What is Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0 refers to a new phase in the Industrial Revolution that focuses heavily on interconnectivity, automation, machine learning, and real-time data. Industry 4.0, also sometimes referred to as IIoT or smart manufacturing, marries physical production and operations with smart digital technology, machine learning, and big data to create a more holistic and better connected ecosystem for companies that focus on manufacturing and supply chain management. While every company and organization operating today is different, they all face a common challenge — the need for connectedness and access to real-time insights across processes, partners, products, and people.
In simple terms, Industry 4.0 technologies enable you to do more with less. In other words, you can produce more and faster while allocating your resources more cost-effectively and efficiently. Your production lines will also experience less downtime because of enhanced machine monitoring and automated/semi-automated decision-making.
Multiple areas of your production line will become more efficient as a result of Industry 4.0-related technologies. The example of improved efficiency includes faster batch changeovers, automatic track and trace processes, and automated reporting. NPIs (New Product Introductions) also become more efficient as does business decision making and more.
Industry 4.0 technologies allow your production lines, business processes, and departments to communicate regardless of location, time zone, platform, or any other factor. This enables, for example, knowledge learned by a sensor on a machine in one plant to be disseminated throughout your organisation.Best of all, it is possible to do this automatically, i.e. machine-to-machine and system-to-system, without any human intervention. In other words, data from one sensor can instantly make an improvement across multiple production lines located anywhere in the world.
The benefits of Industry 4.0 also include enhanced flexibility and agility. For example, it is easier to scale production up or down in a Smart Factory. It is also easier to introduce new products to the production line as well as creating opportunities for one-off manufacturing runs, high-mix manufacturing, and more.
Industry 4.0 technologies enable you to produce higher quality, higher margin, and/or more innovative products. For example, Industry 4.0 technologies make it possible to offer customers personalised products while still using mass production methods to make those products.
The cost of manufacturing at your facilities will dramatically fall as a result of applying Industry 4.0 technologies, i.e. automation, systems integration, data management, and more. Primary drivers for these reduced costs include: better use of resources, faster manufacturing, less machine and production line downtime and lower overall operating costs. At the same time Industry 4.0 technologies give you greater knowledge of the manufacturing process, supply chains, distribution chains, business performance, and even the products you manufacture. This creates opportunities to innovate, whether that is changing a business process, developing a new product and optimising a supply chain.
The first step towards a digital transformation is to collect data from your machines. You can collect data from e.g. PLCs and sensors. The data is transmitted to a piece of specially designed IoT software via a secure cloud solution. This will provide you with a snapshot of the current status of your production. Data collection and analysis will shed light on the blind spots in your production, and you will gain knowledge of previously unknown factors.
Step 2 is about digitalizing existing production tools. By digitalizing you can simplify your production processes. This will make it easier to take concrete actions.
The ability to predict downtime and to prevent it before it happens is the essence of Step 3. When you are able to predict downtime caused by mechanical issues, supply chain gaps or logistical challenges, you will also be able to make decisions that will prevent expensive downtime. This will significantly reduce the costs for service and maintenance.
Step 4 is about machine-to-machine communication and about how machines can exchange knowledge on improving processes.