The term Industry 4.0 has been used frequently for several years in the context of manufacturing improvements and modern manufacturing businesses. What is 4.0, and how does it affect manufacturing processes?

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What is 4.0?

The term Industry 4.0 is associated with what is known as the fourth industrial revolution. It involves the introduction of communication systems between industrial devices to collect data. This data is intended to enable the optimisation of manufacturing processes and production in the broader sense. 

The first industrial revolution began in the second half of the 18th century and was associated with the mechanisation of production and the introduction of the steam engine. The second industrial revolution, at the turn of the 19th century, involved electrification and the introduction of mass production.  The third industrial revolution, on the other hand, represented digital transformation and the progressive production automation with the use of computers.

The fourth industrial revolution, on the other hand, involves, as we mentioned, the creation of an entire ecosystem linking cyber-physical systems, IT systems, production workers and the management of a company. The main task of such an ecosystem is to enable the free flow of information between all these components.

Such a network is created through the Internet and other IT solutions. They allow data to be stored, processed and analysed in real-time. Such smart manufacturing makes it possible to react immediately to any deviation or irregularity detected through data analysis. Industry 4.0 makes it possible to continuously improve the manufacturing process, increase productivity and, consequently, boost the profits drawn from production.

How does Industry 4.0 work?

We have already briefly outlined what 4.0 is. Now it is time to explain how Technology 4.0 works in practice and the scope of the fourth industrial revolution. The solutions associated with digital transformation reach far beyond the factory itself and include virtually all systems and processes within a company.

Industry 4.0 does not only enter into production itself but also involves the entire chain of activities of a given company, which are intended to lead to the delivery of a product to the market and, consequently, to a profit for the company. For this reason, modern solutions such as artificial intelligence or cloud computing are also being used at the stage of ordering raw materials and storing and distributing the finished product.

Thanks to the direct connection to, for example, the laboratory or quality control department, smart manufacturing can be stopped almost immediately after data analysis and the detection of defects in the product. This not only saves the manufacturer time and money, but also prevents reputational consequences associated with the release of defective products.

Even if a defect is detected at a later stage, i.e. during warehousing or distribution, for example, advanced Technology 4.0 will make it possible to track down batches of products with non-conformities and immediately withdraw them from the factory or customer’s warehouse. Connecting production to logistics systems is particularly important in industries where response time to detect defects is extremely important.

Instant response to production data and control of cyber physical systems is made possible by the free flow of information between all components of the ecosystem. Thanks to artificial intelligence and cloud computing, alerts on possible stock shortages, for example, are created based on data flowing in from each stage of the manufacturing process, significantly facilitating production planning and maintaining supply chain continuity.

The free flow of information also allows production staff to quickly access the data flowing from the individual and to react at a glance to the first, even smallest symptoms of failure. In this way, with Industry 4.0 solutions, cyber physical systems are always ready for action and kept in optimum condition. This translates into a lower probability of failure, which in turn results in downtime, which is considered a loss in the lean philosophy.

Industry 4.0 – benefits

You have already learned what 4.0 is and what 4.0 means in the industry. Surely you are now wondering which industries can benefit from the fourth industrial revolution? The concept of Industry 4.0 is so broad and flexible that it can be adapted to the needs and requirements of virtually any industry related to manufacturing and beyond. 

A good example of an industry that makes the most of Industry 4.0 is the automotive sector. Hardly any other industry strives to optimise production and ensure its continuity more than the automotive industry. Due to the scale of production, even the smallest machine downtime generates huge losses. This is why car manufacturers use different solutions to protect them from production interruptions.

The effect a company wants to achieve depends on the right choice of algorithms, which will be able to meet the requirements set for them. Their selection should be carefully considered and analysed, as they will form the basis for the introduction of Industry 4.0 solutions in a given company. They will also influence the way in which all internal processes are optimised, regardless of the industry in which the manufacturer operates.

When the basics of Industry 4.0 were presented in 2011, many people feared that the fourth industrial revolution would result in massive layoffs and job losses. However, these were unjustified fears, and skilled personnel, remain an essential factor for a company to reap the benefits of introducing smart manufacturing.

Industry 4.0 – summary

We hope that after reading our article, you already know what 4.0 is. The fourth industrial revolution implies further digitisation and automation of manufacturing processes, but not only that. The basic premise behind Industry 4.0 is to build an entire ecosystem, the components of which are production machines, workers and management, and to enable the rapid exchange, collection and analysis of data from system components.

The rapid exchange of information is intended to enable continuous improvement of all stages of the manufacturing process. Thanks to it, it is possible, for example, to instantly catch defective products and temporarily stop production, thus saving the company time and money.

If you are interested in purchasing state-of-the-art machines, built in line with industry 4.0, then we invite you to use the contact form on our website. Our experts will certainly clarify all your doubts and help you choose the best solution for your company.