How Industry 4.0 will affect the manufacturing industry
Have you heard of Industry 4.0, or “the Fourth Industrial Revolution?” The Industry 4.0 market has been expanding for years, but it’s seen explosive growth recently due to the coronavirus pandemic and the rapid adoption of artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. In fact, the global Industry 4.0 market is expected to grow to $165.5 billion by 2026. What exactly is Industry 4.0? How will it impact the future of manufacturing? This article will touch on the basics and business benefits for the manufacturing industry.
What is Industry 4.0?
“Industry 4.0” refers to the latest major change in industrial development — automation, data exchange, and virtualization through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and other smart technologies. Industry 4.0 is constantly evolving and new technologies are developed every day, but there are four primary technologies that make up Industry 4.0 as we know it:
- Internet of Things: The Internet of Things (IoT) allows machines and devices to be linked over the internet so that they can exchange data and work together in a coordinated manner. This connectivity helps manufacturers save time, reduce waste byproducts, and decrease operating expenses. Sensors incorporated into tools and machinery, for example, can capture data related to temperature, speed, and wear so operators can shut down machines before they reach critical thresholds.
- Big data: With smart devices now able to measure and collect machine data in new ways, manufacturers have access to more granular data than ever before. Data collection from sensors and smart devices allows for the generation of large data sets or ‘data lakes’ that can be used for analysis and insight development and can help manufacturers optimize their processes.
- Digital twins: These digital technologies create virtual replicas of physical processes, designs, warehouses, and other applications, which can then be tested and refined quickly and cost-effectively. These analysis tools allow businesses to make data-driven decisions rooted in data collected from the floor. Digital twin models have potentially wide applications that range from predictive modeling for designing optimal warehouse configurations before beginning construction, to predicting when intervention or maintenance might be needed in factories, to testing the ramifications of design or process choices before ever making physical components.
- Cloud computing: Cloud computing is the framework that makes Industry 4.0 possible. Cloud service providers sell infrastructure, platforms, or software applications as a la carte services, allowing companies to provision resources and scale their operations as needed, while only paying for the resources they actually use.
The business benefits of Industry 4.0 in manufacturing
Industry 4.0 is already revolutionizing manufacturing, particularly when it comes to predictive maintenance. Predictive maintenance is a manufacturing best practice based on a theoretical rate of asset failure. Instead of waiting for something to break, manufacturers use predictive maintenance to preemptively replace parts or tools to reduce downtime. Using regular, data-driven maintenance schedules keeps the unused lifespan of a given part to a minimum. Downtime can result in extensive financial losses, something preventative maintenance can help to avoid. The increased long-term reliability of processes leads to greater output capacity, increased part quality, and long-term cost savings.
Though new devices, tools, and techniques can initially seem like an investment, the cost of using older tools in a rapidly innovating technological field can quickly stack up. Today, smart factories outfitted with sensors connected with resource planning software can detect when inventory levels are low and automatically reorder parts or materials to avoid production disruptions. This capability helps manufacturers build better parts faster and for less, while also helping them get the most out of their machinery.
Industry 4.0 also empowers manufacturers to take full advantage of automation in their factories. Automated machines outfitted with smart sensors can take on the routine, laborious, and potentially unsafe tasks that operators would normally be responsible for, which frees these workers up for more high-value tasks and improves safety on the factory floor. From an administrative standpoint, smart automation can also increase the reliability of routine data entry and report generation so manufacturers can maximize efficiency and optimize internal processes.
Start leveraging the benefits of Industry 4.0 today
Smart technologies powered by Industry 4.0 lead to increased productivity, increased part quality, reduced costs, reduced employee downtime, and improved resource utilization. It’s clear that manufacturers should take advantage of this trend to stay ahead of the competition and optimize processes, but that’s easier said than done for many companies. A cutting-edge manufacturing partner makes taking advantage of Industry 4.0 benefits easy.
At Fast Radius, our world-class engineers and manufacturing professionals stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and trends — including Industry 4.0. Embracing new developments in manufacturing is key to maximizing and delivering value, and our team has the solutions and tools to help you take your projects to the next level. Contact us to get started.