What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an industrial revolution?
Maybe you’re conjuring up images of a Monopoly man with a top hat and a curly moustache? Or steam engines, suspension bridges, and Victorian factories?
What if we told you that the industrial revolution is far from over and was the first of many to come?
In fact, we’re in the throes of our fourth industrial revolution – known as Industry 4.0, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR.
Beginning in the 2010s, Industry 4.0 is the name given to the 21st-century era of integrating technology into our manufacturing processes, from advanced robotics and AI to 3D printing and cybersecurity.
These technologies — sometimes known as the ‘Exponential Technologies’ — are revolutionizing the modern world of manufacturing, and how products are created, distributed, and implemented in the future.
Industry 4.0 Trends
Advancement of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) tools
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a collection of tools and technologies that interconnect physical machines, computing devices, and networks.
These tools allow organizations to collect, analyze, and act on data from connected machines and devices. This leads to optimized processes, improved production and efficiency, reduced costs, and remote monitoring and control.
With IoT becoming a larger part of the industrial manufacturing process, tools in this sphere will become smarter and better.
Common examples of how IIoT is used in Industry 4.0 include:
- Digital twins — a powerful tool for manufacturing, allowing for a two-way information flow between physical objects or processes and their digital counterparts. By collecting data through sensors and updating the performance of physical objects or processes, digital twins help manufacturers to make informed decisions and optimize their operations for better accuracy and efficiency.
- Reshoring — the process of returning production and services to the home country from overseas. This popular trend for businesses has the advantages of lower production costs, increased access to skilled labor, and a more resilient supply chain.
Today, AI needs no introduction, gaining its most recent fame from large-language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT.
No matter what industry you work in, chances are you have already encountered AI in some form in your everyday life.
With AI becoming smarter every day thanks to machine learning (ML), it’s already starting to take on a more central role in day-to-day management of manufacturing processes:
- Making more data-driven decisions about operations
- Adapting supply chains and processes in real-time to improve efficiency
- Predicting future trends with more accuracy
Combined with IIoT and AI, advanced robotics has the potential to revolutionize the manufacturing industry, streamlining processes to provide increased efficiency, flexibility, and safety.
Robots can be programmed to perform specialized tasks autonomously, achieving levels of accuracy and precision far beyond the capabilities of human workers.
In fact, advanced robotics already plays a part in every manufacturing process – from making parts to advanced delivery and warehouse logistics.
Industry 4.0 challenges
Here’s a statistic that will blow your mind — 90% of all the world’s data was generated within the last two years, as we produce 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every single day.
As technology advances with each industrial revolution, so does the mountain of data we’re accruing day by day.
So, how can companies wrangle this information to get the most out of the data they collect? This is one of the main challenges for Industry 4.0.
Data is the key source of insights for businesses to make informed decisions. So, companies must make sure the data they collect is accurate and up to date to identify meaningful patterns and correlations.
That’s why companies need to build better, more effective technologies to ensure that data is stored, processed, and analyzed correctly to gain the full potential of this new industrial revolution.
Additional employee skills needed
New technology means new skills. And for Industry 4.0, employee skills are essential.
Many organizations might not have in-house specialists like data scientists or robotics engineers.
This means either hiring new talent or training people already in their ranks to adapt to Industry 4.0 demands. Specialized skills for new and current workforces include:
As The Notorious B.I.G. once said, “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems”.
And the same goes for data.
With such valuable data at hand, robust security is even more important to keep this data out of the wrong hands. In 2022, data breaches cost companies an average of $4.35M globally, skyrocketing up to $9.44M on average for US companies.
So, companies need to constantly find better, more innovative ways of sharing data while keeping it secure, to always stay one step ahead in outsmarting hackers.
Industry 4.0 Benefits
More than ever, manufacturers and industry leaders have much greater visibility into their operations thanks to real-time data.
Real-time data allows companies to have:
- Sensors to track machine health and maintenance needs
- Self-testing and self-validating intelligent sensors
- Smarter supply chains
- Predictive analytics to let businesses anticipate customer needs and plan accordingly
By monitoring their processes in real-time, companies can then identify potential problems and take corrective actions before they become major issues.
Leveraging real-time data, businesses can ensure faster response times, improved efficiency, higher-quality products, faster delivery times, and better customer service – all critical to success in the modern business world.
Industry 4.0 is helping companies save time and money thanks to automation and better data gathering to optimize production processes.
Companies can upgrade legacy systems and old machines with new technology to cut down on time and money spent on manual tasks that raise overheads. This also brings effective maintenance, reducing replacement costs in the process.
Industry 4.0 technology also reduces costs by minimizing maintenance, supply hold-ups, and logistical bottlenecks.
Efficient machine-to-machine communication also reduces inefficiencies, saves costs, and drives accurate business decisions for companies. Industry 4.0 also enables efficient processes, cutting time and effort in achieving production goals.
Adding automation and smart technologies to any industrial process means faster manufacturing processes and more effective supply chains.
Advanced technologies like IIoT, AI, and cloud computing can drastically reduce the time it takes for companies to produce their products.
For example, software company Bazel has already harnessed the power of automation to build and test software for the automotive industry, from Uber to Peloton.
Leveraging the technology of the future
Industry 4.0 has brought a slew of new technology, skills, and trends to the manufacturing industry.
Thanks to tech tools like Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), digital twins, advanced robotics and artificial intelligence, companies can reduce costs, increase efficiency, and make more informed decisions.
As a result of this newfound power, businesses can create a more resilient, data-driven supply chain and production process that can keep up with the modern demands of customers and industry.