What is Industry 4.0? A brief overview of Smart Factories and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Photo by Georges Malher on Unsplash

There have been three big industrial revolutions in history, and we are currently in the midst of a fourth. That fourth industrial revolution is known as Industry 4.0, a jargon you’ve probably heard, but what exactly is Industry 4.0? That’s what I’m going to talk about today. In this fourth industrial revolution, or industry 4.0, it’s useful to go back and comprehend the prior three industrial revolutions in order to better grasp where we’re going with industry 4.0.

Everything begins with the first industrial revolution, which occurred in the late 1700s. This is where, roughly 100 years later, in the late 1800s, water and steam power spurred a lot of expansion in agriculture and textiles. Finally, in the 1970s, the computer and supercomputer really powered the third industrial revolution, which is an extension of the third industrial revolution but certainly a significant shake-up, a big change, and a pivot toward where we’re going in the future, which is what I’ll address today.

The third industrial revolution truly established the groundwork for industry 4.0, and the global computerization and digitalization of enterprises provided the building blocks and parts that are driving us to industry 4.0 and the crucial distinction. So, if industry 4.0 is focused on connecting and linking all of this technology and data that has accumulated over years and decades, one of the things that is being powered by this connectivity are the end-to-end business processes that serve as the foundation for industry 4.0.

Instead of having different systems, silos, and processes throughout the business, we’re also linking suppliers and vendors with whom we interact, ensuring that some examples of devices and connections that are being produced are on a manufacturing shop floor. For example, you may have robotics and machines manufacturing materials or completing things, and their sensors are collecting data on what they’re doing, as well as the amount of production and quality. It’s also collecting data on potential predictive maintenance and the like.

On the consumer or customer level, the most frequently understood gadget is probably something like an Apple Watch or a wearable device that takes data about me and you every day, is connected to the contemporary company, and is an important component of the industry. 4.0 refers to the complete value chain’s connectedness, as well as the technology and data that support it, as well as the devices that enable it.

They haven’t had excellent information in the past, and they haven’t been able to make effective use of it until now, with Industry 4.0. We have developing technologies like artificial intelligence that can leverage that data to provide us with predictive analytics and a better understanding of customer behavior. For example, by truly knowing and anticipating our customers’ demands, as well as their purchase decisions and general consumer behavior, So AI can also be used for things like predictive maintenance, where you have sensors on machines that can predict when those machines need to be maintained or repaired, and it’s a way to anticipate potential problems so you don’t have to wait until they break, but you’re also not investing too much money in maintaining or repairing things that don’t necessarily need it yet.

AI is a significant component of Industry 4.0, and it helps businesses become smarter and more efficient in their use of existing data while also bringing new data through some of the smart devices and sensors that we’ve discussed so far. Some of the other topics we’ve discussed are connection, the internet of things, and artificial intelligence.

There are a few more important aspects of Industry 4.0 to comprehend. First and foremost, there are the systems and devices that we briefly discussed in corporate technologies: Your suppliers’ systems and equipment on the shop floor Sensors and gadgets link all of your consumers. You will also require large datasets. You need data to feed into artificial intelligence and some of the other smart factory types of thinking and functionality that we’ve discussed so far, so having that data captured in systems and, more importantly, being able to use that data via artificial intelligence and other analytical tools is critical.

Operational and technical innovation is another intangible requirement for Industry 4.0. In other words, you, as a company, must have an innovative culture, a desire to try new ideas, and a readiness to look beyond the box of how things have traditionally been done. So it’s really about figuring out how to employ technology and operational changes to fully realize the potential of Industry 4.0. Finally, and most critically, organizational change management is required. Because industry 4.0 is more than simply technology and process improvements, internal connectivity, the internet of things, and all that jazz, you must manage the company through the shift. It’s a cultural change. It’s a different approach to running a business.

Your staff will be pleased. So they are affected in substantial ways, more so than computers have previously affected them, so it is critical to have a really robust change management plan in order to be successful in your industry 4.0 activities. So far in this article, I’ve discussed some of the positives and possibilities of Industry 4.0, but there is a dark side, and that is the ethical implications of Industry 4.0.

Consider the following: What does this entail for your workforce? What does it mean to you as an organization if we are going to displace employees because we are now automating their employment or replacing them with robots, sensors, and data that can perform part of the work that they were doing? How will you handle the change, and, more importantly, is it the correct thing to do? Is this a moral thing to do? I believe it is something that every company must address for themselves, and it is also a social concern.

Even if people don’t lose their jobs, if computers do a lot of the work that people do, it’s not clear what their purpose is. And, even if this does not necessarily imply that I will lose my job, will it erode my sense of meaning and purpose inside the organization? Another ethical challenge or dilemma that must be addressed.

Finally, it raises the issue of government regulation. Is this the kind of thing that the government should regulate? Is it necessary to have extra safety nets? Is it thus essential to establish extra protections for enterprises and individuals that may face negative consequences as a result of Industry 4.0? We’re still a long way from it being a reality, but it’s a very real risk that will become more obvious as more firms transition to Industry 4.0.

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