Synonymous with smart manufacturing, Industry 4.0 is the realization of the
digital transformation of the field, delivering real-time decision making, enhanced productivity, flexibility and agility
How Industry 4.0 technologies are changing manufacturing
Industry 4.0 is revolutionizing the way companies manufacture, improve and distribute their products. Manufacturers are integrating new technologies, including Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and analytics, and AI and machine learning into their production facilities and throughout their operations.
These smart factories are equipped with advanced sensors, embedded software and robotics that collect and analyze data and allow for better decision making. Even higher value is created when data from production operations is combined with operational data from ERP, supply chain, customer service and other enterprise systems to create whole new levels of visibility and insight from previously siloed information.
This digital technologies lead to increased automation, predictive maintenance, self-optimization of process improvements and, above all, a new level of efficiencies and responsiveness to customers not previously possible.
Developing smart factories provides an incredible opportunity for the manufacturing industry to enter the fourth industrial revolution. Analyzing the large amounts of big data collected from sensors on the factory floor ensures real-time visibility of manufacturing assets and can provide tools for performing predictive maintenance in order to minimize equipment downtime.
Using high-tech IoT devices in smart factories leads to higher productivity and improved quality. Replacing manual inspection business models with AI-powered visual insights reduces manufacturing errors and saves money and time.
With minimal investment, quality control personnel can set up a smartphone connected to the cloud to monitor manufacturing processes from virtually anywhere. By applying machine learning algorithms, manufacturers can detect errors immediately, rather than at later stages when repair work is more expensive.
Industry 4.0 concepts and technologies can be applied across all types of industrial companies, including discrete and process manufacturing, as well as oil and gas, mining and other industrial segments.
Characteristics of a smart factory
Data analysis for optimal decision making
Embedded sensors and interconnected machinery produce a significant amount of big data for manufacturing companies. Data analytics can help manufacturers investigate historical trends, identify patterns and make better decisions. Smart factories can also use data from other parts of the organization and their extended ecosystem of suppliers and distributors to create deeper insights. By looking at data from human resources, sales or warehousing, manufacturers can make production decisions based on sales margins and personnel. A complete digital representation of operations can be created as a "digital twin."
The smart factory’s network architecture depends on interconnectivity. Real-time data collected from sensors, devices and machines on the factory floor can be consumed and used immediately by other factory assets, as well as shared across other components in the enterprise software stack, including enterprise resource planning (ERP) and other business management software.
Smart factories can produce customized goods that meet individual customers’ needs more cost-effectively. In fact, in many industry segments, manufacturers aspire to achieve a "lot size of one" in an economical way. By using advanced simulation software applications, new materials and technologies such as 3-D printing, manufacturers can easily create small batches of specialized items for particular customers. Whereas the first industrial revolution was about mass production, Industry 4.0 is about mass customization.
What technologies are driving Industry 4.0?
Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a key component of smart factories. Machines on the factory floor are equipped with sensors that feature an IP address that allows the machines to connect with other web-enabled devices. This mechanization and connectivity make it possible for large amounts of valuable data to be collected, analyzed and exchanged.
The demands of real-time production operations mean that some data analysis must be done at the “edge”—that is, where the data is created. This minimizes latency time from when data is produced to when a response is required. For instance, the detection of a safety or quality issue may require near-real-time action with the equipment. The time needed to send data to the enterprise cloud and then back to the factory floor may be too lengthy and depends on the reliability of the network. Using edge computing also means that data stays near its source, reducing security risks.