Industry 4.0 is the latest industrial revolution. Most people are familiar with the First Industrial Revolution that started in the 1760s. This was a modernization of manufacturing processes where manufacturers went from using hand tools to using machine tools and developing mechanized factories. The Second Industrial Revolution began in the late 1800s and is often called the Technological Revolution. This period saw the widespread adoption of electrical power and telegraph poles and more advanced manufacturing processes.
The Third Industrial Revolution, beginning in 1969, saw the widespread adoption of electronics and telecommunications. Of course, computers began arriving at the scene as well. You’re probably wondering, what is industry 4.0? The term is used to describe what’s called the technological age, which began around 2011. With the rise of cloud computing, cyber-physical systems, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things (IoT), it became apparent that this age needed to be separated from what came before. Our current capabilities are much stronger than ever, and we’re revolutionizing manufacturing processes once again. Here are some of the most important things Industry 4.0 brings to the table.
There have technically been AI-powered manufacturing processes since Industry 3.0, but recent advancements in machine learning (ML) have taken things to a new level. ML is responsible for practically every AI advancement, and it involves teaching computer algorithms on how to behave in various situations. There are three types of ML, with the latest being reinforcement learning. This is when algorithms learn how to complete a task through trial and error and are rewarded when displaying behaviors that lead to completing the task.
AI programs can boost efficiency by eliminating slowdowns and recognizing unusual processes immediately. They’re also used extensively in predictive quality control and for preventive maintenance. Essentially, they gather as much historical data as possible and use it to predict future events.
Industry 4.0 is embracing the internet of things, and these intelligent devices with smart sensors are frequently used in the manufacturing industry. IoT technically refers to any device that’s connected to the internet and can communicate with other devices. A smart thermostat that connects to your smartphone would be an everyday example.
In manufacturing, IoT-enabled devices are often used in the supply chain. For example, a fleet manager can keep track of all their vehicles with GPS devices, and they can even monitor the temperature of sensitive cargo. IoT devices also make inventory tracking much easier since they can automatically record when shipments arrive and leave. Smart sensors can even be placed on older machines, so factories of all kinds can get a more accurate look at their overall operations. Of course, sensors and cameras can also monitor production lines to ensure everything is proceeding smoothly and safely.
Data virtualization technology is used in various industries, from creating virtual data servers to allowing factories to create digital copies. Data may be retrieved from big data sources, cloud services, or IoT devices to create such digital copies.
Simulating a manufacturing plant allows leaders to determine how production is likely to go in any given situation. For example, in an older factory, managers can run simulations testing how incorporating new technology may affect production. They can use this technique to determine better what specific technologies they may need. It also helps reduce risks and increases the odds of completing new production techniques on the first attempt. Of course, it’s also hard to overstate the value of real-time data that Industry 4.0 brings. Data is at its most valuable when it’s accurate and current, and organizations in any industry can take advantage.