If you work in manufacturing you’ve probably heard the phrase ‘industry 4.0’ or ‘business 4.0’, first things first, what on earth does it actually mean?
Industry 4.0 is a somewhat scary ‘end of days’ techy way of saying that we’re now into the 4th era of industry. Some have described it as a 4th Industrial Revolution.
So, that’s an Industry 4.0 definition but Wait? 4th Industrial revolution? When were the other 3?
The 1st Industrial Revolution arrived with steam and the very first mechanical machines, think big beards (before hipster beads were a thing), top hats and steam trains.
The 2nd Industrial Revolution arrived in the early 1900s, with it came electricity and mass production and assembly – think the time of World War One, lightbulbs, telephones, Henry Ford and the assembly line.
The 3rd Industrial Revolution might not seem that long ago for some. It arrived around the 1970s with the birth of computers, automation and the rise of nuclear power and evolved into producing mobile phones, laptops, the switch to digital and the dawn of ‘Robots’.
Which brings us up to date and on to industry 4.0, Unlike the other three ‘revolutions’ which have emerged through the development of new energy. From water to electric to nuclear this one has come about due to digitalization leading to the emergence of a virtual world.
That’s all well and good I here you say, but how will it affect you?… well…here’s 5 ways that industry 4.0 (sometimes know as business 4.0) is going to affect the world of manufacturing.
Machines that talk to each other
Like something from an early 2000s sci-fi film, the machines…. are talking to each other!!! However, rather than plotting human kind’s destruction, they are helping to save time, cut down on waste and save us money.
This is all thanks to something called The Internet of Things (I.O.T), in a nutshell this involves the connection of devices to the Internet and other devices. This link allows the devices to work smartly together. It expands the amount of work a device can do compared to if it was a stand-alone product without connectivity.
An example of this is smart doorbells.
Motion detection doorbells have now been developed whereby the ‘doorbell’ detects anyone moving near it, sends an alert to your mobile device so that you can then switch to video mode and see a live view of who is near your property.
You can then decide if you want to open the door, turn a connected light on or sound an interlinked alarm if the person is a security risk or even worse your in-laws!
As you can imagine this technology can drive the future of manufacturing.
Whether this is factories with smart motion detectors which alert the security personnel of any untoward activity after hours or smart sensors that automatically tell if a machine is running low on a consumable, and, if so, automatically connect to the Internet and reorder some more, saving time and effort.
Industry 4.0 used correctly can give manufacturers more time to do what they are supposed to do… manufacture!
Machines which automatically reorder parts means less downtime and less time manually doing administrative and laborious jobs.
3D printers used correctly can even do away with the need to order replacement parts all together. This is where predictive maintenance and manufacturing automation comes in. Imagine a machine that realizes one of its parts is due to break, so it pings an alert to a 3D printer, which automatically prints the replacement. Then another machine picks the part up once it’s been printed and replaces the part so that there is no downtime and no ‘human’ time wasted.
Are you off-site a lot? Well, how about it if your electronic calendar linked to your car’s sat-nav so that when you get in the car in the morning your sat-nav is already routed to your first meeting of the day. A simple time saver which gives you more time to get prepared for your meeting in the morning or spend an extra 5 minutes with the kids or in bed!
Smart sensors can help improve safety standards in factories. As well as talking to other machines and monitoring and recording key information they can switch machines off if they detect numbers that are above a safety threshold. In essence, they can stop problems before they even occur.
As well as this, these smart machines are better equipped and more reliable than ever to do the unsafe jobs that humans can’t. Anything from working in environments with dangerous gasses or chemicals, extreme heats or with dangerous tools.
Business 4.0 lowers the risk level for both employees and employers.
Although getting set up for Industry 4.0 may sound expensive, with all these whizzy machines, the cost of using older tech can actually far outweigh using newer, more advanced tech.
Using a machine with predictive maintenance as an example, the lack of downtime and improved reliability means more products can be manufactured, meaning more money can be made and less time and money is spent on manual repair callout fees.
Other improvements (and industry 4.0 technologies) are sensors, with manufacturing automation, that turn off smart factory lights when no motion is detected in the building leading to a reduction in wastage of energy and money spent on lighting.
Using a 3D printer to build your own parts means that less money is spent on buying products and the actual cost of delivery. The admin costs of the company will also be reduced due to less need for humans to monitor machines and reorder parts manually.
Humans can advance the future
I don’t know about you, but all this robot talk makes humans sound a bit redundant, right?
Well, no! Industry 4.0/ business 4.0 shouldn’t be about needing fewer humans it should instead be concerned with making sure that using manufacturing automation means that you are freeing them up from laborious jobs to advance technology even further.
Industry 4.0 technologies should mean data entry, reporting, and meeting preparation can now be automated and performed by machine bots. This will free up ‘human time’ to do the things that really matter, such as relationship management, customer service, selling, strategizing, all helping to shape your company’s future.
These are just a few of the many ways that Industry 4.0 and business 4.0 can impact manufacturing and new ideas are coming out every day, we’d love to hear some of your suggestions?
I hope this has given you an Industry 4.0 definition and given you a good idea on what manufacturing automation and industry 4.0 technologies are out there. If you work in manufacturing, then your company really should be using sales-i. For a free demo, click here