Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution is the next phase of the industrial revolution that focuses on automation, interconnectivity, machine learning, and real-time data analytics. Industry 4.0 not only helps in improving manufacturing efficiency but also revolutionizes the way businesses operate.
Simply put, Industry 4.0 is about the digitization of the manufacturing and production industry in order to reduce human efforts to a minimum. It employs transformative technologies that help develop smart factories with connected machines and intelligent robots. It focuses on replacing current technologies with systems capable of contextualizing information, making decentralized decisions, and providing technical assistance.
Industry 4.0 can help –
- Ease manufacturing challenges
- Boost innovation by predictive maintenance and business forecasting
- Quickly fulfill consumer demands for new products and items
- Develop faster designing and manufacturing processes to satisfy individual customer demands
When it comes to implementing Industry 4.0, one must know the following 5 things –
- Industry 4.0 means faster decisions on the shop floor
Manufacturers who decide to implement Industry 4.0 benefit from faster and better decision-making on the shop floor. Connected devices generate a lot of data that is fed into software applications to extract valuable information. Business stakeholders and shop floor managers use this information to make timely and effective choices on the shop floor.
Having an understanding of the collected data can help decision-makers achieve strategic objectives or benchmark performance. Since the decisions are based on data-driven insights and not guesswork, it leads to fewer mistakes and less waste.
Smart factories allow managers to operate the manufacturing systems at optimal levels. Thus, during the Industry 4.0 implementation, the only decisions that stakeholders need to make are –
- What data to collect?
- How to use the information derived from the collected data?
- How to make the right decisions using the derived information?
- Cybersecurity is a major threat
Irrespective of the benefits Industry 4.0 offers, cybersecurity remains a major issue. The cyber threats are real and ever-growing. Security experts claim that the manufacturing industry is the third most targeted industry for cybercrimes.
Cyberattacks on smart factories can cause a data breach, data alteration, or disruption in the production processes. While implementing Industry 4.0, manufacturers should put particular focus on creating protocols to ensure the protection of data.
Sometimes, while connecting machine tools to a network or cloud-based application, a few vulnerabilities can get overlooked.
Some common cybersecurity threats that Industry 4.0 implementation face –
- The network connections in a computer numerical control tool may need a firewall to block unauthorized access to it.
- Automated production systems can be prone to malware intrusions. Even though many industries use basic firewall and antivirus, this approach is not enough to prevent intruders from leveraging the vulnerabilities of automated systems.
- Hackers these days are also proficient in making modifications to the firmware. They can create alternate versions of firmware that can be infused into an IoT system to create security loopholes.
- A lack of real-time encryption also makes devices more vulnerable.
- IoT gateway is a key aspect of Industry 4.0 implementation
An IoT gateway provides a cost-effective and scalable way for businesses to network shop floor machines in order to optimize production processes and improve product quality. It combines hardware (like sensors) and software (like operating system) components.
A key benefit of using an IoT gateway is that it can be retrofitted to machinery without interfering with any existing automation logic. It is also highly flexible and scalable. However, before installing an IoT gateway into a production plant, one must analyze and clarify requirements and objectives. This will dictate where the sensors should be placed.
The IoT gateway provides a gateway for machine-to-machine communication for all the existing assets. It gathers data through configured sensors. This data is then converted into readable information through mathematical and logical operations.
- Cyber-physical systems are crucial for real-time information
The term ‘cyber-physical system’ is frequently discussed in Industry 4.0. Cyber-physical systems enable the collection of real-time information from the physical world. These systems then convert this information and synchronize the same into the cyber computational world. This helps the systems collaborate with each other in real-time.
Manufacturing processes can benefit greatly from data-accessing and data-processing services which makes the process easy to follow for anyone in the organization.
The use of advanced analytics and cyber-physical systems in the manufacturing industry creates a connection between machines and their ability to collaborate. Cyber-physical systems are crucial for Industry 4.0 since they enable people in different locations to follow the production in real-time.
Another important aspect of cyber-physical systems is the control loop. Creating control loops on multiple levels in a smart factory is a crucial part of Industry 4.0 implementation.
- Individuals play an important role in Industry 4.0
An important aspect of Industry 4.0 is people empowerment. Individual human beings play an active role in Industry 4.0 implementation.
Since technology implementation affects the duties and responsibilities of almost every occupation in the manufacturing industry, workforce training and development have broad implications.
Although Industry 4.0 is based on technology, people still form important sources and consumers of data. That is why it is essential to keep humans in the data-information-decision-action loop.
It must be noted that this is not a comprehensive list. Industry 4.0 implementation comprises of a lot more factors than the ones discussed in this article. Along with the above-discussed five things, big data, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing also have important roles to play in Industry 4.0 implementation.