The term industrial revolution describes the time when the world switched from manual labor to machine production using steam engines. However, the industry never stopped evolving to this day. As new technologies became available, the industry became more and more efficient.
Today, the world is facing a new industrial revolution. Industry 4.0 is currently redefining manufacturing and other industrial practices using data and the Internet of Things. Industry 4.0 and manufacturing are evolving once again, increasing efficiency and bringing productivity to a whole new level.
Brief History Of Industrial Revolution
As mentioned above, the industry is currently undergoing the 4th major revolution. But before we get to current times, let's look back at the previous revolutions and what pushed them forward.
The 1st industrial revolution started back in 1784 with the invention of the steam engine. The new technology introduced steam-powered machines and vehicles. The 2nd industrial revolution began in 1870 when steam engines could run machines to allow mass production. Manufacturers everywhere were able to increase production tenfold without the need of hiring more workers.
The 3rd industrial revolution happened in 1969 with the invention of computers. It is better known as the digital revolution as it relied on computers that further improved product quality. Many industries still belong to the so-called industry 3.0, but the leading corporations are now adopting technologies such as ML and AI, kickstarting the latest industrial revolution.
That brings us to industry 4.0, which is possible only because of growing computing power. This approach rests on connecting devices using small sensors that track every device and generate data. The data is filtered by a machine learning system that finds issues and bottlenecks in production. It is up to an AI to find the best solutions to improve efficiency and reduce downtimes.
Industry 4.0 and manufacturing are changing in front of our very eyes. More and more businesses are adopting these new technologies to gain a competitive edge, increase productivity, and reduce costs. They offer many benefits, but most of them focus on agility, efficiency, and customer satisfaction.
The Impact of Industry 4.0
The current digital transformation is possible only because of incredible computing power and sensor technology. Having a detailed look into every production line and individual machine allows manufacturers to streamline their production. The new approach makes it easier to overcome challenges that previously seemed impossible to solve. Here are some areas where industry 4.0 and manufacturing are seeing the most changes.
1. Overcoming Manufacturing Challenges
The markets are changing faster than ever before. Consumerism, short product life cycles, increased product complexity, and global supply chains create unique challenges that are hard to handle. Companies have to find new ways to meet the rising needs and follow trends defining the future. Data is making the most difference in how companies approach these challenges.
Businesses today work in a digital environment. Modern technologies generate an endless amount of data that can be used to create better solutions. For example, companies can create a digital representation of their products, production lines, and everything in between using production and social media data.
All of that data is then used to simulate the entire product lifecycle, allowing companies to predict issues and improve the product before it's released. As a result, production becomes more flexible, and companies can make informed business decisions based on the data they get directly from customers. Other technologies such as Digital Twin can recreate any system in a virtual environment to find weak spots and take a predictive approach to problems.
2. Economic Innovations
Apart from improving efficiency, Industry 4.0 and manufacturing can also speed up innovations and introduce new business models. For example, the use of IoT sensors leads to revolutionary business practices such as predictive maintenance, product development, and manufacturing. Moreover, businesses don't have to create their products anymore. They can make money from lending machines as a service.
Cloud computing, SaaS, and similar products are all available on-demand. The customer can fully customize the product and pay only for the features they use. This approach offers all kinds of business opportunities that will lead to new product types and business practices in the near future.
3. Consumer-Oriented Manufacturing
The customer is the center of every production effort. Personalization and customization are extremely popular, and the businesses that allow these features are leading Industry 4.0 and manufacturing today. Manufacturers use highly advanced machines during production because they provide full product customization without increasing costs.
That is only possible due to virtual product development that is far more efficient and faster than traditional methods. As long as you provide accurate data, the product can go through production without testing or further development.
4. Improved Employee Management
AI and ML systems are making machines smarter every day. These systems mimic human behavior, but they are able to handle much more information than any employee. That's why manufacturers don't have to focus on employee training anymore. Ensuring that your employees have the right skills takes a lot of time, money, and effort that slows production down. Since computers are completely taking over production, humans only have to act as managers to keep the system running smoothly.
Managing everything is becoming more complex, but AI can handle most issues and solve problems as they arise. The tasks employees face no longer focus on production. Instead of working in fixed shifts, they are facing a more dynamic environment defined by their skills. As a result, industry 4.0 and manufacturing have reached a better balance and improved response times in an ever-changing environment.
5. Sustainable Scalability
Globalization has made it clear that the previous industrial practices can't cope with the latest needs. Future growth is largely limited by resource shortages, job losses due to new technologies, and complex global supply chains. Companies have to create long-term plans if they want to succeed. They have to plan every step carefully and ensure that their efficiency doesn't exceed available resources.
All of these issues are working together to change how manufacturing works completely. Industry 4.0 and manufacturing today are based on smart technologies that offer solutions to current challenges. In other words, new approaches are needed to ensure constant production while reducing energy consumption and waste production. New technologies are opening the way to new business models that use the digital environment to improve products and reduce time-to-market.
Even though Industry 4.0 and manufacturing practices have reached a new level, making the transition from traditional systems to advanced digital solutions is not easy. Workers have to develop new skills to be able to keep the production running smoothly. New technologies offer significant benefits, but they can't do much without the right people behind them.
However, with powerful AI and ML solutions, companies can make better decisions based on gathered data. AI can quickly identify issues on the factory floor, find solutions to existing problems, and improve production using robots and powerful cloud-based software. The future is here, and it's here to stay.