What Is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 concept image. industrial instruments in the factory with cyber and physical system icons

With the integration of Industry 4.0, the future of manufacturing is happening today. You’ve probably seen aspects of it, for instance, in consumer electronics that allow homeowners to control their air conditioners and lights from their mobile phones. 

This is what’s referred to as the Internet of Things, or the IoT. The same type of device connectivity and cloud storage capabilities are now coming to industry as well. Bringing Industry 4.0 technology to your facility can help prepare you to compete in this evolving landscape. 

The Next Industrial Revolution

Historians now refer to the most recent industrial revolution as Industry 4.0. Put simply, each revolution changed how people created things. You’ve probably heard of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s, when manufacturing first became more common than farming. The second revolution occurred when factories transitioned from mechanical to electric operations, and the third happened when factories integrated computers. 

The latest revolution marks the use of the internet to facilitate manufacturing processes across the industry. Smart facilities use connectivity solutions and automation to improve efficiency and respond to problems as soon as they arise. These innovations are quickly rising in popularity. In fact, the U.S.-based nonprofit Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) is currently studying how to improve and advance Industry 4.0. 

How the Internet of Things Changes Manufacturing 

The IoT enhances connectivity and data collection tools to make the manufacturing process as efficient as possible. While this requires employees to have more technology training, it also reduces the number of workers needed. This can only benefit the manufacturing industry, which is currently experiencing a dearth of skilled workers. 

Why You Should Adopt Industry 4.0

Adopting the technology of Industry 4.0 requires a significant investment but allows for numerous benefits. For instance, productivity increases dramatically with the integration of advanced technology. In fact, in the United States alone, technology has increased manufacturing productivity by 40% in the last two decades. 

Industry 4.0 also allows for better tracking of materials and supplies, which means easier product recalls. If materials used in manufacturing have defects, tracking technology can provide a simpler way to determine which products are affected. In many cases, machinery repairs may be made remotely, over the internet, rather than in person. This enables service personnel to conduct repairs and maintenance at many more locations. 

Are Manufacturers Ready for Industry 4.0? 

Though the manufacturing sphere is swiftly changing, many facilities don’t feel prepared for the new industrial revolution. While 84% of manufacturers are diligently moving toward Industry 4.0, only 14% feel ready for the revolution — and only 25% feel they have a well-trained workforce that could tackle the demands of Industry 4.0.

Moving Into the New Industrial Revolution

Of course, most manufacturers want to move forward, but adopting these new advanced technologies and methods will take time. Several factors, though, continue to push the industry into a more technologically savvy future; data availability, enhanced connectivity, smart factories, and consumer demand are all driving the industry into the next revolution.

Data availability makes it easier to know how machinery operates and where changes need to be made to enhance productivity. Connectivity lets more employees operate away from the actual equipment, working either from a central location at the facility or remotely. Smart factories implement this connectivity and collect data to become as efficient as possible. And shifting consumer desires push manufacturers to make these changes. 

Today’s consumers are demanding more customization options and higher levels of convenience. In fact, more than half of consumers, 51%, prefer to shop online rather than in a brick-and-mortar store. And this, of course, requires faster turnaround times. With the new machinery of Industry 4.0, fulfilling these orders and customizing them becomes much easier. 

How to Implement Industry 4.0 

If you want to implement Industry 4.0 in your facility, you’ll need to upgrade your equipment and employee training programs. Begin by adding computers to handle the automation software. You’ll also need trained IT personnel to ensure that your software is installed and operating correctly. These employees will also be responsible for keeping your system safe from hackers, which is always a concern with anything connected to the internet. 

Consider the adoption of Industry 4.0 an ongoing process rather than an overnight project. In time, you’ll have a more automated facility that is able to operate at peak efficiency. 

What Comes Next?

While countless companies are integrating modern technology to automate their facilities, industry experts predict that Industry 5.0 will soon follow, bringing more human labor back to the manufacturing process. However, even as the industry undergoes these changes, it’s important to continue to train your employees on the newest technologies in order to keep your facility relevant and retain your workers. 

The future of the industry will require both people and technology to make the most of manufacturing. Make sure your facility is ready by adopting Industry 4.0 technology and training your employees on new routines. Ultimately, this will allow your company to reap the benefits of higher productivity and enhanced efficiency. 

Don’t let the industry’s evolution leave you stuck in the past. Now is the time to make changes to your facility that will allow you to keep up with the shifting demands of your customers, as well as the industry as a whole.

 

Image Credit: Pand P Studio/Shutterstock.com

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