The use of Industry 4.0 technologies continues to transform industrial business operations and production processes. Artificial intelligence, big data analytics, robotics and cloud computing are among the technologies accelerating improved efficiency, productivity and end-user experience for manufacturers.
Industry 4.0 Technologies
Artificial Intelligence has been the driving force behind Industry 4.0 and has revolutionised the industrial sector. The technology is opening new avenues and opportunities for business with improved quality control, streamlined production and a better end-user experience.
Big data is critical to Industry 4.0. Information produced by IoT and today’s smart factories must be converted into actionable ideas. Big Data can process voluminous data sets that traditional data processing software cannot handle.
The role of Big Data in Industry 4.0 facilitates a greater understanding of the systems and allows for complete visualisation of the manufacturing process to help improve business operations.
Cloud computing is often considered the key enabler of modern Industry 4.0. It allows large data volumes to be stored in the ‘cloud’ and accessed remotely via the Internet.
Cloud computing offers scalable storage space and real-time visibility of centralised information. This enables companies to employ big data analytics to capture and apply business intelligence, helping to consolidate and streamline manufacturing and business processes.
Industry 4.0 doesn’t just refer to the modernisation of technologies on the production floor. This new way of connected and responsive thinking needs to be adopted across the entire organisation.
Digital business transformation exploits digital technologies and their supporting capabilities to create a robust new digital business model.
Edge computing plays an essential role in a successful smart manufacturing process and without transitioning to the edge, Industry 4.0 can only get so far.
Edge computing involves moving computer processes as close to the data source as possible using local infrastructure to process the data instead of relying on distant data servers.
Industry 4.0 technologies produce high volumes of data that are vital to smart factories. Edge computing delivers substantial benefits to smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0 such as lower latency, increased cyber security, more manageable data analytics and reduced storage costs.
Flexible manufacturing refers to production lines that can quickly and easily change the type of product being manufactured.
Industry 4.0 technologies and processes are enabling businesses to use this flexible manufacturing strategy for mass customisation with little impact on costs and resources.
Flexible manufacturing driven by new technologies such as data sensors and robots is allowing businesses to react and meet promptly the demands of their customers at a competitive cost.
Industry 4.0 is having a powerful impact on the model of globalisation. Businesses can use more complex, global supply chains and data networks through the use of remote technologies and cloud data eliminating location boundaries.
Industry 4.0 is revolutionising not just the production floor but entire business operations, such as logistics, increasing the link between international business and driving globalisation forward.
Horizontal and Vertical Integration
Horizontal and vertical integration is the backbone of the smart factory.
Horizontal integration involves connecting all parts of the supply chain and is about achieving the Smart Factory, where all systems, processes and machines are connected and communicating.
Vertical integration involves connecting all business units and processes within an organisation. Vertical integration allows for data to flow between and be made available throughout the organisation, from the factory floor to marketing, sales, quality control, R&D and more.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) is now a familiar term to many, which is the concept of connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet and/or to each other.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) represents the subset of IoT applications related to the industrial sectors and applications. IIoT enables more connection between systems and devices, such as robots and sensors to allow for technologies like machine-to-machine communication and learning to become a reality.
Just-in-Time (JIT) is recognised as one of the pillars in Lean Manufacturing. To work, JIT relies on accurate and real-time inventory information to enable successful forecasting of demand.
Industry 4.0 technologies, like big data, AI and real-time analytics are improving Just-in-Time for better data transparency.
Industry 4.0 technologies allow production lines, business processes and departments to communicate in ways traditional manufacturing plants cannot.
For example, knowledge learned through data collated on one system/device can be dispersed throughout an organisation for more informed decision making.
Lean manufacturing is based on the ideology of maximising productivity whilst minimising waste. The benefits of this production process to businesses include reduced lead times and operating costs with improved product quality.
Enhanced monitoring and automation through Industry 4.0 technologies can effectively allocate resources, reduce machine downtime and move to improved productivity and efficiency that help realise lean production.
