anomalies, defects and other issues at a very early stage, which can result in benefits such as better quality control and reduced waste. From a strategic perspective, if you can harness and analyse data from across your connected system, it can aid better, evidence-based decision making.
Industry 4.0 technologies
These are some of the key concepts and technologies commonly associated with Industry 4.0.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT)
IoT refers to any network of physical devices that are digitally connected to enable the exchange of data. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is an IoT sub-category that refers to all the operational machines, plant components and equipment a business uses that are now connected to the Internet.
Typically, it involves equipping sensors across production systems, assembly lines, as well as across warehouses and in vehicles. Armed with data from these sensors, businesses can monitor performance and improve operational efficiency.
Big Data and Data Analytics
IIoT devices tend to generate vast amounts of data, often referred to as Big Data. If you can capture, connect and comprehend this Big Data, it can deliver valuable business insight, such as highlighting performance bottlenecks and inefficiencies. This is where data analytics comes in.
Data analytics platforms use powerful computational algorithms to process large data sets. They also incorporate visualisation tools to enable you to interpret the data.
Machine learning is a form of artificial intelligence, whereby systems and algorithms improve based on experience.
For instance, picture a system incorporating multiple sensors across a production line. Over time, the system learns to recognise that particular combinations of circumstances (e.g. linked to ambient humidity, machine temperature and hydraulic pressure) can trigger outages. The system can identify when a risky scenario is in danger of occuring and take remedial action.
This type of smart, real-time error detection can help businesses correct defects as swiftly and cost-effectively as possible.
What about Industry 5.0?
Robotics technology is not new to manufacturing. However, thanks to a combination of connectivity, machine learning and powerful sensor technologies, robots are now able to recognise, ‘understand’ and act upon information to a degree that was impossible just a matter of years ago.
So where does this leave humans? This is what the term ‘Industry 5.0’ seeks to explore. It’s not about robots superseding humans. Rather, it’s about finding new ways to merge the computing capabilities of robots with the resourcefulness of humans in a collaborative way.
What do your people do best? How can we free up resources to enable employees to focus on these areas? What tasks can and should be handled through robotics? Industry 5.0 involves asking these questions.
Delivering Industry 4.0
In a smart factory environment, connectivity outages can cause huge disruption and cost. To succeed, the key requirement for any IIoT project is a resilient, secure and cost-effective cellular communications solution. This should be customised to match the specific characteristics of your data needs, plant & equipment, monitoring requirements and supply chain.
Discover more about choosing the most appropriate connectivity solution for your business needs here.