The new buzzword for industry is Industry 4.0, which refers to the fourth industrial revolution. Owing to IT advancements in the past decade, Industry 4.0 is believed to significantly evolve the supply chain and production line in manufacturing industry. Before we start discussing the next big frontier of industry, let’s catch a glimpse of three industrial revolutions that happened previously: Mechanization, Mass Production and Automation.
Mechanization was the first revolution in the history of industry, bringing machines to perform certain tasks. The second was Mass Production and became possible due to electricity and Assembly Lines. The third industrial revolution was automation, thanks to the advent of computers, allowing machines to perform a particular task repeatedly without human effort.
And now, we have yet another revolution “Industry 4.0” aka “Digital Factory” or “Smart Factory” or “Industrial Internet of Things” (IIoT). Let’s understand what Industry 4.0 is all about and how it will shape the future of manufacturing industry.
Fourth Industrial Revolution Explained
The term “Industry 4.0” was first introduced as “Industrie 4.0” by the German government in 2011 to enhance the production and growth of German manufacturing industry. Industry 4.0 paves the way for smart factories in which machines improve processes to a much higher level through automation and self-optimization.
Industry 4.0 uses new IT technologies, like Cyber-Physical Systems, the Internet of things, Cloud Computing, Big Data, Simulation, Autonomous Robots, Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence. Although the virtues of Industry 4.0 were initially believed to be a boon only for the physical production of goods, they expand the reach to planning, supply chain logistics, product development and service as well.
Essential Components of Industry 4.0
IIoT is an abbreviation for Industrial Internet of Things and it’s different from IoT (Internet of Things). IoT allows a smart device to connect or communicate with other devices through the Internet. IoT is mostly about consumer-level goods, like cars or home appliances, that send and receive data via Internet to bring benefits to users.
In a nutshell, IoT connects the physical world to the digital world. With IoT, home appliances can be automatically turned on and off when you’re home and when you’re not home. Therefore, it reduces unnecessary usage of home appliances and cuts down your monthly electricity bill.
IIoT or Industrial Internet of Things, on the other hand, is a sub-segment of IoT, used for industrial purpose, like manufacturing, supply chain monitoring and management. Industries across the globe, such as aerospace, oil and gas, transportation, healthcare, energy and mining, are increasingly adopting IIoT to handle critical machines via sophisticated sensors.
IIoT uses more precise sensors than that of IoT as system failures could lead to life-threatening and other emergency situations. That IoT is related to consumer-level devices, the risk originating from failure is much lower when compared to the failure of IIoT. Using cutting-edge devices and location-aware technologies, IIoT takes manufacturing to an all new level and ensures flawless supply chain management.
Big Data, Data Mining and Data Analytics
Image Source: ResearchGate
Without a shred of doubt, Big Data Analytics will play a big role in the success of Industry 4.0. Manufacturing industry generates large volumes of data as a result of Machine to Machine communication, cyber-physical worlds, cloud based software applications, Augmented Reality (AR), etc. However, this data will be of no use unless big data analytics is applied to draw actionable insights.
Big Data Analytics not only helps identify trends and patterns, but improves plant productivity as well by making it possible to examine time differences between data transmitted by different robots. This valuable information helps find a fix to improve efficiency. Besides, data analytics enables to identify flaws in product design at a very early stage by collating and examining part-per-million defect data. So, data analytics provides a way to identify anomalies or issues in new product design before customers identify them after buying from you.
Furthermore, data analytics helps calculate maintenance cost of machinery, thereby making it possible to plan and execute the process in an effective manner. Big Data Analytics will play a critical role in gaining valuable insights to reduce business costs and boost productivity.
Image Source: HCL Technologies
Manufacturing industry was the first to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) for product assembling and packaging. AI, too, has a very important role to play in Industry 4.0 as it facilitates machine learning, allowing machines to learn and make predictions based on experiences.
AI has a lot to do with data as cyber-physical systems communicate with each other and humans by sending and receiving data in real time over the Internet of Things. Collection and analysis of large amounts of data optimizes the manufacturing process and revolutionizes mass production. Besides, AI-powered machines are capable of performing tasks 24 hours a day, which gives a significant boost to productivity.
Collaborative Robots or Cobots
Image source: CATE Srl
It’s no secret that manufacturing industry has been using robots for many years to replace human labor, boost productivity and cut down costs. However, Industry 4.0 brings to the table the concept of collaborative robots aka Cobots. Cobots were first introduced to the world by a 1994 General Motors initiative led by Prasad Akella of the GM Robotics Center and a 1995 General Motors Foundation research. Taking the concept further, Universal Robots developed its first cobot in 2008 in a bid to enhance quality production.
Unlike robots that replace humans, cobots work and collaborate with humans to produce the desired result, without posing any threat to human safety. Cobots are lightweight and are equipped with sensors to ensure that they avoid touching humans forcefully or causing injuries to them.
Many manufacturing industries are now jumping on cobot bandwagon to boost quality production with human supervision, and Ford is one of the popular examples of that.
Augmented Reality (AR)
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Augmented Reality (AR) is known to make our existing reality more meaningful, which manufacturing industry could use to expedite the entire production chain. AR helps create simulation models and allows to see information on tasks that are being performed. With the help of AR devices, it becomes possible to see what can’t be seen otherwise, like a virtual screen appearing in front of you to provide instructions on how to perform a particular task. AR provides a brilliant way to bridge the knowledge gap in workers, which makes them more efficient and productive.
Industry 4.0 will heavily rely on cloud computing to harness the full potential of robotics and artificial intelligence. The key to easily and effectively manage workloads across the full spectrum of devices created by Industry 4.0 is to integrate compute services with a cloud platform. Since Industry 4.0 produces humungous amount of data via IIoT, cloud technologies become important to analyse and visualise it.
For example, Rolls Royce teamed up with Microsoft to utilize its Azure IoT cloud suite in a bid to make aircrafts more efficient and bring down engine maintenance costs. Using Azure IoT Suite, Rolls Royce collects and aggregates data from different sources and different geographical locations.
After collecting data, Rolls Royce puts into use the Cortana Intelligence Suite to extract useful insights into engine health, air traffic control information, route restrictions, fuel usage, etc. As a result, the British luxury car and aero-engine manufacturing company has been able to improve operational performance and increase fuel efficiency.
The fourth industrial revolution has already begun, and benefits of using new disruptive technologies are increasingly becoming evident for the industry of today. Many tech giants, including AT&T and Google, are venturing in Industry 4.0 solutions to welcome the change that seems very promising for industry. By covering the essential IT components of Industry 4.0, one can add more value to manufacturing business and touch new heights.
Evon Technologies embraces new technologies and offers solutions in the space of software consulting, development, testing and deployment for both IoT and IIoT. We also offer AWS data integration and deployment services to build smart systems on cloud. We are an established software consulting and development company in India with one of our teams building the tech for IoT systems and excitingly looking for more opportunities to create an even smarter world. Get in touch with us to share your requirements, and we will get back soon to tell you how we can help you with the smart tech of IoT.