Industry 4.0

What Is Industry 4.0?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has begun, disrupting more than just the manufacturing sector. Industry 4.0 (AKA 4IR)  is revolutionizing the entire supply chain. It also has the potential to change how we live and work entirely.

Industry 4.0 is predicated on the idea that the world has experienced three industrial revolutions up to this point.

The First Industrial Revolution, taking place in the late 18th century, saw the invention of the steam engine and widespread mechanization. The Second Industrial Revolution occurred near the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century with the discovery of electricity and the first fully mechanized factories. The Third Industrial Revolution, from the 1950s to the early 2000s, brought advanced electronics, computing, and automation.

We are now in the midst of the Fourth Industrial revolution, which McKinsey estimates began sometime after 2014.

Industry 4.0 builds on the technologies and innovations of the Third Industrial Revolution. Defined by cyber-physical systems and backed by the Industrial Internet of Things, Industry 4.0 introduces smart technology to every phase of the supply chain, from manufacturing to warehousing and logistics to delivery.

Industry 4.0 redefines multiple back-office processes and systems, including enterprise resource planning. It is a digital transformation cornerstone and a significant technological development touchpoint. The core innovations of Industry 4.0 also have applications beyond the manufacturing sector, with smart cities being the most notable.

Industry 4.0 Technologies

According to McKinsey, Industry 4.0 stems from four foundational types of technologies:

  1. Connectivity, data, and computational power
  2. Analytics and intelligence
  3. Human-machine interaction
  4. Advanced engineering

SAP breaks this down further, proposing nine technological pillars:

  1. Big data
  2. Horizontal and vertical integration
  3. Cloud computing
  4. Augmented reality
  5. The industrial internet of things (IIoT)
  6. Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing
  7. Autonomous robots
  8. Digital twins, virtual simulations of real-world systems or processes based on the data collected from IoT sensors
  9. Cybersecurity

Benefits of Industry 4.0

  • Data collected from intelligent products can help improve customer service, logistics, product quality, and more
  • Self-correcting smart factories which make it possible to deliver high-quality products autonomously and at-scale
  • Reduced downtime thanks to predictive maintenance
  • Significant improvements in productivity, engagement, and overall job satisfaction
  • Cost-effective, sustainable manufacturing that doesn’t impede other business objectives
  • Optimized back-office and administrative processes
  • Stronger vendor relationships thanks to more accurate and timely product tracking
  • Streamlined warehouse and inventory management
  • Improved security and compliance
  • Increased potential for innovation thanks to improved R&D processes
  • More intelligent, profitable decision-making
  • Knowledge sharing and collaboration across the supply chain

Industry 4.0 Use Cases

Industry 4.0’s potential is immense. Many potential applications and use cases exist for the technologies that define the fourth industrial revolution. 

Paperless Documentation

Through digital transformation, manufacturers and suppliers can digitize everything from quality certifications to invoices and shipping orders. This helps ensure more efficient, cost-effective, and accurate documentation, saving time and reducing frustration for all parties involved. Paperless documentation is also a step forward for sustainability, as it means less paper waste.

Finally, by going paperless, companies can promote deeper collaboration between vendors, suppliers, and manufacturers, bringing everyone together onto a shared platform that significantly improves efficiency.

Real-Time Visibility into Industrial Infrastructure

Instead of walking the factory floor or visually examining manufacturing processes, manufacturers gain a high-level view of their operations. The data and insights gathered through this improved visibility enable greatly improved decision-making, as manufacturers can identify both bottlenecks and possible opportunities through analytics tools.

Optimized Manufacturing with Smart Machines

Traditionally, manufacturers relied on experience and intuition to identify machines that require maintenance. Smart machinery, however, can leverage real-time data to assess its condition. This enables a level of predictive maintenance that would otherwise be impossible.

New Service-Based Revenue Streams

By connecting products to the Internet, businesses can improve the customer experience and offer value-added services and updates over time.

FAQ

What are cyber-physical systems?

Is Industry 4.0 the same as robotics technology?

Will Industry 4.0 take away jobs?

Why is cybersecurity important for Industry 4.0?

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