Industry 4.0 – An amazing world of automation & connected machines!

Industry 4.0 is the new face of industries

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Benefits & Challenges of Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is the next Industrial Revolution

Technology evolution & advancement is happening at a pace that has not been seen in the last 100 years. An army of digital tools and solutions has been created that was hard to imagine a few years ago. Just as the concept of mass production initiated an unimaginable industrial growth at the beginning of the 20th century, artificial intelligence and supporting technologies like machine learning and IoT are beginning to transform the industry in the same way.

Time has come for the manufacturing sector to adapt to the new technological changes.

What is industry 4.0?

industry 4.0
Elements of Industry 4.0

Also called the 4th industrial revolution, it is the term that refers to changes happening in the manufacturing sector and its entire value chain right from the development of new products or services to the generation of revenue.  It is all about creating a digital ecosystem where automation is done to achieve the desired objectives and benefits like fast production and real-time monitoring through connected machines through the least human intervention. The broad technologies in industry 4.0 fall under one of the following heads:

  1.  AI & cognitive systems
  2. IoT  devices
  3. Big data Analytics
  4. Automation technology (robotics)
  5. Augmented or virtual reality
Evolution of Industries Over a Period of Time

Closed-loop Working Mechanism

Industry 4.0 is based on a constant interaction between the physical and digital world in a closed feedback loop. The mechanism is a three-step process:

Step 1: Here the information from the physical world is captured and a record of this information (obtained from the supply chain, operation, etc) is created in digital format.

Step 2: The captured information is shared between the connected machines and is used for analytics. Real-time data obtained from multiple sources is also used in the process to create and deliver value to obtain the desired objective.

Step 3: Algorithms are then used to translate the decisions made based on the captured data in step 2 into the working of machines in the physical world.

The three steps are not linear but are connected in a closed-loop where the data is again captured from step 3 and recorded as in step 1.

Closed-Loop Mechanism of Industry 4.0


The Main Features

Horizontal Networking:

The closed-loop mechanism described above makes the overall system of the organization very transparent. Any fault in business operations can be easily detected and therefore can be resolved at a much faster pace. Information can be recorded from the network spread across the organization from all functions like prototype development, maintenance, production, marketing, sales, etc. and this information can then be used for further analysis.

Vertical Connectivity:

Well connected digital and physical processes enable industries to quickly respond to changes that happen due to abnormalities or changes in industrial operational parameters like equipment failure, change in inventory levels or shift in demand, etc. Well connected smart industries have systems that interact & automatically adjust their performance.

Functioning through Transformational Technologies:

One of the main features of industry 4.0 is that it functions with the support of technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, IoT, big data & advanced automation.


The Benefits

Digitization of industries can bring many benefits that cannot be achieved using traditional technologies. It has the potential to transform the entire value chain. Following ar the obvious benefits:

Enhanced Productivity:

With increased digitization, networking, and automation, the assets can be used optimally and with increased productivity. Companies like Siemens, Cisco are using IoT for assistance in production. Costs can also be brought down considerably with the help of automation. Automation in operations like welding or assembly of simple parts can reduce production time.

Evolution of more Rewarding Business Models:  

Collected data can provide relevant information to create and deliver more value for customers or generate new revenue streams. Offering data as a service (called as DAAS) through platforms that manage data that is generated and collected from various connected products, machines, and equipment in industries.

Improved Product Quality:

Real-time monitoring can lead to better quality control and thus superior quality.

Product innovation:

Advanced manufacturing techniques combined with cutting edge digital technologies can open doors for new product innovation.

Reduction in machine downtime:

IoT and machine learning have made predictive maintenance of many machines quite easy. Equipment failure can now be predicted even before its occurrence. Predictive maintenance reduces maintenance costs and increases the availability of machines.

Challenges in adoption

Many factors are holding back the industries from switching to industry 4.0. Following are the major ones:

  • Mental inertia of company owners to adopt technologies that constitute industry 4.0
  • Lack of relevant skills of the employees and team members that discourage companies to move towards digitization.
  • Lack of awareness about the relevant suppliers or vendors that may help in execution.
  • Data security concerns while hiring the third party for the implementation of such technologies that uses company data.
  • Multiple pilots need to be conducted before final implementation

Conclusion

Thought the manufacturing sector in on the verge of transformation, few hurdles need to be cleared before the widespread adoption of digitization in the sector. The up-skilling and gaining knowledge about such technologies can help companies in getting familiar with them.
Many of the companies like SAP and Marshall Machines also provide training to up-skill industries for smart manufacturing.


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