Industry 4.0, also known as the fourth industrial revolution, is the next major step in factory automation and modernization and has given rise to what are now becoming known as smart factories.
Originally coined in Germany at the 2011 Hanover Fair, the term Industry 4.0 represents the digital revolution being implemented in manufacturing, automation, robotics and many other industries. It is the latest in a string of industrial revolutions that have spanned over the last 250 years.
A Brief History of Revolutions
The first Industrial Revolution was one of water and steam. It was the first use of mechanical systems powered by something other than the human hand. Steam power became a major driving force in technology from the mid 18th century until the early 19th century.
The Second Industrial Revolution, also known as the Technological Revolution, brought about machines that were powered by electricity. It introduced the manufacturing world to rapid mass production, and lasted until the early 20th century.
The Third Industrial Revolution, also known as the Digital Revolution (or the Information Age), ended the full reliance on analog machines and alternating current (AC) electronic technology, giving rise to the digital technology that we know and use today. This incorporates everything from computer systems to digital logic circuits and the Internet.
Enter Industry 4.0
The Fourth Industrial Revolution may be new, but it has taken the manufacturing and automation industries by storm. Smart technology is rapidly evolving and industry professionals are still ironing out the best practices associated with the systems this new revolution is utilizing.
Among those systems are:
The Internet of Things
The IoT carries with it the capability of connecting everything in the modern factory setting to a single real time system of information, automation, and control. This has placed an amazing burden on the back of human machine interfaces (HMIs), automation panels, and industrial PCs, which must allow users to easily access a multitude of devices and data from a single control point.
Without the Cloud, connectivity that the IoT has brought about would be entirely unusable. The need to support multitudes of automated machines and control systems requires a database of information with near limitless scalability. Moving databases and controller access to Cloud based storage and portals rather than trying to run systems off in-house databases has given factories the ability to store and analyze massive quantities of data and to provide gateways into remote systems.
Collecting and analyzing copious amounts of data is the backbone of Industry 4.0. As smart factories continue to employ automated machines that incorporate smart technology, the need to enhance each automated process becomes essential. With thorough analysis of data, engineers and workers can ascertain ways to identify trends and improve performance.
The Systems of the Future
Big Data, the IoT and the Cloud have already found their niche in the modern smart factory, but there are still a few pieces of technology that will certainly make their way onto the scene as the tech improves in the coming years.
VR systems have slowly progressed over the years and are just beginning to make their way into the market. In the factory setting, engineers are working on ways to incorporate them into simulated training sessions for workers. They also hold the potential to revamp the modern HMI, transferring the control of automated machines from a static screen to a piece of wearable technology.
Another infantile technology that has slowly made its way into the hands of consumers, 3D printing has a huge potential to entirely revamp modern manufacturing by placing it in the hands of consumers.
Will we enter an age where manufacturers are no longer needed to make products? It is entirely possible that companies can sell plans and raw materials to consumers and have them create products on their own using this technology.
Pushing Ahead Into the Future
Although there is no telling how long the Fourth Industrial Revolution will last or how history will remember it, it is here to stay. The only thing that manufacturers can do is equip themselves with the required technology to transform their machinery and factories into fully automated smart factories. At AMMC, we specialize in helping our partners transition to automated technology. Give us a call today and we will find a solution that will vault you into the era of Industry 4.0.