Perhaps you have heard of Industry 4.0, or “Industrie 4.0”. It is a term coined by the German government to cover what they saw in 2011 as a coming revolution in manufacturing. Industry 1 was an initial level of mechanization using steam power; Industry 2 saw mass production with electrical power; while Industry 3 has been automation with digital computers. The new phase that we now embark on, they say, is a combination of embedded systems, robotics, the Internet, and much more.
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has published a concise overview of Industry 4.0 in a recent white paper Industry 4.0: The Future of Productivity and Growth in Manufacturing Industries. They identify nine pillars of technology which make up Industry 4.0. Four of these pillars are areas in which Skkynet is directly involved in, while the other five are closely related, since at some level everything uses data communication.
We find this overview to be helpful in understanding Industry 4.0, and recommend it. To whet your appetite, here is a quick glimpse of the nine pillars:
- Big Data – The ability to collect, store, and analyze massive amounts of data, which can then be used to identify inefficiencies and production bottlenecks.
- Autonomous Robots – The next generation of robots can do more on their own, including learn on the job and team up with other robots and humans.
- Simulation – Operators and system designers can model and optimize machine settings in virtual reality, cutting actual set-up time to a fraction of what was previously thought possible.
- Universal System Integration – The long-standing barriers between the shop floor and top floor give way to a more cohesive, cross-company approach to using and sharing data. Also horizontal integration with raw material suppliers and equipment vendors can benefit producers and suppliers alike.
- Industrial IoT – Connecting embedded devices, plants, offices, and companies, the Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) gains prominence as a way to enable real-time data sharing between all parts of the system, and all connected parties.
- Cybersecurity – With such expansion of industrial communications, security becomes a critical aspect that must not be overlooked. As the white paper says, “… secure, reliable communications as well as sophisticated identity and access management of machines and users are essential.”
- Cloud Computing – Much of the IoT and Big Data capacity will be provided through the cloud. Again, here is where security plays a vital role.
- Additive Manufacturing – 3D printing allows for small batches and quick design changes, as well as reduced stockpiles of raw materials and lower transportation costs through on-site manufacturing.
- Augmented Reality – Presenting useful task background and context for production and maintenance staff right when they need it will make their work easier and more successful.