For a long time, manufacturing industry has been the engine of economies and the symbol of progress. It is credited for having delivered jobs in industrialized countries and for its capacity to produce high quality products that have improved people’s lives. But today, it faces new challenges due to digitalization and the fourth industrial revolution.
Industry 4.0 can be defined as an extension of Industry 3.0, also known as the industrial revolution 4.0 or Industry Transformation. It is a new evolution that leads to intelligent manufacturing with advanced and highly technological production processes, which can be monitored as they happen thanks to digitalization and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Industry 4.0 will enable manufacturers to more efficiently monitor, diagnose and manage their production processes remotely, eliminating the need for redundant tasks. It can also improve product quality and shorten lead times as well as minimize errors. In short, Industry 4.0 will ensure a better performance of manufacturers while at the same time reducing energy consumption and waste generation levels.
It is driven by four major trends: cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence and cloud computing.
Industrial applications currently use sensors to monitor a single process or one stage in their entire value chain. Sensors provide accurate information about production conditions, but only at a specific location and time. Moreover, the data acquired is often not used because it is either combined with other data at a later time or lost due to the complexity of managing that information.
Industry 4.0 combines all data from every location in real-time, storing it in a single repository called an industrial cloud . This will both reduce the amount of waste generated by manufacturers and allow them to take action based on the collected information, such as eradicating problems before they happen.
Thus, a smart factory will be able to monitor and control its entire value chain thanks to artificial intelligence-based systems that can make decisions based on data from sensors, cloud computing, cyber-physical systems and any other type of available technology. This would eliminate the need for human intervention and dramatically improve the efficiency of manufacturing processes.
Smart factories will have sensors attached to every machine, allowing them to connect to the industrial cloud via the IoT. This will allow manufacturers to observe their entire production chain in real-time from a single dashboard. Such information may be used for predictive maintenance, which enables companies to perform tasks such as scheduling maintenance based on the actual condition of their assets.
In addition, manufacturers will attach sensors to employees as well as vehicles and drones. These devices can also connect to the cloud through wireless technologies such as Bluetooth (BLE) or near-field communication (NFC). The data collected by these devices can then be used to track the health of workers and monitor their performance on the factory floor.
As Industry 4.0 matures, smart factories will rely less on humans to perform simple and repetitive tasks, allowing employees to focus more of their time on planning strategies, developing new products or improving processes.
In addition to advanced technologies that allow manufacturers to significantly improve their productivity levels, Industry 4.0 also involves the use of advanced materials such as nanomaterials, which can be used to monitor and improve manufacturing processes while also helping manufacturers reduce production costs.
Industry 4.0 has already begun making its way into factories around the world, but it may still take some time before it becomes a mainstream trend in all types of businesses.