What is Industry 4.0?
2 minutes | 07 Dec 2020
Industry 4.0 is now a commonplace term in the manufacturing industry. Since the early 2000s, businesses have been getting to grips with the next stage of the industrial revolution. This revolution can be defined as the integration of machinery, human operation and information technology to create a fully-efficient and connected manufacturing network.
Although the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic threatened to slow down the adoption of Industry 4.0 in manufacturing, a recent McKinsey survey of businesses found that one-third of their respondents in China were still accelerating their initiatives.
So how do manufacturers start making their business Industry 4.0 ready? Here’s some insight on how best to approach these new technologies and approaches.
What does Industry 4.0 mean for manufacturers?
The main focus of the fourth industrial revolution is to create factories that produce data as well as products. This puts manufacturers at the front line of Industry 4.0 development and means that their businesses are seeing the greatest impact.
Understanding these changes, opportunities and challenges can help manufacturers put the right strategies in place for integrating Industry 4.0. So here are just a few ways that these technologies and processes are changing the world of manufacturing.
Changes on the shop floor
The machinery and capabilities of the production line look very different in the fourth industrial revolution. Industry 4.0 machinery is supported by cloud computing and Internet of Things (IoT) technology. This means that the machine can collect data on its own performance and share this with other machines or software systems.
This helps to improve machine efficiency by optimizing conditions, predicting maintenance and improving final product quality. In some cases, this can even help the machine or robot to run remotely with autonomous systems technology. Plus, Industry 4.0 is helping businesses to better train their shop floor employees with the advancement of simulation and scenario training.
Developments in prototyping
Building physical prototypes used to take time, money and resources. Now, manufacturers can create and test designs quickly and easily with additive manufacturing and augmented reality.
3D printing means products can be built directly from a CAD design. Design engineers can also create a virtual model that can be tested within software. This means manufacturers can speed up their design and development process and do it more cost effectively.
Harnessing the value of data
The value of data has always been clear. Now, Industry 4.0 is enabling manufacturers to collect, use and analyse this information even more effectively. Known as big data, the wealth of information collected through machinery and processes can be integrated with software and business systems.
This enables manufacturers to create a full horizontal and vertical system integration that will help grow and sustain their business. However, this extra data does raise questions about cyber security, one of the main challenges manufacturers face with Industry 4.0.
What are the Industry 4.0 challenges for manufacturers?
Great changes in processes and systems mean that there are many challenges that manufacturers face when getting ready for Industry 4.0.
Finding the right skills to drive this process forward can be a challenge. Recruiting employees with knowledge of digital technologies or upskilling your current team requires a huge investment.
Ensuring that production and intellectual data is secure is a major worry for manufacturers. They’re right to be concerned. Manufacturing is the third most likely sector to experience a data breach, according to Manufacturing Global.
Legacy machinery and software
For any business, investing in a new suite of digital machinery upfront is not an option. So, as the production processes start to adapt, legacy machinery and software can hold back development.
What are the benefits of Industry 4.0 for manufacturers?
Integrating Industry 4.0 presents challenges and high levels of investment. However, manufacturers who are adopting the technologies are already feeling the benefits.
Better product quality
As is seen in the study by McKinsey, introducing Industry 4.0 technology into the production line has the potential to add plenty of benefits, including better product quality. By using data and automation to have tighter controls, Industry 4.0 ready factories produce products with less overall faults.
Improved decision making
Industry 4.0 helps to future-proof businesses. From forecasting customer demand to booking in predictive maintenance for machinery, these technologies can help businesses manage risk more effectively.
Integrating Industry 4.0 processes and systems enables manufacturers to reduce production costs and increase efficiency. This includes reducing downtime, increasing energy efficiency and predicting supply with customer data. This benefits the customer, both in terms of cost and service delivery.
What makes a factory Industry 4.0 ready?
There are four main factors that businesses can use to measure their readiness for the fourth industrial revolution. These factors are:
- Interoperability – how machines, devices and people connect and communicate with one another during production
- Information transparency – how production systems create virtual copies of the physical world through sensor data
- Automated decision making – how systems make simple decisions to create a production process that’s as autonomous as possible
- Technical assistance – how you establish systems that support humans in making decisions, solving problems and assisting with tasks.
By focusing on these four aims, manufacturing businesses can look to adapt their systems and processes, building a strategy that will keep them ahead of the curve.
What are the future Industry 4.0 manufacturing trends?
At present, many manufacturers are focusing on using the Industry 4.0 technologies they’ve already implemented to help them recover from the effects of coronavirus. These affects will be felt for some years to come, with many businesses now focusing on making short-term smaller wins over long-term capital investments.
By facing Industry 4.0’s challenges and opportunities, manufacturers are starting to break down the barriers to further growth. This includes improving the quality of products, reducing lead times or providing better customer service. This involves integrating technologies such as factory automation, AI and IoT. Plus, they must also establish the processes, systems and skills to return on the investment into Industry 4.0.
How are Essentra Components working in Industry 4.0?
We are constantly investing in Industry 4.0 processes and systems to help deliver a hassle-free customer service. We’ve set a long-term strategy to replace legacy machinery. We’re also looking to develop our software systems and integrate them with our customer data.
By harnessing Industry 4.0 technologies we’re always looking to improve our offering to customers. This includes the highest quality components and a straight-forward distribution service that’s truly hassle-free.