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:
- Connectivity, data, and computational power
- Analytics and intelligence
- Human-machine interaction
- Advanced engineering
SAP breaks this down further, proposing nine technological pillars:
- Big data
- Horizontal and vertical integration
- Cloud computing
- Augmented reality
- The industrial internet of things (IIoT)
- Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing
- Autonomous robots
- Digital twins, virtual simulations of real-world systems or processes based on the data collected from IoT sensors
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
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
Optimized Manufacturing with Smart Machines
New Service-Based Revenue Streams
What are cyber-physical systems?
Cyber-physical systems leverage embedded sensor technology, computer algorithms, and software platforms to monitor, integrate with, and control the physical world. They represent a seamless integration of software and hardware.
Is Industry 4.0 the same as robotics technology?
Although autonomous robots represent a crucial technology, Industry 4.0 is distinct from robotics. Industry 4.0 enables robots to operate with higher sophistication and autonomy, but these robots represent their parallel technology.
Will Industry 4.0 take away jobs?
While certain jobs might be rendered obsolete, they will be replaced by new positions more focused on managing, maintaining, and operating Industry 4.0 technologies.
Why is cybersecurity important for Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0 represents an exponential increase in the manufacturing sector’s attack surface. Each connected device is a potential access point for a threat actor, and each smart machine is a potential vulnerability. These machines, many previously isolated from one another, are often business-critical—the cost of even a few minutes of downtime could reach six or seven figures.