The first industrial revolution started in the eighteenth century with the use of water and steam power for production equipment. It was therefore termed as ‘mechanization’. The nineteenth century saw the use of electricity for mass production, and the industrial revolution was termed as the second industrial revolution. The third revolution started in the late twentieth century and involved the automation of product manufacturing with the aid of electronics and IT.
We are in the 21st century today, and industrial production is being largely driven by ‘autonomization’. Called as Industry 4.0, what this means is cyber – physical production based on the Internet of Things (IoT) and services. Industry 4.0 is an idea that will see new breakthroughs thanks to advancements in areas including artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum computing, 3D printing and the Internet of Things. When all these domains come together, they integrate the physical and virtual worlds, causing the 4th industrial revolution aptly called Industry 4.0
Let us dig a little deeper and understand what Industry 4.0 involves.
Industry 4.0 combines IoT (infrastructural requirement) and cyber physical systems (technical requirement) to create a smart factory. These smart factories will have a radical approach to production. Products manufactured in a smart factory will always be identifiable and located. Their history, current state and future activities that are necessary to get the final look are known anytime. Industry 4.0 should usher a new phase for companies involved in manufacturing and supply chain management by combining physical production and operations with smart digital technology, machine learning, and big data. In turn, this will create a more holistic and better connected ecosystem. Industry 4.0 will increase productivity, foster industrial growth and change the economic dynamics of savvy manufacturing companies, giving them a competitive edge. Industry 4.0 is not a single technology in isolation; rather it is a holistic integration of different technologies. A few key technologies involved in Industry 4.0 are described below.
Big data is the heart and soul of Industry 4.0 In manufacturing, for example, improvements and efficiencies in the analysis of big data are expected to bring billions of rupees to the industry over the next five years. Using big data analysis, machines will be able to transform into context-aware, conscious, and self-learner devices. This transformation will give devices the ability to make a self diagnosis and prevent potential disruptions in production process. Such machines will also be able to self-calibrate and prioritize between tasks to optimize production quality or efficiency.
Simulation is an established tool for predicting and evaluating the performance of complex systems that are analytically intractable. The high degree of interactivity, intensive computing power and excellent systems interconnectivity provided by Industry 4.0 will allow for better product optimization. 3D printers (also called ‘additive manufacturing’) facilitate testing, and will also aid rapid prototype testing.
Cloud technology provides “smart” data centres, services and applications so that companies can achieve lower costs and operational efficiency. Industry 4.0 will allow customized production according to the individual customer requirements. Cloud technology will allow companies to have a production system that can resist any dynamic business processes, will be robust and can respond to disruptions efficiently.
Augmented reality is touted to play a huge role in Industry 4.0.
Till a short time back, the only way to analyze and inspect a model was to create it physically. With high end computing powers, software that provides excellent augmented reality experience (for example, PTC Vuforia), make it possible to virtualize this task by creating and maintaining a digital representation of the product. Augmented reality will therefore allow users to overlay virtual information in the real world. In short, augmented reality software will allow optimization of products, processes and the entire supply chain.
3D Printers / Additive Manufacturing
3D Printing is a big component of Industry 4.0. Tangible 3D-printed models enable visualization of objects in a better manner. While augmented reality software - such as PTC Vuforia - will help companies optimize a model, 3D-printed prototypes will greatly help engineers study common processing equipment, manufacturing, maintenance, logistics, and operations. Advances in 3D printers, especially from industry leaders like Stratasys, Solidscap, etc. will provide true rapid prototyping.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
IIoT is a subset of the broader IoT, applied specifically for industrial machines and devices. IIoT is about connecting machines to each other, transcending boundaries. An integral part of Industry 4.0, IIoT facilitates management and the optimization of machines, increasing productivity and makes smart factories possible. IIoT will also decentralize analytics and decision making, enabling real-time responses. ThingWorx from PTC is an advanced software that incorporates the IIoT paradigm.
If automation and robotics provide the muscle, augmented reality, sensors provide the senses, and data and connectivity are its central nervous system, then Artificial Intelligence is the brain of Industry 4.0. Artificial Intelligence refers to systems that act intelligently; a phenomenon of computer and machine learning. AI enables devices to recognize their environment and begin to take actions based on that environment to maximize achieving a goal.
Once the information has been received and analyzed; and decisions have been taken, another logical step consists in the actual execution of those measures. In the context of industry 4.0, self-learning and self-configurative robots are in charge of these actions, in complete collaboration with human workforce. Ideally, these robots will cost less and have a greater range of capabilities than those used in manufacturing today.
As devices talk to each other, there is an increased risk of cyber threats. Cyber security in communications is one more important aspect of Industry 4.0
Apart from the above, Industry 4.0 also involves other components like inclusion of ICT in embedded systems, and sensors and their communication protocols.
Industry 4.0 Integration
There are two types of Industry 4.0 integrations, vertical and horizontal.
Vertical integration in Industry 4.0 involves integration of different IT systems on different hierarchy levels to a consistent solution. Typically, it involves analytics and data management, developing de-centralized, cloud based applications and the effective analysis, assessment and application of the data collected from machines and sensors. At a very broad level, vertical integration means applying Industry 4.0 principles within the company.
Horizontal Integration in Industry 4.0 insinuates integration of different IT systems for different process steps of manufacturing and corporate planning which are connected through material, energy, or information flows both company-wide (e.g. inbound logistics, manufacturing, smart supply chains, IT security management, outbound logistics) and across several companies to get a consistent solution.
Benefits of Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 is just taking off. However, those who have opted for it have already seen their manufacturing processes getting transformed. These companies can now track everything they produce, sending out upgrades for complex products after they are sold - just like software. These companies can now customize nimbly as Industry 4.0 components like AI, AR and robotics makes even manufacturing single product / component viable. As the Industry 4.0 movement develops, these trends will accelerate. So will the invention of new products and services including new ways of tackling today’s most difficult problems like climate change and pollution, energy demand and the pressures of urbanization.
Here are a few benefits of Industry 4.0 in a nutshell:
Challenges facing Industry 4.0
All said and done, it looks like IIoT / Industry 4.0 are here to stay, and the sooner manufacturers adapt this new paradigm, the better it will be for them.