What is Industry 4.0?
To put it simply, Industry 4.0 (or actually “Industrie 4.0” from the German language) is the name for the next, fourth standard of the industry. To have a better understanding of the history of industrial revolutions, let’s take a look at the 3 major ones that has happened in the last 200 years:
Industry 1.0 – process mechanization
Industry 2.0 – electrification
Industry 3.0 – digitization era.
So, what is Industry 4.0? The revolution which we’re facing right now is the continuation of Industry 3.0. However, the technology now is already much more advanced. Industry 4.0 is about connecting all electronic components in an integrated network and creating a self-sufficient, communicating and learning system supporting mass production. Such solutions obviously come together with the new era of digitalization.
What are the components of Industry 4.0?
In the last few years we have been observing rapid development of technologies able to entirely change production. Now they are simply building up the concept of Industry 4.0. These technologies are:
Internet of Things (IoT) – tools and software connecting physical objects and the Internet
Artificial Intelligence (AI) – ability of a computer to perform tasks and make decisions that typically require human intelligence
Machine Learning (ML) – ability of a computer to learn and improve tasks performance on their own through artificial intelligence
Big Data – term referring to big volumes of structured or unstructured data which can be stored, organized and analyzed by machines
Additive Manufacturing – technology related to production and prototyping with use of 3D printers
Cloud Computing – technology based on using remote servers to store, exchange and process data
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) – term related to business process management tools used across an organization
M2M (Machine-to-Machine) – technology enabling automated, digital communication between two machines via wired or wireless network
Real-time data processing – ability of a computer to constantly and automatically update data and provide real-time outputs.
To learn more about trending solutions used also in Industry 4.0, feel free to check out our article: Technology trends for 2021.
Now, as you already know what kind of technologies build up Industry 4.0, let’s move on to learn how they can actually revolutionize business operations.
What does Industry 4.0 offer?
The biggest advantage of Industry 4.0 over Industry 3.0 is the ability to communicate between machines in order to make intelligent decisions without human involvement. This provides a number of opportunities for companies willing to improve their processes and to be managed in a smarter and more integrated way. What are the main functionalities of Industry 4.0 that can contribute to business automation and organization?
Industry 4.0 tools are able to calculate business measures automatically and accurately, based on the provided data. Moreover, thanks to Artificial Intelligence, they can do it in an intelligent way similar to human performance.
As all the devices are digitally connected to each other, they can quicky exchange information within one network via cloud-based solutions.
Thanks to an advanced analysis, Industry 4.0 tools can understand patterns and make particular decisions much more accurate and faster than human. Thanks to this, machines are able to predict potential problems before they happen and eliminate them automatically.
Business process optimization
As Industry 4.0 connects the information coming from different databases and tools, it can be used to optimize, organize and control processes across the departments and business areas in much more precise way.
Industry 4.0 creates opportunities to build and install robots which can perform particular tasks typically done by humans. The latest devices also has a self-diagnosis system which allows to predict faults and replace particular parts before they break down.
Who should invest in Industry 4.0?
How to know whether it’s the right thing for you to invest in Industry 4.0? Who should do it and for which businesses purposes? If you’re still hesitating whether Industry 4.0 is the right choice for you, answer the questions below:
Do you operate in a competitive industry?
Do you compete with tech-savvy players?
Do you need to improve the efficiency of your business operations?
Do you want to reduce costs of failures on production and increase profitability?
Do you want to get rid of the need for frequent recruitments?
Do you want to improve collaboration within your team?
Do you want to start more comprehensive data analysis?
Do you need to improve customer service and experience?
Do you search for the solutions to make more accurate business decisions in a shorter time, with lower effort?
Do you want to improve your resource and inventory planning?
Do you want your enterprise to be smarter, more integrated and ready for the upcoming digital challenges?
If the answer to at least a few of the questions is “yes”, you should definitely consider implementing Industry 4.0 in your organization.
Challenges of Industry 4.0
However, as each new technology, Industry 4.0 obviously has a few challenges ahead. The major ones are:
Development of modern technologies always requires protection from cyber threats. To make your infrastructure less vulnerable to attacks, ensuring data security is simply a must.
Implementing Industry 4.0 in an existing factory surely requires some adaptations, or in some cases even building a brand new factory from scratch. It may come along with additional costs or downtime.
Long pay-off period
In case you decide to resign from the old factory in favor of the new one, the operation may pay off in even 10 years. For this reason, companies with large capital, such as Siemens, which is a leader of constructing the Industry 4.0 factories, often decide to set them up as soon as possible.
As Industry 4.0 is still a novelty, hiring a qualified staff is one of the biggest challenges. Newly hired employees also require proper education. Luckily, companies and universities invest more and more in teaching technologies used in in Industry 4.0, so we can expect an improvement of the situation in the next few years.
Here appears also the question which is alerting for many: can industry 4.0 reduce jobs? On the one hand, as its goal is to automate production, some of the employees will no longer be needed. On the other hand, development of Industry 4.0 creates a number of opportunities for employees and specialists having technology-related skills and qualifications.
Industry 4.0 in Poland
In Poland Industry 4.0 is struggling with exactly the same problems as in the other countries. However, due to the close cooperation with companies from Germany and their investments in Poland, modern factories are being built here as well. Examples are: LG factory in Wrocław, VW factory near Poznań or Jawor – the construction supported by Aleksander Doliński, a Polish production management specialist using Industry 4.0 concepts.
Aleksander also claims that there are a few stages of production where machines will not be able to replace people. For example, AGV trucks follow specific paths and perform specific tasks related to loading, unloading and transporting products in a warehouse or production hall. However, they do not work well when unloading and loading trucks. It means that will most probably not eliminate humanwork, but will strongly support it in many areas.
Benefits from adopting Industry 4.0 model
Although Industry 4.0 faces a number of challenges, this technology is obviously still appealing for many. To have a better understanding of the reasons, let’s summarize potential business benefits from adopting Industry 4.0:
Improvement of product life cycle and supply chain
Industry 4.0 can bring significant business improvements in both operations and product features such as design, scheduling, inventory and customer service. It also helps to make production more cost-efficient and failure-free.
As Industry 4.0 delivers an accurate data analysis, it can significantly support and improve business predictions. For example, it can reduce number of errors and estimate the volume of production more accurately, what will make the whole process be less wasteful and more efficient.
Thanks to easy and fast access to always updated information stored on cloud, Industry 4.0 can improve cross-department communication and accelerate overall production speed.
Thanks to AI, machines in Industry 4.0 model can make immediate decisions without human involvement. Deep and automated data analysis and access to information in real-time also makes making assumptions much easier and faster. This can boost the efficiency and profitability of the entire business.
Industry 4.0 comes along not only with improved internal operations, but also customer-facing processes. Faster reactions and better business organization help to provide clients with quality customer service and experience. This will help you to get a competitive advantage and win even over big players such as Amazon. Moreover, using the latest technologies usually attracts also younger and more qualified workforce.
To sum up, we are very much in favor of Industry 4.0 – an innovation that has been becoming a reality for years and in which we participate ourselves by developing IoT and process automation projects.
If you would like to learn more about such opportunities, feel free to contact us. Also feel free to check out blog to find more information on Industry 4.0 and its functionalities.