What is Industry 4.0?

That's all people are talking about: Industry 4.0 is the future of the factory. This catch-all concept is so used that it is sometimes difficult to fully understand it. You don't want to admit your ignorance during your coffee break? Wondering if this 4.0 industry can really benefit your business or is it another digital chimera? In this article, we explain the meaning of the industry 4.0 concept and how to accompany this transformation.

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Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution

Let us get back to basics: the term industry 4.0 refers to past industrial revolutions. Our contemporary society has already experienced three major industrial revolutions related to the creation of disruptive elements: the steam engine in the 18th century, electricity in the 19th century and finally electronics (and computer science) in the 20th century. The fourth revolution underway aims to prepare the industry for the digital age and to invent the factory of tomorrow that will obviously be  "smart", just like the cities. It gives us a glimpse of intelligent and autonomous systems that will use data and machine learning to improve production.

 

Thanks to new technologies, manufacturing systems will be optimized to increase efficiency and connectivity, all to offer an ever more efficient service and production method.

 

Industry 4.0 aims to revolutionize the customer experience, streamline costs, increase productivity, and improve the performance of the company as a whole.

 

Like the human body, the plant must now react to the environmental conditions to find the right balance and make the best use of its resources.  Industry 4.0 even aims to achieve excellence in that the machine could be treated independently without the intervention of a doctor.  So much for the promise. Now let's look at how this is articulated in practice.

Nine areas of development for industry 4.0

The World Economic Forum has identified nine  areas of study that bring together new technologies - they talk about emerging  technologies - on which to focus efforts:

 

  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning;
  • Urban and autonomous mobility;
  • Blockchain and distributed network technology;
  • Data management;
  • Digital commerce;
  • Drones and the airspace of tomorrow;
  • Industry 4.0 for the planet;
  • The Internet of Things, robotics and smart cities;
  • and precision medicine

 

By integrating the potential of these different technology groups within the plant and the production process, the system as a whole should improve. While many of these concepts were still unknown to the general public about ten years ago, they are now parte of the daily discussions of many  individuals.

 

In practical terms, this change is based on very real innovations. The consulting firm BCG identifies nine new technologies that form the basis of the industry 4.0. These new technologies are big data, autonomous robots, computer simulation, green and horizontal integration of systems, the Internet of Things applied to industry, cybersecurity, cloud, 3D printing and augmented reality.

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Industry 4.0, some concrete examples

The industry has been changing for several years. This is the logical next step in creating computer systems. New technologies have already significantly changed the way we produce, especially with  big data and the Internet of Things. Despite some mistakes in their youth, production methods are simplified and economies are very real. Here are some concrete examples of industry-induced changes 4.0:

 

  • Predictive maintenance on production lines is the detection of failures before they occur. Savings vary depending on the case but are often at least 20%. In the future, artificial intelligence will also be able to react in a sophisticated way and make the necessary decisions in the face of  potential problems, without the need for human intervention;  
  • Optimization of logistics and supply chain through analysis of demand or market conditions in real time. Production is as close as possible to the customer's needs;
  • Use of robots or autonomous vehicles to transport objects through, for example, delivery drones.

 

These examples are the most common at present, but Industry 4.0 has ramifications at all levels of the production process.

How to adopt Industry 4.0?

The challenge is great for businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, who want to take part in the revolution in motion. To make the most of it, it is important to take the time to understand the emerging technologies at work and their potential added value. It is then essential to develop efficient digital factory solutions, tailored to the needs of the company.

 

Much of the overall solution will involve data collection and use. The relevance of the data used is crucial to enable Industry 4.0. We must realize that the technologies will take the upper hand. Autonomous and intelligent decision-making without human intervention is set to become the norm. If errors of judgment, analysis or evaluation were made at the time of the implementation of the improvements, they would rub off on the entire production process. It would then be difficult in hindsight ton understand the origin. In parallel to this work of analysis and preparation, it is therefore also important to keep control and put in place safeguards. Human intervention here seems inalienable, at least for now.

 

The importance of data to modernize the industry is expected to increase in the coming years. As part of its digital strategy, the European Union intends to play an active role in the collection and use of industrial data. These are expected to multiply as 5G is deployed. The European strategy unveiled in February 2020 aims to create a single data market that businesses can benefit from to make the best decisions. The aim is to create a level playing field for small and large or very large companies.

 

At Ryax, we have developed on-demand software that allows you to organize and process your data streams intuitively. In addition, our team is qualified to best prepare for the transition to Industry 4.0. Don't hesitate to get in touch to discuss.

La Ryax Team.