The Complete Guide to Industry 4.0
January 15, 2018
January 15, 2018
So what is Industry 4.0?
The short answer is Industrial Internet of Things or Industry 4.0 (or 4IR) is a concept that introduces efficiency optimization to the manufacturing process – cutting down production costs, enhancing work safety and ultimately providing a much higher user satisfaction.
Seems important doesn’t it.
Let’s understand how this achieved, what are the implications of Industry 4.0 and what will our production, manufacturing and industrial future look like.
The internet of things is no longer just an empty buzz word used by tech company marketing teams, it’s a living and breathing concept that is redefining how we view and create the world around us. If IoT is so revolutionary, why hasn’t it surrounded us by now? Well, even though the consumer markets are slow to pick up on “smart” solutions, in the industrial manufacturing world IIoT is fast becoming the standard.
Before we dig deeper into why this is, how this is being done and what are the implications of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to all of us, we need to start at the beginning – with defining what is IIoT, Industry 4.0 and cognitive manufacturing.
IIoT – Industrial Internet of Things – a widening of the IoT concept to include the production cycle. In other words, connecting all pieces of the process in a smart network for optimization, control and monitoring.
Industry 4.0 – The 4th industrial revolution – a continuation of the evolution of industry into the smart network.
Cognitive Manufacturing – a term coined by IBM referring to the same concept but distancing it from the consumer “IoT” market and “Industry 4.0” industrial evolutionary view. Instead the focus here is on a new type of industrial approach – dropping the word “Industry” all together.
Industry 4.0 or the 4th industrial revolution is a term first coined as part of the German government’s initiative to optimize industrial production, with the introduction of Internet of Things (IoT) design structures into production networks.
The logic behind this concept states that there have been 3 historical industrial revolutions, and now we are at the dawn of the forth revolution. These are:
Technological advances in recent years are broadening what we are able to achieve today. We can create fast and secure wireless networks, small embedded modules, and a host of both edge solutions (such as sensors) and higher network solutions (such as NFVs and gateways). With these infrastructural abilities the possibilities are endless in all areas of our life – this is collectively known as Internet of Things (or IoT).
Industry has always striven to optimize its resources in a way to increase production. So, the benefits of automated connectivity are perfectly suited for different areas of the industrial and production markets. By creating cyber-physical systems, both the production and resource management capabilities are optimized and user feedback including customer interactions with the product is monitored and optimized.
The production floor has been computerized and mechanized now for a while, the real revolution here is connecting it all together through a series of sensors, computing modules and processing centers. This provides a highly efficient automated cycle and gathers almost endless data for ongoing optimization.
For more – see this short introduction video on 4IR.
Yes, as with everything in life, production phases aren’t completely synchronized and not all stages equal – there is always a bottleneck somewhere.
In traditional production, it’s not always easy to find the bottleneck that slows your production potential, and once found you’ll have to find the next one. Chasing the stages that slow down production in a world of cost effectiveness and ROI is a tricky battle. Also, the larger the production is, the harder it becomes to optimize.
Enter the Cyber Physical system or network at the heart of the Industry 4.0 concept.
By gathering real-time data from every machine, production space and warehouse alongside design, research and quality assurance data, management teams get a clear look into the exact process phases and bottlenecks that the product goes through – from design to shipment. But this is just one side of the cyber physical network, most of this optimization happens completely autonomously and without any intervention.
This is done by the smart use of edge and fog computing networks which connect hundreds of sensors and modules. The data is processed at the edge level and important information is sent to the cloud or central network for monitoring. Most tasks can be performed autonomously at the fog or edge level close to the machines or modules it connects to (for more on edge computing see here).
Industrial IoT however, does much more than that. Besides optimizing the product manufacturing process, the cyber physical network controls the energy used throughout production, by controlling the exact amount of energy needed for each process and recycling access energy.
Another important advantage offered by 4IR is a further stage in distancing physical human interaction from the production line. Workers can take another step back, moving the focus of human intervention to quality control, management and technical support. A fully implemented cyber physical system allows for a much safer environment for company employees, and drastically cuts back on the possibility for human error.
As Industry 4.0 is a wide concept, so too are the elements encompassed by it. Optimizing production lines is great, but what about other industries such as logging, oil, logistics, transport or infrastructure? Turns out Industrial IoT has endless solutions up its sleeve providing a safer and more efficient working environment.
For example a few months ago I came across a company designing an AR headset for service engineers working on electrical infrastructure, construction sites or oil rigs. These dangerous and unpredictable environments are real safety hazards for even the most experienced workers. The AR solutions offered the engineers a simple way to optimize their work, allowing them to easily communicate with expert teams on the ground, and making their work faster, more secure and much more precise – so cutting back on the time they needed to be in the harmful environment.
