What Should You Know About Industry 4.0?
In 2018, we can see how the way people produce things changes because of the new technological developments and digitalization of the manufacturing process. This change is so apparent and exciting that many people call it Industry 4.0.
Industry 4.0 is the fourth significant revolution in manufacturing. The first industrial revolution occurred when people started using steam power for mechanization, while the introduction of electricity allowed people to create complex assembly lines. This new revolution is all about computers and automation, as well as machine learning and smart systems.
History of Appearance and Main Trends of Development
In 2011, Germany introduced a project dubbed ‘Industrie 4.0.’ This project was aimed to digitalize the manufacturing processes at the Hannover Messe. At that time, leaders of the industry, academics, and government officials couldn’t expect this term to be used worldwide to describe a new industrial revolution. Although this concept was initially focused on manufacturing and production, the use of this term has quickly expanded beyond factories. Industry 4.0 now includes logistics and transportation, smart healthcare, smart homes, smart mining, etc.
The wider application of the term is popularized by many institutes, including the German national academy of science and engineering. However, various industries also adopt this concept independently from each other. Manufacturing doesn’t exist in isolation. We live in a world where different industries are deeply interconnected and any transformations in one area have an impact on many other areas as well. The ideas of Industry 4.0 become more and more popular around the globe and gain support from the governments of the US, Japan, the EU, and other countries.
What Are the Key Elements of Industry 4.0?
The whole idea of Industry 4.0 is based on a few main principles:
- Information transparency. The data obtained from sensors allow systems to create virtual copies of the physical environment and analyze information in the relevant context.
- Decentralized decision-making. New cyber-physical systems can make their own decisions and so become more autonomous than ever before.
- Interoperability. Various devices, machines, and sensors can communicate with each other directly.
- Technical assistance. Systems can not only assist people with dangerous or difficult tasks but also help with problem-solving and decision-making.
The implementation of these main principles becomes possible due to rapid technological advancements. Let’s consider these mechanisms in more detail.
Humans and cyber-physical systems can communicate with each other. It becomes possible thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT). Different partners engaged in the same manufacturing processes can easily share information with each other and be sure that this information is free of errors. One of the biggest problems of sharing the information among partners used to be a wide variety of standards used by companies that presented the information differently. Today, this problem is to a large extent solved. Industry 4.0 introduces new standards for efficiency, reliability, and accuracy.
- Smart Factory
Smart Factory is a concept which implies a connection between different steps of the production process, from planning to operating actuators. Many experts note that equipment and machinery will be able to improve performance through self-optimization processes in the nearest future. A good illustration of the Smart Factory idea is the Siemens Electronic Works facility in Germany. The manufacturing process is coordinated by smart machines.
- Big Data
Simply put, big data is the data collected from digital and traditional sources both outside and inside your company which is used for further analysis and discovery. Today, we can collect data virtually everywhere, including mobile devices and sensors. The only challenge associated with gathering data is that we still need to work on the methods of its interpretation.
- Internet of Things
Although the term itself sounds simple, the concept behind it is monumental. IoT consists of thousands of various devices which are connected to the internet and to each other. IoT is based on gathering data from sensors and cloud computing power.
- Cyber-Physical Systems
This term is used to refer to the integration of networking, computation, and physical processes. Computers monitor all the processes using feedback loops. In turn, physical systems react and use various software to take certain actions and to track the results.
What Countries Invest More in Industry 4.0?
From 2010 to 2018, more than 30 countries have developed initiatives associated with the idea of Industry 4.0. According to statistics, China invests more money than any other country. Here are some numbers and the corresponding initiatives:
- Germany (Industry 4.0) — $550 million;
- USA (Manufacturing USA) — $700 million;
- Japan (Revitalization/Robots Strategy) — $916 million;
- Singapore (Productivity 4.0) — $1 billion;
- South Korea (Manufacturing Innovation 3.0) — $1.16 billion;
- France (Industrie de Futur) — $1.8 billion;
- Taiwan (Research Innovation and Enterprise 2020) — $2.3 billion;
- China (Made in China 2025) — $3 billion.
The Most Interesting Projects and Companies
German company Fraunhofer IPA created the Industry Application Center 4.0, where enterprises can try various Industry 4.0 applications and decide whether or not they want to use them in the future. Most solutions presented in this Application Center are intended for medium-sized and small companies. Researchers involved in this project claim that enterprises have an opportunity to learn advantages of Industry 4.0 through a consistent story-like experience.
American company Construction Robotics introduced a robot called SAM (Semi-Automated Mason). This robot builds walls. It’s really good at laying bricks and can significantly decrease labor costs. Manufacturing efficiency has already increased due to robotics but the efficiency on construction sites has remained the same for the last 30 years. Construction Robotics decided to solve this problem. Although SAM needs a little help from humans, it copes with physically difficult tasks faster and never makes mistakes or gets tired.
Another project from Germany is Arena2036. ‘Arena’ is an abbreviation which stands for ‘Active Research Environment for the Next Generation of Automobiles.’ This is a big research platform focused on the issues of mobility, where experts from various industries work together, developing new solutions for the automotive industry. The main goal of this project is to create a flexible system for the intelligent design of lightweight cars by 2036.
REWO Remote Assistance is a project focused on remote support and remote help with various mechanical and technical problems. This company also creates training programs and solutions that can improve customer onboarding experience.
Where to Learn More?
If you want to learn more about Industry 4.0, here are some sources that will help you stay up-to-date about the latest news in this field and improve your knowledge of principles and technologies of manufacturing:
- Manufacturing on UI Labs;
- Industry 4.0 News;
- IBM’s blog about Industry 4.0;
- The latest news on Seebo 14.0 Academy;
- The Industry 4.0 Blog on Medium.
Computer technologies constantly evolve and change many industries forever. The Industry 4.0 concept first appeared in Germany as the idea of digitalization of manufacturing processes. However, this concept has quickly become popular around the world and now is used in many other industries. Such technologies as cloud computing, big data, and the Internet of Things, allow companies to improve and automate many processes, increasing cost efficiency and changing the world as we know it.