Chapter 6 – Industry 4.0

Chapter 6 – Industry 4.0

Earlier in this course we addressed the history of machinery and how that brought about the Industrial Revolution with the development of the Industrial Age in the 1800’s and how continued development brought about the Second Industrial Revolution in the 1900’s followed by the Third Industrial Revolution in the mid-2000’s with the arrival of the Information Age. Well all of this has now culminated in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. But what is the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0 as it is known. 

Industry 4.0 can be defined as the integration of intelligent digital technologies into manufacturing and industrial processes. It encompasses a set of technologies that include industrial IoT networks, AI, Big Data, robotics, and automation. Industry 4.0 allows for smart manufacturing and the creation of intelligent factories. It aims to enhance productivity, efficiency, and flexibility while enabling more intelligent decision-making and customisation in manufacturing and supply chain operations. In the early stages of its development it was also known as IoT or Internet of Things due to the aim to interlink and connect different technologies and facets of daily life via the Internet. Now, however, IoT has merely become one aspect of Industry 4.0. (xxxvi)

Today’s Industry 4.0 initiatives also look to develop symbiotic and rewarding collaborations between people and technology. When the accuracy and speed of 4.0 tools comes together with the creativity, talent, and innovation of people, you get a win/win for both the workforce and bottom line. Manufacturing operations become more efficient and productive, and teams are relieved of a lot of mundane and repetitive tasks – giving them the opportunity to collaborate with smart technologies and better equip themselves for the evolving technological landscape and the AI-powered future of work.

Any definition of Industry 4.0 would also have to include its origin from the term Fourth Industrial Revolution. Since the 1800s, we have experienced three industrial revolutions. They were called “revolutions” because the innovation that drove them didn’t just slightly improve productivity and efficiency – it completely revolutionised how goods were produced and how work was done. We are now in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, aka Industry 4.0. (xxxvii)

First industrial revolution

By the early 1800s, the First Industrial Revolution was underway. The invention of the steam engine reduced industrial reliance on animal and human labour, ushering in a new age of manufacturing and precision engineering. (xxxviii)

Second industrial revolution

A century later, the growing use of petroleum and electric power meant that machinery could be leaner and less cumbersome. The Second Industrial Revolution was driven by the assembly line and mass production processes, many of which are still in use today. (xiL)

Third industrial revolution

Around the middle of the 20 th century, computers hit the scene. The Third Industrial Revolution saw the early development of factory automation and robotics. This era also saw the first use of computerised business systems that were built to manage and analyse data. (XL)

Fourth industrial revolution

Today, manufacturing is increasingly powered by information. Vast amounts of data come from across the business and around the world, in real time, around the clock. AI is at the heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, allowing manufacturers to not only gather all that data but use it – to analyse, predict, understand, and report. Industry 4.0 is not characterised by a single technology. It is defined by the seamless integration of a number of systems, tools, and innovations. (XLi)

Industry 4.0 is built on nine technology pillars. These innovations bridge the physical and digital worlds and make smart and autonomous systems possible. Businesses and supply chains already use some of these advanced technologies, but the full potential of Industry 4.0 comes to life when they’re used together. (XLii)

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