This is just one example for a wide variety of solutions that incorporate an automated aspect and connect to a network for management and monitoring. Other examples could include incorporating drones for surveillance, automated climate control for harsh environments, smart safety and security modules, and so on.
The last piece of the puzzle is only applicable for a number of industries and markets, and it’s a real game changer. This is access to usage data in real-time accessible by UI/UX and management teams at the company, so bottlenecks can also be optimized at the user level. For example, if the lifespan of all parts in a car is statistically 15 years, but a chip in the A/C system has a statistical lifespan of 40 years, then it makes sense to install a cheaper chip – thus cutting back on the car price without harming its usability or general lifespan.
Another example could be a dish washer marketed to a country with a unique water chemical composition, under those specific conditions the temperature affects the components in a different way so adjustments must be made to accommodate a scenario that would have been hard to test in advance.
Let’s take a more extreme example from the defense industry, which is unique in its production cycles and the fact that military products are used in extreme conditions. Let’s look at a defense contract to develop a modern infantry fighting vehicle (IFV). The first batch is shipped for testing, and then deployed to soldiers in battle or training field conditions, usage data is then provided by the soldiers and mechanics operating the new IFV, which is sent back to the company for tweaks that would be implemented in the next batch.
In line with technological leaps in recent years, this IFV will be designed with an internal network of sensors surrounding all components (engine functions, wheel strain, fighting compartment, firing systems, etc.). If this data could be sent in real-time to the designing company, changes could be made from day one to any under-performing component, so the next vehicle to roll out of the factory doors would include the necessary changes – cutting back on development and valuable time, and of course cutting back on the project expenditure.
In this way, products will no longer have a handful of model but thousands of versions and tweaks, thus providing an overall higher quality product. So, no more “version 1” and a “version 2” coming out a year later, with 4IR physical products will be more like software updates, with versions like 7.08.201 coming out with endless minor tweaks and updates.
As Industry 4.0 is on the rise, and more companies and industries are jumping on board, the question is what will the manufacturing future look like with the gradual integration of IIoT?
The quick answer is – faster, cheaper, safer and more energy efficient.
But let’s get into some statistics so we can understand the industry today and take a glimpse into the future. A number of recent surveys have tried to assess what key companies and industries feel about industrial automation today and how will their opinions change by 2020. There is also a great deal of economical predictive research showing the influence of 4IR on production and the consumer market as a whole.
PWC have surveyed some 2,000 companies in 9 major industries (e.g. Automotive) situated in 26 countries worldwide. The main conclusion from this survey is that most companies realize the importance of IIoT – though many of them don’t yet understand its full potential – but only 33% are today at a high level digitization. PWC have further predicted that by 2020 72% of these companies will achieve a high digitization level.
Another key find was regarding the approach towards data, with only 50% of companies stating data has a significant impact on decision making – this is predicted to rise to 83% by 2020. Data is an important driving factor behind Industry 4.0, so realizing its importance is a key factor for IIoT conceptual maturity.
According to Accenture, by 2030 Industry 4.0 is predicted to add some $14.2 trillion to the global economy, with 4IR implemented in industries accounting for almost two thirds of the world’s production output. With these figures it’s easy to see why Industrial IoT is predicted to be worth some $7.1 trillion in the US, $1.8 trillion in China and $700 million in Germany. (For more statistics see here).
Although Industry 4.0 is not a completely mature concept, and isn’t fully understood or appreciated by most companies today, it is far from an empty buzz word. We’ve seen how a smart IoT network infrastructure incorporated in the industrial sphere can optimize production, while creating a superior product in an energy efficient and safer work environment. Besides the classic manufacturing industries, it has an almost endless toolbox to offer less conventional industries such as the defense or infrastructure industries.
The question of “will IIoT become a reality” and even “when will it happen” have been long swiped of the table. Today it’s clear we’ve entered a waiting game for Industry 4.0 to fully mature, and for a gradual number of companies and industries to harness it’s almost unlimited potential. To assist in this transition, it’s now time for IIoT solutions developers to shine in their creativity and introduce the right solutions for future implementation.
Hardware developers such as SolidRun are striving to design and develop the robust industrial grade building blocks that will eventually power up these solutions. If all predictions are right, in the next few years industries that fail to implement cyber physical elements will fall far behind. Hopefully, this means that besides building better and safer industries, we’re also looking at a much cleaner and brighter future.
*Icons: by Vector Market
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