What is Industry 4.0?

Industry 1.0 started in the second half of the 18th century with mechanization from 1760 – 1830. Machines and tools replaced the agrarian society driven by animal and human labor. Iron and steel along with steam ann internal combustion engine made this possible.

Industry 2.0, mass production, was from 1870 – 1940. Assembly lines, stainless steel, and plastics along with railways and telegraph made mass production and logistics more efficient.

Industry 3.0 was from 1950 – 2002 and it was driven by digitization. Telecommunications, electronics, and IT introduced automation using robots and PLCs (programmable Logic Controllers). This also ushered in the era of machines doing jobs which in the past were performed by people.

Industry 4.0 Explained

Industry 4.0 brings different components of the three previous stages of the Industrial Revolution for a more efficient and smarter manufacturing process. This is primarily made possible with smart and autonomous systems fueled by data and machine learning.

Data storage, networking, and artificial intelligence now work together with sensors in manufacturing plants to provide a comprehensive view of the entire process. An interconnected and centralized system can keep track of everything from raw materials to the final output and customer delivery. And it does this while providing diagnostics and analysis for a highly optimized and streamlined process from beginning to end.

However, to make 4.0 function at its most optimal, it requires four key components.

Industry 4.0 Components

It all starts with digital transformation. Companies large and small must go through it to fully take advantage of all the benefits in Industry 4.0. Whether it is from analog to digital or digital processes to an automated systems strategy, the transformation is essential.

Smart communication is next because of the massive amount of data this system will be processing. Machines need to communicate with other machines and analyze this data in real-time. Because of the sheer volume of the data, it is impossible for humans to analyze the information in a timely manner. Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence is speeding up processes across virtually all industries.

The next component is the data quality. Because the technology relies on data, the quality of the data needs to be of the highest quality. Collecting data just because you can do it does not mean you will have the best possible results.

Smart devices are next. They will connect with each other and collect the data to make it available in real-time in order to optimize processes. This includes everything from sensors that are part of the Internet of Things (IoT) to robots all using Machine to Machine (M2M) communication.

Small Business and Industry 4.0

More than 90% of manufactures in the U.S. are technically classified as ‘small’ or ‘medium.’ Accessing the agility, efficiency, productivity, reliability, speed, and quality Industry 4.0 can deliver will allow them to compete and thrive.

The challenge in the adoption of Industry 4.0 is education. And industries across all segments can use the technology Industry 4.0 demands. This includes manufacturing, construction, electronics, automotive, transportation, food & beverages and many others.

If you are a small manufacturer, Automation Alley sponsors a weekly Tech Takeover event that will get you up and running.

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