Industry 4.0 Explained

What’s in a name?

The term Industry 4.0 has been increasingly gaining popularity in the manufacturing world over the past few years. But what does it mean?  Simply, it is the emergence of digital manufacturing.

The digitization of manufacturing has drastically changed the way that products are produced. Referred to as Industry 4.0, it represents the 4th industrial revolution that has occurred in manufacturing. The first industrial revolution began in the 1790’s when power was harnessed through water and steam. The second came in the form of electrical powered mass production using assembly lines in the 1870’s. The adoption of digital technology in the 1960’s started the third industrial revolution, and the fourth continues this trend. The 2000’s started the next phase in manufacturing by focusing on automation and data exchange – highlighting cloud computing, machine interconnectivity, autonomous systems, and machine learning.

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Often dismissed as marketing buzzwords, Industry 4.0 has begun to make headwind with inarguable leaps in manufacturing technologies in this past decade. Advancements between the 1st and 2nd are clear and easily defined with marked leaps in technologies. But what makes the 4th industrial revolution different from the 3rd? The differences can be explained by advancements in connectivity, computing power, and automation.

What does Industry 4.0 bring to manufacturers?

Proactive Responses – connected machines give companies tremendous volumes of information in order to analyze data, recognize patterns, and identify opportunities. This allows manufacturers to optimize operations by knowing exactly what area of their business required the most immediate attention.

Supply Chain – up to the minute information of variables, which include weather, traffic patterns, etc., give manufacturers the ability to connect their systems. Production priorities can be consistently adjusted given the influx of data to accommodate these changes.

Autonomous Equipment – from logistics to material handling, the emergence of autonomous vehicles redistributes the labour force and opens up a whole possibility for the future of production operations.

Robots – considerably more economically priced than in the past, more manufacturers have the opportunity to add robotics into their production facilities.

3D Printing – while still in its infancy, 3D printing will continue to give manufacturers new way of producing goods.

Cloud Computing – connected devices allow for production facilities to produce goods in a connected, informative, and intuitive manner. Management can now leverage the insights provided from the aggregated data, and optimize their operations to be as efficient as possible.

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Source: Forbes