Industry 4.0 – a new, intelligent work environment

The industry is constantly faced with new and demanding tasks. Increasing efficiency without increasing costs, work automation, increasing production speed.

In response to these requirements, companies decide to introduce technologies in the field of Industry 4.0, which is associated with further costs that are to pay off in a dozen or so years. However, is Industry 4.0 a response to the problems faced by the industrial sector?

What is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 or actually “Industrie 4.0”, as it is a term taken from the German language, is the name for the next, fourth standard of the industry and the industrial revolution.

Industry 1.0 was process mechanization, 2.0 – electrification, 3.0 – digitization and 4.0 – connecting all electronic components in the network, integrating them and literally creating a self-sufficient, communicating and learning system supporting mass production.

This is possible thanks to dozens of the latest technologies that change the very character of production. These include IoT, Cybersecurity, Machine Learning, Big Data, Additive Manufacturing (3D printing), Cloud Computing and various types of analyzes and simulations.

Slogans that could be used to define Industry 4.0 include, among others – process integration, production efficiency and optimization, creation of intelligent processes and intelligent time management.

What does Industry 4.0 offer?

First of all, it is to increase production efficiency and minimize the number of errors – or in fact to completely eliminate all errors and defects, anticipating where and when they are to happen.

The latest devices and robots have a self-diagnosis system, which allows to prevent faults and replace worn parts before they break down.

This solution ensures smooth production. One example of such preventive measures is a special cord that is installed in robots – when it breaks, it means that the robot requires technical inspection and is in danger of failure.

The machines themselves are intelligent – they form a network in which each device is part of an entire integrated system and functions as one organism. It is also worth mentioning that thanks to the so-called Machine Learning, the entire network learns and analyzes itself and every part of it, and then corrects errors for maximum efficiency.

Some robots can even assemble other robots and machines!

The whole thing translates into a reduction in the number of people needed to operate the production – ideally you only need a group of engineers for the entire production.

What challenges is Industry 4.0 facing?

Like any new technology, Industry 4.0 has many challenges ahead.

Before it is implemented in a factory, it must first be adapted to it, which often ends with the need to build such a factory from scratch.

This is problematic not only because of the costs, but also downtime production, although many companies have a solution – they build the smaller factory next to the old one, and the old one serves a support role – e.g. as a warehouse.

Many machines also cannot be upgraded and must be resold or disposed of.

On the upside, the resignation from the old factory in favor of the new one pays off in even 10 years. For this reason, companies with large capital, such as Siemens, which lead in terms of constructing the Industry 4.0 factories, often decide to set them up as soon as possible.

Another challenge that is not as simple as raising capital (which is not a problem in the case of many companies) is hiring specialists to build factories. One of such people is Aleksander Doliński, whom we had the pleasure to host at our last conference.

Staff education is a big problem and the most severe one for Industry 4.0, but companies are investing more and more in employee training and modern universities are also starting to teach in Industry 4.0, so we can expect an improvement of the situation in the next few years.

Industry 4.0 in Poland

In Poland, Industry 4.0 is struggling with the same problems as in other countries – lack of staff and lack of resources. However, due to the close cooperation with companies from Germany and their investments in Poland, modern factories are being built here as well – for example, LG in Wrocław, VW near Poznań or Jawor, the construction of which is supported by Aleksander Doliński.

Can industry 4.0 reduce jobs?

Yes and no. On the one hand, automation means that many employees are no longer needed, on the other hand, there is a need for new employees and specialists.

It should also be remembered that Industry 4.0 is primarily to increase the efficiency of factories (without increasing costs) and failure-free production.

However, there are stages where machines will still 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, but they do not work well when unloading and loading trucks.

Which industries will gain the most?

So far, solutions appropriate for industry 4.0 have been successfully applied in companies related to the chemical industry (including the construction of modern batteries) and automotive.

This does not mean, however, that automation cannot be implemented in other industries. Industry 4.0, due to the scope of the proposed solutions, can work in any business, as long as there are complex processes in it that can be optimized thanks to automation and robotics.

Industry 4.0 – summary

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.

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