The term industry 4.0 is used to describe technological advancements that are transforming entire industries and manufacturing practices. The so-called fourth industrial revolution uses advanced AI, IoT sensors, software, and big data analytics to improve business practices by increasing productivity and efficiency.
These technologies were impossible to achieve before due to the lack of computing power. But as computers became more and more powerful, new AI solutions developed over time. These technologies have finally reached a point where they can be applied to all business processes.
Main Features of Industry 4.0 Technologies
Before we explain all technologies behind industry 4.0 in more detail, let's first look at the areas where they make the most difference. AI technologies today use data to find potential operational issues and identify new business opportunities. The process happens on all levels and can leverage data to improve an operation.
1. Resource Management
One of the main roles of AI is to optimize business processes to increase efficiency and production. As long as you feed the artificial intelligence with the right data, it will find better ways to manage resources. For example, it can optimize energy consumption, increase yields, and use intelligent IoT sensors to streamline all manufacturing processes.
2. Asset Tracking and the Predictive Approach
IoT or Internet of Things technology utilizes small sensors that can be placed on all machinery, tools, and employees. These sensors generate data and send it to the AI that uses the data to find better solutions to all kinds of problems. The sensors also provide easy real-time monitoring of all assets, allowing managers to track all employees, tools, and machine performance.
These sensors use wireless technology to generate data. After some time, ML and AI models can learn how the entire manufacturing system or process works to the smallest detail. The AI knows the state of every individual machine, and it can predict the exact time when it will break down. That leads to more accurate maintenance efforts, shorter downtimes, and a revolutionary practice called predictive maintenance.
3. Employee Efficiency
IoT and AI work together to improve employee efficiency. Most AI solutions work together with robots to automate repetitive tasks, allowing workers to focus on other businesses' processes. Like asset tracking, wearable IoT sensors can help monitor employee performance and send alerts to prevent potential injuries.
4. Inventory Management
AI can also help improve logistics. It's a versatile inventory monitoring solution that allows full product customization and a completely new approach to inventory management. AI can predict surges in demand and help prepare businesses for increased production.
It can also monitor supply chains in real-time, effectively reducing the need for massive warehouses and large product stocks. Moreover, AI can track needs and 3D-print essential tools on-site.
5. Quality Control
AI has a direct impact on quality control. Since it uses big data to find better product design solutions and improve business processes, it can bring operational quality to another level. Other features, such as advanced process control and statistical process control, can increase output while reducing energy consumption and increasing product quality. It's a win-win situation on all levels.
6. Supply and Demand Management
Last but not least, AI can help optimize supply chain management by using data to make an accurate prediction. It can accurately predict the future of business activities, potential issues in the supply chain, and provide more value. Knowing what your business operation is facing in the future will give you valuable insights you can use to create an offer according to your customer's needs.
7. Rapid Product Development
With the use of digital twin technology, AI can run complex simulations and test products or services in various settings. Instead of spending time and money on a failed prototype during the development phase, the AI can design the product using data generated by the simulations.
Most AI-designed products and solutions are far more complex and advanced than any engineer could design. Moreover, AI can also create a collaborative environment, allowing customers to design their own products.
Technologies Behind Industry 4.0
The latest industrial revolution rests on a few game-changing technologies. It's only possible due to the increased computing power that's able to analyze large amounts of data. The goal of this revolution is to improve efficiency and increase productivity. Let's see which technologies are changing manufacturing practices the most.
1. Big Data
The fuzz around big data has been growing exponentially in the past decade. Most of the world realized the power of data only after large scandals such as the Facebook trial. However, big data can be used for much more than spying on people. It can change manufacturing practices, and improve business operations. With the right analytics in place, businesses are able to make better decisions and improve their internal processes.
2. Smart Factory
Smart Factory is an idea of connecting individual manufacturing machines and production lines into one cohesive system. The approach has the power to improve all processes through optimization, using a Wi-Fi network to monitor all elements. The smart factory facilitates the use of intelligent robots connected to the same system.
For example, the Siemens Electronic Works facility in Germany uses smart machines to automate everything from production to distribution and ordering. The same smart factory model will soon make it to other industries such as healthcare and consumer goods.
3. System Integration
Technology has reached the point where it can integrate new methods into physical and cyber systems. Most modern factories integrate computers, networks, and physical machines into one system. That approach allows easy monitoring and more control over all processes.
Computers and software today work together with embedded devices to generate data ML systems use to improve operations. This approach is already showing tremendous results, and it will become even more widespread in the near future.
4. IoT or Internet of Things
IoT sensors are among the most revolutionary technologies in the past 50 years. It allows you to connect all devices to the internet for easier monitoring. IoT systems are all cloud-based, and they use data-gathering sensors to provide businesses with unprecedented capabilities.
Once all devices, services, and software solutions are connected to a single online system, AI solutions are able to monitor their performance and find ways to improve the operation. In other words, IoT technology is largely responsible for Industry 4.0 and the huge advancements in reporting, manufacturing, and overall production efficiency.
When all technologies above come together, we have interoperability. In other words, interoperability is when manufacturers create a system that combines computers, devices, and humans using IoT sensors. That leads to efficient information sharing, reduces errors, and offers high-end security. All mentioned technologies work together with the same goal. They create a more efficient system, product, or service.
There is no doubt that manufacturing is changing faster than ever. New technologies, increased computing power, and advanced AI systems work together to improve business practices and increase efficiency.
Moreover, all of these technologies can work together to provide the most benefits. One thing is for sure, the way we think about manufacturing and product development will never be the same again.