March 1, 2021
Industry 4.0: What is it and How to Adjust
By Bridget Minner
Industry is in the midst of a technological revolution. While many companies are still waking up to Industry 4.0 and what it means, we’re not exactly in the dawn of this new era. Technology on the whole has rapidly advanced since the start of the new millennium, and we don’t have to look inside of the world’s factories to realize this. The world is getting “smarter,” and it’s evident in the mundane technologies we use every day. Take your phone for example. You might be reading this blog on your phone, and that was not in the realm of possibility just twenty years ago when people were still getting used to flip phones (or “dumb phones” as some began to call them after the birth of the “smart phone”). TV’s, watches, car keys, and more have a “smart” component to them now. Our daily lives are made simpler and more efficient by these enhancements. That is the heart of industry 4.0. Humanity is harnessing the power of technology to make production processes more efficient and connected using automation, machine learning, and the Internet of Things or IoT (defined as connections between physical objects to the internet and each other).
Since the start of Industry 4.0, manufacturing has changed in multiple ways. The inception of predictive maintenance technologies in the 90’s has improved productivity and revenue by enabling maintenance teams to collect, store, and analyze data in real-time so that possible machine failures are detected and mitigated in advance of outages. Human labor is also being reallocated to positions that involve performance monitoring and data analysis, as automation tools and processes replace the need for human hands in the production process. Companies also have greater ability to meet consumer demand, as increased production speeds allow for more output.
The Challenge of Change
The described changes only scratch the surface of Industry 4.0. As positive as the advancements brought on by this new era are, advancements in technology using the IoT pose greater risks to industry than ever before:
- Data Protection – Arguably one of the biggest challenges associated with Industry 4.0, data protection must be prioritized. With data being stored on the Internet, companies and individuals are vulnerable to hacker attacks now more than ever.
- Inevitable Outages – System outages are inevitable in the digital world. This poses a threat to stored data which can harm the effectiveness of maintenance programs and even cause downtime for essential machines.
- Knowledgeable Personnel – As technology advances, so must the skills of your employees. You need trained professionals who have a strong enough understanding for how to harness the power of new technologies while also knowing how to use them in a secure manner.
How Close is Industry 5.0?
Though many of us are still warming up to industry 4.0, some believe we are already in the preliminary stages of Industry 5.0. This next phase is expected to bring emphasis to having human involvement in the use of artificial intelligence. Rather than the humans acting as operators behind intelligent systems, we will pass a threshold where humans will work alongside them in industry 5.0. Instead of humans working to further develop intelligent systems, these systems will help humans work better and more efficiently.
There is no replacement for the human touch, and this becomes particularly important as companies place increasing emphasis on the customer experience. Additionally, certain aspects of production processes are still more efficient when completed by hand. Though it is believed that industry 5.0 is on the horizon, there is still plenty of work to be done when it comes to getting the world on board with Industry 4.0.
How Do We Adjust?
Just as you stay up to date on the health of your machines, stay up to date with the technology you use and the technology on the horizon. Commit to understanding how to safely use digital systems while also harnessing their power for the advancement of your company’s mission. Stay hungry for information regarding data protection laws, as they are ever-changing. Most importantly, don’t let the challenges of change keep you from innovating! Industry 4.0 isn’t a fad. Technology will continue to advance. After all, the world keeps spinning. Your company will continue to advance too, if you choose to spin with it.