Machine Learning is a branch of artificial intelligence (AI) and is one of the key technological advances that is allowing businesses to adapt to Industry 4.0. Machine Learning allows systems and algorithms to learn and improve automatically based on real-time and historical data.
Real-time error detection, predictive maintenance and insights are just some of the benefits Machine Learning delivers to the factory floor.
New Business Models
It’s not just the technology that changes due to the fourth industrial revolution, it is the entire business operations and business model.
Digitalisation is transforming business models with technologies like big data, virtual reality and cloud computing. These are offering businesses more real-time insights and capabilities into customer demand, mass customisation, production innovation, ways of engaging and more.
OT and IT Convergence
Where operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) traditionally operated in separate entities, today’s data-sharing world is accelerating the integration of OT and IT.
Technologies such as the Internet of Things (IIoT) and big data analytics are allowing the digital world to understand and influence the physical operation world. IT/OT convergence merges the two distinct networks to share data that each collects and distributes.
Predictive maintenance involves using Industry 4.0 technologies to identify and prevent possible failures of manufacturing equipment.
Sensors can continuously analyse real-time and historical data to send the operator alerts or insights into unusual activity. Predictive maintenance allows businesses to react to unusual machine behaviour ahead of time to avoid extended periods of production downtime.
Quality 4.0 aligns quality management with Industry 4.0 and involves a data-driven approach to managing quality.
Leveraging emerging and disruptive technologies, advanced data can be collated for enhanced quality control visibility through the end-to-end process. Manufacturers that embrace Quality 4.0 can benefit from improved brand recognition and higher customer satisfaction.
Factories of the future are likely to feature robots and humans working seamlessly together. Robotics and automation are widely used in industries such as automobile manufacture to perform simple repetitive tasks.
As robots can effectively complete tasks 24/7, it allows businesses to capitalise on increased production output without the additional labour costs.
Smart factories combine many modern technologies, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence or robotics to create a hyperflexible, self-adapting, connected manufacturing capability.
Also referred to as a digital factory or intelligent factory, smart factories minimise production process times, as well as their costs and can adapt and optimise processes and analyse large amounts of data in real-time.
Traceability is becoming ever more important to businesses as greater product liability, increasing quality standards and more complex customer requirements arise.
With Industry 4.0 technologies, tracking and identifying the complete production process has become even easier with access to complete and updated data in real-time and a comprehensive record of everything involved throughout production so manufacturers can pinpoint the problem source and minimise product recall.
Ultra-Fast 3D Printing
3D printing is an extremely beneficial technology for manufacturers and engineers to leverage. It can speed up prototyping and in turn, time to market. 3D printing can also be useful when it comes to marketing >
The future of this technology now includes an ultrafast 3D printing method that recent researchers claim to have created that leverages electrostatic jet deflection technology.
Virtual Reality (VR) is transforming the product development process. It has allowed companies to decrease design and production costs, maintain quality and reduce the time from product concept to production.
VR has enabled businesses to see their operations in first-person and in an immersive way with exact simulations of products, processes or production plants. This has helped to reduce errors and increase productivity throughout the product development lifecycle.
Companies transforming into smart factories can harness that technology for improved working conditions. Quick detection for incidents such as the presence of gasses and radiation combined with better communication and collaboration possibilities can enhance protection and improve employee working conditions.
These intelligent and adaptable Industry 4.0 technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, are helping to improve business product quality and yield.
According to IBM, AI-powered manufacturing can drive up to 30% yield improvements and 5-10% reduction in operating costs.
Improved logistic streams and lower waste from production are by-products of the modern smart factory. These disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are helping to improve the sustainability of manufacturing, which helps support countries transitioning to a circular economy.
Businesses that have already implemented some of these technologies can often forget an important step – promoting these Industry 4.0 investments to customers and prospects. The benefits from businesses adopting Industry 4.0 technologies are dispersed throughout the organisation and ultimately passed onto the end customer. These benefits include quicker delivery times, improved quality control, greater sustainability and even reduced costs.
All of these benefits provide a competitive advantage and must be communicated effectively to your audience. Find out more about promoting Industry 4.0 investments in our recent blog.