Wednesday, April 24, 2019


What Does it Mean?

Commonly referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 is the name given to the current wave of automation and data driven approach to manufacturing technologies.  It leverages state-of-the-art technologies to innovate products and services in the fields ranging from design, engineering, manufacturing and support, thereby positively impacting operational efficiencies and enterprise-wide growth[1].  Industry 4.0 encompasses cyber-physical systems, the IoT, cloud computing, and cognitive computing.

The digitization of manufacturing has resulted in a compelling change in the way products are manufactured. Industry 4.0 revolution will enhance Industry 3.0 by providing it with smart and autonomous systems, fueled by data and machine learning.  It will make it possible to gather and analyze data across machines to make them faster, more flexible and efficient and, thereby, produce superior products at reduced costs.  This will further result in increased productivity, fostering industrial growth, and modify the profile of the workforce, thereby, improving the competitiveness of companies and regions.

Why it Matters?

From current data available, only thirteen percent of businesses have been able to fully capitalize on their digital investments, to achieve cost savings and create growth. The optimal exploitation of this mix of technologies could save large companies up to Rupees 124.8 crores!!

During Industry 3.0, when computers were introduced, they created a disruption in the way work was done, thanks to the addition of an entirely new technology[2]. Now, as Industry 4.0 unfolds, computers are connected and communicate with one another to speed-up decision-making without human intervention, thereby making the smart factory a reality.  This will result in factories becoming more efficient and productive and less wasteful, and this is what will define the true power of Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 Technologies and Applications Today[3]

While the jury is still out on how Industry 4.0 could impact business, several companies have begun implementing changes for a future where smart machines would become an integral part of all business activity. Some of the possible applications are discussed below:

Ø    Identify Opportunities - Given the fact that connected machines collect a humongous volume of data that could be collated, analyzed, and critically scrutinized faster and more efficiently than would ever be possible by human effort. Industry 4.0 offers the opportunity for manufacturers to optimize operations quickly and efficiently and focus on matters that need attention.  A typical example of this is the case of an African gold mine, which identified problems with the oxygen levels during leaching.  After resolving the issue, yield increased by 3.7%, saving them Rupees 1,560 million annually.

Ø    Optimize Logistics and Supply Chains -     Connected supply chains can quickly adjust and accommodate their operations to new information.  For example, if shipments are delayed due to bad weather, connected systems could proactively adjust to modify manufacturing priorities.

Ø    Autonomous Equipment and Vehicles -      A host of applications and use cases can be developed for autonomous operations of critical equipment and vehicles.  For example, shipping yards employing Industry 4.0 can leverage their autonomous cranes and trucks to streamline operations as they accept shipping containers from the ships.

Ø    Robots -          Advancements in science and technology have made use of robots more affordable to organizations of every size.  Robots are employed for a range of activities, from picking products at a warehouse to getting them ready to ship, thereby providing quick and safe support to manufacturers.

Ø    Additive Manufacturing (3D printing)[4] -                3D printing is now being used in innovative ways and fields ranging from manufacturing industrial parts, to human body parts.  These advances have opened up a lot of possibilities for production.

Ø    Internet of Things and the Cloud -  The IoT forms a key component of Industry 4.0.  Uses are not limited to just assistance in internal operations.  The cloud environment can be exploited to optimize equipment and operations and to allow smaller enterprises access to technology they wouldn’t be able to on their own.

Ø    Simulation[5] -  Simulations of plant operations would be done extensively to mirror the physical world in a virtual model involving machines, products and humans. Such simulations would allow manufacturers to optimize machine settings to meet future product demand, well before physical changeover, thereby cutting-down machine setup times and increasing quality.

Ø    Cybersecurity -              With increased machine connectivity and employment of standard communication protocols defined by Industry 4.0 comes the need to protect critical systems and manufacturing infrastructure from ever-increasing cyber-threats.  This mandates the setting up of secure and reliable communication systems as well as sophisticated identity and access management processes for machines and users.

Crystal-ball Gazing

The traditional value chain is rapidly moving towards hyper-personalized experiences, products, and services that are increasingly resulting in newer sources of revenue.  Companies would have to develop and implement customized digital manufacturing strategies to sustain a lead in future operations involving innovating business models and new technologies.

Author Bio

Ashwin Patil is a passionate content marketer who writes on technology, tech trends, tech reviews. Also, I work with people, organizations and the community to deliver solutions which are driven by Big Data, Internet of Things, Machine Learning, Deep Learning & Artificial Intelligence.

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