The term industry 4.0 is the new buzzword. Conferences, articles and reports dedicated to the subject seem to indicate it. But … What is industry 4.0? And most importantly, what is behind this concept?
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, also recognized as Industry 4.0, is altering the manner companies’ function and thus the contexts they are compelled to compete in. Industry 4.0 means the pledge of a fresh revolution combining sophisticated manufacturing methods and activities with smart systems that will be incorporated into organizations, individuals and resources.
This revolution is marked by the emergence of new technologies such as robotics, analytics, artificial intelligence, cognitive technologies, nanotechnology and the Internet of Things (IoT), among others. Organizations need to define the techniques that better fulfill their investment requirements. If companies do not understand the changes and opportunities that Industry 4.0 brings, they run the risk of losing market share.
For traditional leaders, accustomed to data and linear communications, the change this new industrial revolution entails – providing real-time access to data and business intelligence – will transform the way they conduct their business. The digital integration of information from different sources and locations allows a business to be carried out in a continuous cycle. Throughout this cycle, real-time access to information is driven by the continuous and cyclical flow of information and actions between the physical and digital worlds. This flow takes place through a series of iterative steps known as PDP – for its physical-to-digital-to-physical acronym:
- From the physical to the digital world. The information of the physical world is captured and a digital record of it is created.
- From digital to digital. In this step, the information is shared and interpreted using advanced analytics, scenario analysis, and artificial intelligence to discover relevant information.
- From the digital to the physical world. Algorithms are applied to translate the decisions of the digital world into effective data, stimulating actions and changes in the physical world.
Why is Industry 4.0 important?
It is important to understand the potential of this fourth industrial revolution because it will not only affect manufacturing processes. Its range is much wider, involving all sectors and industries, including the community. Industry 4.0 can improve business operations and revenue growth, transformed products, supply chain, and customer expectations. Such a revolution will likely change the way we do things, but it could also affect how customers interact with them and the experiences they expect to have while interacting with companies. Beyond that, it could generate changes in the workforce, which would require new capabilities and roles.
Also, technologies related to Industry 4.0 can lead to completely new products and services. The use of sensors and portable devices, analysis, and robotics, among others, will allow improvements in products in various ways, from the creation of prototypes and tests to the incorporation of connectivity to previously disconnected products. These changes in products translate, in turn, into changes in the supply chain and, consequently, in customers.
What are the impacts of Industry 4.0?
The impacts of Industry 4.0 can be felt at multiple levels: in large ecosystems, at the organizational level and the individual level (in employees and customers):
In addition to the change in which companies operate and in the production of goods, Industry 4.0 affects all the agents in the ecosystem (suppliers, customers, regulatory considerations, investors, third parties …). These technologies allow interactions between each point of a network.
The ability to adjust and learn from real-time data can make organizations more responsive, proactive and predictive. It also allows the organization to reduce its productivity risks.
Industry 4.0 can mean different things to each one. For example, for employees, it can mean a change in the work they are going to do, while for customers it would mean greater customization of products and services that best meet their needs.
IoT and Industry 4.0: what does the future hold?
When IoT merges with Industry 4.0, we refer to this as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The IIoT will revolutionize industrial production by allowing the acquisition and access to a large amount of data at a speed and with an efficiency never seen before. The advantage will be economic savings due to preventive maintenance, greater safety, and more operational efficiency.
Internet of Things (IoT) takes advantage of the benefits offered by these technologies and is essential for the competitiveness of the industry. In addition, it is closely linked with Industry 4.0: sensors, new-generation communications and solution control through platforms that rely on additional technologies and data analytics, are elements that allow the industry to advance its digitalization process and be more Competitive at all levels.
The future of Industry 4.0
Looking at the current scenario, it is not complicated to imagine what the future of the industry will be like after the digital revolution. At first glance, they can be classified into two categories:
A traditional category
With large highly specialized and optimized plants, with advanced process control using thousands of sensors that provide online data processed by highly sophisticated tools for decision making. Located in large industrial areas outside cities and highly interconnected with the industrial ecosystem. These parks or industrial areas will require great infrastructure and perfect logistics to deliver the final products to remote locations.
A new category
With autonomous mini / micro plants integrated into the urban area, flexible and capable of providing products for nearby consumers. These new urban plants would be very compact, energy-efficient, safe, clean, aesthetic and invisible, with minimal environmental impact. Easily accessible to users and also to the people who serve them.
Advantages of Industry 4.0
Immersed as we are in this new and fourth industrial revolution, it is worth reviewing the advantages of Industry 4.0, which has them and are very numerous:
- More purified, repetitive processes are obtained without errors or alterations. Thus we get uninterrupted manufacturing that is available 24 hours a day. A notable advantage for highly seasonal companies, for example.
- Quality levels are optimized. Process automation allows greater precision in weights, measurements, and mixtures. Moreover, dead times and interruptions are avoided.
- Obviously, the greater the efficiency, the greater the cost savings. Automated processes require less personnel, fewer errors and greater energy efficiency, raw materials, etc.
- Production times are drastically cut.
- For the staff engaged in each method, greater safety is accomplished. This point is especially important for work at high temperatures, with heavyweights or in hazardous environments.
- The production is much more flexible since the product is adaptable to the requirements of each particular company.
- Data flow is now much more efficient thanks to communication networks. Reaction times and decision making are reduced.
- Naturally, business competitiveness is much higher. The needs of the markets are better answered, high-quality products are offered and the changes are reacted more quickly and flexibly.
- It guarantees excellent ability through digital networks to link millions of individuals.
- Thanks to the new industry, asset management is more sustainable, and can even regenerate the natural environment.
- Organizations ‘ effectiveness increases effectiveness.