Industry 4.0 is a popular buzzword across manufacturing globally. But how did it all start and how did we transition to the Age of Machines that we know today?
Driven by the power of stream, the first industrial revolution began in the 18th century when manufacturing first became mechanized. The second revolution came about the early 20th century when mass production techniques were deployed, while the third came when electronic systems and computer technologies further automated production lines. Industry 4.0 is the fourth step in this series of industrial revolutions meaning we have reached the fourth time in history that we have revolutionised industrial practice with technology.
Although still in an early age, Industry 4.0 relies on sophisticated software and machines that communicate with each other to optimize production. In Industry 4.0 smart connected machines are working together and interpreting the data while relying less on human intelligence. The computerization of manufacturing, the high levels of inter connectivity, the smarter factories and the communication between equipment, create a new era of automation, manufacturing technology and supply chain development"Industry 4.0".
Each day, millions of dollars are spent connecting industrial machines, automating manufacturing operations to the cloud and coordinating these automation platforms. Connecting these industrial machines to the Internet of Things gives them the ability to join an intelligent network that help reducing the automation costs and transmitting vital operating data such as energy consumption. This creates a continuous stream of valuable data for factory;s staff that can be retrieved from a plant's machine to detect key trends or failures. In summary, micro machine data or data combined from several measurements are aggregated into a valuable macro view of a factory facility.
As working in the cloud becomes more pronounced and intelligent devices are increasingly connected through the Internet of Things, in the long run, factories will be run entirely by machines without human aid. It is predicted that soon engineers will log into robot-assisted manufacturing systems to make their work from the comfort of their own homes. This "cloud/remote manufacturing" opens up, for a first time, a new working model to factory employees, the telecommuting. Traditionally, manufacturing has never been particularly compatible with a "work from home" practice. However, the high-speed broadband and high quality video and telepresence enable engineers to manufacture products from distance. As a result, the machine becomes an intelligent self-led optimization engine, where resource availability, product demand and energy cost is optimized to provide the best production process.
Notwithstanding, in the future, the manufacturing processes and supply chains Industry 4.0 will look entirely different to the ones we now consider traditional. The factories of the future will do more-with-less. Thanks to telepresence, less headcount will be needed in the factories, while the ways in which people work will be greatly streamlined. The age of machines, the cloud and the big data are going to drive Industry 4.0 and change the way we produce and distribute goods.