As Industry 4.0 technologies develop, manufacturing is becoming significantly more efficient and productive. Industry 4.0 refers to the next revolution in manufacturing, and indeed is sometimes called the ‘fourth industrial revolution’. Industry 4.0 is driven and enabled by a number of recent innovations and developments that creative technologists and manufacturing early adopters are using to create unparalleled gains in manufacturing productivity, efficiency and quality.
Industry 4.0 Today
The Internet of Things (IoT) is created by using cloud connectivity and software to connect endpoint devices to each other, to automation control systems and to human interfaces such as mobile devices and computer dashboards. While many IoT developments are consumer products focused such as the Nest thermostat and the Ring doorbell camera, a large number of IoT implementations are industry focused. These industrial focused IoT products and solutions fall under the category of IIoT, or Industrial Internet of Things. In addition to IIoT technologies, Industry 4.0 is also driven and enabled by recent developments such as VR gear (like Oculus but in an industrial setting) providing the opportunity for efficiency enhancing applications such as JIT (Just in Time) training on new processes or immediate access to manuals and diagrams for machinery troubleshooting. Drones, CoBots, Mobile Computing and of course the ability to deploy cloud applications at massive scale are also underpinning Industry 4.0 advances.
The confluence of these forces and the application in real world environments is driving a wide range of benefits for manufacturers who adopt these Industry 4.0 technologies.
Industry 4.0 is changing the way that manufacturers operate and the methods used by operations managers. The old manual methods of measuring performance are no longer competitive. Automation greatly improves operation speeds, so previous manufacturing methods have quickly become outpaced. To stay up to date, equipment is now equipped with smart sensors to wirelessly collect data for both real-time and trend analysis. Decisions can be made at much faster speeds and risk can be proactively managed with these new manufacturing technologies. Industry 4.0 today allows operations managers to continue to implement previous process improvement techniques but with far better and faster insights than were previously available. Productivity can be maximized while manufacturing waste and cost are reduced to keep a manufacturing company competitive.
Largely, the opinions on Industry 4.0 have changed drastically since the term was first coined in 2011. A study in 2014 revealed that nearly all respondents did not believe their company was ready for Industry 4.0 and a majority stated that no work had yet been done to prepare for this industrial transformation. Only two years later in 2016, PwC’s 2016 Global Industry 4.0 Survey came to the conclusion that investments in Industry 4.0 were already significant, and now in 2019 the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies is seen as a top priority for industry. Today, manufacturers are going all-in on Industry 4.0 because it presents the opportunity to rapidly and significantly reduce costs by improving efficiency, working proactively, and stretching resources. Industry 4.0 is seen as the next industrial revolution and is beginning to result in an incredible jump in operational efficiency and value creation.
The adoption of distributed IoT devices along with cloud analytics and improved automation of manufacturing processes is reducing waste and increasing efficiency in more and more factories as Industry 4.0 becomes more widely adopted.
Industry 4.0 - The Future of Manufacturing and Operations
Even as these seemingly advanced Industry 4.0 solutions are proliferating, we are only just now scratching the surface of what is possible with Industry 4.0.
Industrial automation has been applied for decades now to remove labor costs and increase productivity and efficiency. However, what most people imagine when they think of automation is automotive production line is 6 axis robots that car bodies pass through for welding, assembly or painting.
Example of 6 Axis Robot in Automotive Production
However, manufacturing robotics technology is now advancing rapidly. Cobots are next generation robots that are designed not to work autonomously but to work with workers rather than instead of them.
Example of Cobot in Industrial Setting
In addition to Cobots, which are more like automated assistants that are force multipliers for individual workers than what we think of as traditional robots, fully autonomous manufacturing robots are rapidly advancing. The advancement of fully autonomous robotic systems such as Amazon warehouse robots means that in some cases, robots now don’t require human intervention, communicate to a central control system as well as to each other and can operate fully autonomously in ‘lights out’ factory settings.
Example of Autonomous Warehouse Robots
Boston Dynamics is creating a vision well beyond a Roomba looking warehouse robot to create robots that emulate workers such as in a warehouse or even construction setting, which presents numerous navigation and operational challenges.
Example of Fully Autonomous Industrial Robot
Example of Fully Autonomous Construction Robot
The use of autonomous equipment, robots, and vehicles is one of the many ways that Industry 4.0 is leading change in manufacturing as we look forward. Autonomous robots and Cobots are increasing manufacturing speeds, creating a more efficient work flow, and reducing costs
Advanced industrial robotics will need data and insights to operate efficiently just like todays’ factory workers.
It makes no sense for a robot to fetch and deliver raw materials to a fixed machine that is having an unplanned downtime event.
By incorporating smart factory technologies such as factory analytics dashboards with the implementation of autonomous equipment, operations will be further streamlined and operations made more productive and efficient as well as safer while manufacturers implement advanced factory robotics technologies.
Another front that we see advancing with Industry 4.0 is integrated supply chains. As we noted in a recent article, the title of CSO, or Chief Supply Chain Officer is being adopted. We see a day when value chains are integrated globally across manufacturing businesses. One day large e-commerce sites will use user behavior such as product reviews, shares and purchase trends to forecast demand in real-time back to Tier One manufacturers. These companies in turn will have deep integrations with their suppliers and using AI, the supply chain will adapt globally in real-time to consumer signals. This promises that the concept of Just In Time manufacturing will be executed at massive, global scale, spanning vast value chains.
Smart Factory Analytics solutions such as Worximity will sit atop of parts of these systems and within the larger ecosystems to provide the data and insights that Humans & Cobots, AI systems and Autonomous Robots will need to keep these systems humming.
Manufacturing will only continue to become more efficient as smart technologies continually gain more data and decision-making improves as leaders, managers and operators themselves have access to real-time insights. This will increase the accuracy of the inputs to decision-making and compress decision-making cycles, providing manufacturing and operations managers with the ability to rapidly improve and streamline operations.
We’ve reached one level of Industry 4.0 with the ability to provide insights into what’s happening at the machine, factory floor and plant-wide level. This is bringing provable ROI to manufacturers.
However, as larger supply chain systems evolve, and autonomous automation interfaces with fixed machinery, Worximity will sit at the heart of Industry 4.0 advances.
Additional Industry 4.0 Resources:
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