Industry 4.0 concepts and technologies can be applied across all types of industrial companies, including discrete and process manufacturing, as well as oil and gas, mining, and other industrial segments.
Let’s start with a bit of history to put it in perspective.
First industrial revolution
The first industrial revolution began in the late 18th century in Britain. Rather than producing goods painstakingly by hand, finished goods were built with machines. This was a move from human and animal power to mass production powered by water and steam.
Second industrial revolution
In the late 19th century, the second industrial revolution introduced assembly lines. The combination of power sources turning to oil, gas, and electricity and advanced communication via telephone and telegraph enabled new ways to implement mass production.
Third industrial revolution
By the middle of the 20th century, advanced telecommunications, computers, and data analysis were applied to manufacturing. Process automation and data collection and sharing helped move factories into digitization.
Fourth industrial revolution
This brings us to the fourth industrial revolution, also known as “Industry 4.0.” This revolution brings with it increased automation and the use of smart machines and smart factories. Enhanced potential for innovation comes from several technologies:
- The Internet of Things (IoT)
- Cloud Computing
- Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
- Edge Computing
- Digital Twin Technologies
What are some benefits of Industry 4.0?
Benefits at an organizational level include improved productivity and efficiency, better flexibility, increased profitability, and improved customer experiences.
Cost reductions throughout the manufacturing process lead to:
- Better use of resources
- Faster manufacturing
- Less machine and production line downtime
- Fewer quality issues with products
- Less resource, material, and product waste
- Lower maintenance costs
- Lower overall operating costs
- Creation of innovation opportunities
In addition, improved knowledge sharing, real-time inspection processes, and increased automation of repetitive workflows allow staff to zero in on value-adding tasks.
When machines can make decisions based on data, this allows better forecasting accuracy and uncovers opportunities for further automation. Improved methods of data collection and processing facilitate improved decision-making.
Industry 4.0 methods provide production improvements that can lead to higher revenues. For example, a business could meet an uptick in demand by automating a production line and adding a new shift with minimal staffing.
Improved efficiency and better decision-making lead to lower costs and increased profitability. Technology facilitates higher quality and more innovative products, which contributes to the bottom line.
An increase in automation leads to a reduction of human errors introduced into the process. With Industry 4.0 solutions, many quality-validating steps can move from inspection rooms to the production line. In addition, continuous data measurement and analysis identifies quality issues earlier, allowing correction before a more significant impact occurs.
Better Customer Experience
The customer experience is enhanced in many ways, including higher quality, faster delivery, automatic delivery tracking, and a more efficient purchasing process. With the advent of product personalization around medical devices and pharmaceuticals, Industry 4.0 techniques also lead to better patient treatment.
Optimized Supply Chain Management
Industry 4.0 technologies, systems, and processes generate improved visibility across the supply chain, with a better ability to respond to changing customer demands or market conditions. Real-time monitoring makes it easier to identify supply chain issues, such as bottlenecks, before they impact production. Advance knowledge allows for earlier steps to mitigate effects.
Eliminating repetitive tasks allows team members to focus on value-adding work. Providing employees with better data also allows them to make data-driven decisions around their work.
The rise of Industry 4.0 has led to new ways of thinking around manufacturing, and bringing in expertise can help you make the most of new approaches.
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