The next generation of leaders in the manufacturing industry is paying attention to how Industry 4.0 can transform manufacturing processes by increasing information exchange, creating new insights, and revolutionizing business models. Industry 4.0 combines new technology and management trends to create a smart factory operation. The manufacturing industry has experienced several industrial revolutions over the centuries. The First Industrial Revolution in the 18th century saw the mechanization of manufacturing using water and steam power. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Second Industrial Revolution saw the evolution of mass production due to the assembly line and electricity. The Third Industrial Revolution in the late 20th century introduced the use of computers and automation. Today, the industry’s future is marked by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, which merges the cyber and physical worlds. Industry 4.0 adds value by exchanging data within an IT infrastructure that makes machine data available in real-time.
Industry 4.0 introduces a digital revolution to the manufacturing process, specifically the product development process. I4.0 applies the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, cyber-physical systems, and cognitive computing to the manufacturing and service environment. Automation and connectivity have played important roles in manufacturing, but these added digital technology disruptors take manufacturing processes to a higher level that drives greater value.
There are several key features of implementing new high-tech strategies that end-users need to keep in mind. The interoperability between cyber-physical systems allows humans and factories to communicate. Virtualization creates a virtual copy of a factory by connecting data from sensors with virtual plant models and simulation models. Decentralization gives cyber-physical systems the ability to make autonomous decisions, while real-time data collection and analysis provides actionable insights. Service orientation makes services available over the Internet of Services and accessible to other end-users. Modularization allows for the flexible adaptation of smart factory processes by replacing or expanding individual modules.
Nine key pillars are essential to building Industry 4.0.
- Big Data: organizations are experiencing an overload of massive amounts of big data that are not being leveraged, but I4.0 can unlock the value of data for business improvement and growth.
- Augmented Reality: workers can use visual data to enable process and product improvements better. Virtual reality takes production to the next level by allowing for product testing without building physical representations.
- Simulation/Digital Twin: creating mock production lines and processes in the virtual world is a cost-effective alternative to building physical prototypes.
- Internet of Things: the data collected from IoT sensors can turn data into actionable value with I4.0.
- Cloud Computing: relying on cloud-based hosting services is smart to reduce operational costs and complexity while providing flexibility and scalability.
- Cybersecurity: interconnected systems must have proper security measures in place to prevent data breaches and security threats. Cybersecurity measures include enhanced firewalls, malware detection, and segmenting networks.
- Systems Integration: better connectivity between systems and hardware drives increased value.
- Additive Manufacturing: 3D printing is a faster, lighter, and cheaper way to manufacture components, and it’s also useful in maintenance and repair operations.
- Autonomous Systems: the evolution of robotics and artificial intelligence allows systems to operate autonomously without the need for human intervention.
The core of Industry 4.0 is built on cyber-physical systems, the fusing of new technologies, and the interconnectivity of virtual and physical worlds. The future of manufacturing will see a gradual evolution of Industry 4.0 rather than a revolution. Taking a staged approach that measures meaningful milestones and metrics is smart to build and implement an Industry 4.0 strategy.