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What is Industry 4.0 and What Does it Mean for My Manufacturing?

Posted by Mike Bonner

Mar 2, 2017 10:17:00 AM

Image of Industry 4.0 industrial technology and interconnected processes.Industry 4.0 refers to the rapid pace of digitization in manufacturing today.

As defined in strategy+business magazine, Industry 4.0 is the combination of innovations in digital technologies—advancements such as robotics and artificial intelligence, sophisticated sensors, cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), compliance with smartphones, and many other applications.

For generations, manufacturing processes and techniques have evolved and helped businesses improve their production, performance and output.

Depending on your stance, “4.0” can refer to either the coming of a fourth significant industrial revolution (the steam engine and mechanical loom of the 1700s, the harnessing of electricity and mass production at the start of the 20th century, and the computer’s influence of post-World War II manufacturing stand as the other three).

Some, as in this McKinsey article, suggest that 4.0 is the fourth modern upheaval in manufacturing, following the lean revolution of the 1970s, the outsourcing of the 1990s, and the automation implemented in the 2000s. Under either definition, we are definitely moving forward with more advanced techniques and tactics in manufacturing.

Four design principles of Industry 4.0

The following design principles, identified in a Hawaii International Conference on Systems Sciences (HICSS) research paper by Mario Hermann, Tobias Pentek and Boris Otto, help to define the technology and approaches that make up Industry 4.0:

  1. Interconnection: With wireless communication technology and the capabilities of the IoT, you can now connect machinery, sensors, and other devices to the people tasked with monitoring your process for effectiveness and efficiency.
  1. Information transparency: The transparency afforded by Industry 4.0 technology provides operators with vast amounts of useful information needed to make appropriate decisions. Interconnectivity allows operators to collect immense amounts of data and information from all points in the manufacturing process, thus aiding functionality and identifying key areas that can benefit from innovation and improvement.
  1. Decentralized decisions: Interconnection and information transparency allow for operators to make decisions both inside and outside of production facilities. This ability to combine local and global information at the same time helps to drive better decision-making and increase overall productivity.
  1. Technical assistance: Industry 4.0 shifts the role of humans from an operator of machines to a problem solver and decision maker. Assistance systems are designed to support operators that need to make informed decisions to solve urgent problems on short notice.

So how can Industry 4.0 impact your process?

By aligning automation with data collection and exchange procedures, the adoption of Industry 4.0 concepts can undoubtedly provide manufacturers with greater efficiency in their processes.

Streamlining processes and increasing access to helpful data help to maximize productivity and minimize the amount of resources used. With less money spent on materials and labor, and fewer customer rejects and manufacturing setbacks, Industry 4.0 also helps manufacturers to boost productivity and revenue growth.

Another important way that Industry 4.0 can impact manufacturing is by driving closer interactions with customers. The technology, data, and information that can help transform manufacturing operations can also make processes and systems more responsive to customer needs. The unique capabilities of interconnected technologies allow manufacturers to respond and adapt more quickly to customer requests, and even develop custom orders with less labor and setup time than in traditional manufacturing.

Manufacturing processes are constantly evolving, leading to leaner production and improved processes. With Industry 4.0 technology and strategies, you can ensure that your processes are delivering the necessary information that can guide the upgrades and optimal performance that keep you ahead of the competition.

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Topics: Manufacturing

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