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What is Industry 4.0 and what technologies are driving it?

Since the end of the 18th century we've experienced multiple different industrial revolutions. And right now we're in the middle of a significant digital transformation in the way we are producing products and automates different technologies. This revolution is called the fourth industrial revolution, a.k.a Industry 4.0. 

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What is industry 4.0?

The fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0 is one of the big buzzwords flying around at the moment. To get a better understanding of Industry 4.0 we need to look back in history. 

The first industrial revolution started in 1770´s where we went from hands to machines, from farms to the first factory. Innovations like the flying shuttle, the water frame and the power loom made weaving cloth and spinning yarn and thread much easier. Producing cloth became faster and required less time and far less human labor.

The second industrial revolution, about 100 years later, was when the electricity came with assembly lines and the start of factories that we know today, were built. Factories sprawled and people’s lives became regulated by the clock rather than the sun. It was a tremendous transformation of people’s lives. 

The third industrial revolution, also called the digital revolution, started off in the 1970's This era witnessed the digitalization and automation of electronics and computers. It's also characterized by the invention of the internet and the discovery of nuclear energy.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

The definition of Industry 4.0 is still debated, and boundaries are not fully defined. It's still moving with continuous improvement of so many technologies, tools and change of business needs. 

If the third revolution was when computers were introduced, the fourth industrial revolution optimizes the usage and introduces new automated technology. Early it was obvious that the computers needed to be handled by a human, but now computers have no need for human interaction. Instead, the computers are making decisions and collecting data and optimizing results for automated improvements. The more data collection the computers do by themselves, the more they learn how to optimize processes. As a result, the already smart machines are getting smarter and smarter. The ultimate power of Industry 4.0 (and a big fear for some) would be if smart machines started to learn from each other and collectively gather data and results.

Automated industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 Technologies

 

What we do know for sure is that it’s all about digitalization and automated value chain processes, and that's including several areas. Let us explain some of the important areas you should know about.

  • Big data analytics including Internet of Things (IoT). This means gathering large amounts of real time data. For industries, this data can be collected from resource planning, customer relationship management, production line data, supply chain information and delivery processes. This plays a big a big role for Industry 4.0 because if it's applied to real time analytics it provides insights for better decision making. 

  • Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) meaning that you through applying sensor suits to robots, machinery and equipment can collect extensive real time data. By analyzing this data industries can optimize and improve their productivity. Ultimately this will help industries minimize downtime at the same time being able to track customer behavior. 

  • 3D Printing is mostly used for prototyping and simple tooling. There are few cases where 3D printing has been used with more durable materials (such as titanium, steel and aluminum) and repairing compressor blades for gas turbines is one example. The cost of 3D-printed metallic parts is currently high but rapidly shrinking.

  • Autonomous machinery minimizes the need for human intervention in programming, assembly, testing, inventory logistics and delivery. Software is quickly becoming more advanced and at the same time more user friendly. For example, robots will based on operator input, self-create the control software. Examples in consumer products are car collision avoidance and lane keeping control.

  • Digital Twins are virtual models designed to reflect physical objects. The digital model is used for internal design, simulation, and design reviews. Once the full design is in Model Based D, it is very easy to extract any digital twin. Although the digital world may always be true and perfect, the real world is not and there will always be as-designed versus as-build deviations to handle. But a digital model helps in simulations and corrective actions.

  • Cyber Security in all its forms. With Industry 4.0, company assets and properties are mostly available in digital form of some kind and cloud storage is increasing exposure and risk. Operational digital failure is obvious and therefore IT security is vital. Robustness is a key word and there will be a continuous development of protecting digital assets from being compromised.

  • Augmented Reality or AR, overlays digital data on a real environment and is core to Industry 4.0. In the real-world, AR is mostly used in gaming. For industries it's more common to use in the form of a video-tool for knowledge transfer, troubleshooting, inspections, and training. Smart glasses are an integral part of AR and is typically used when an operator or technician needs both hands free. However, a mobile phone or tablet can create the same functionality in many use cases, as the video stream can be paused and both hands still be free for the operation.

All these components within Industry 4.0 are crucial for industries to stay ahead in the competition of reaching the ultimate 'smart factory' and we can only guess what the future of industry 4.0 holds. However, what we do see is that industries that adopt new technologies like AR has really paid off.


Read more about what augmented reality is and how you can use it to optimize your business ->

 

 

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