There is plenty of buzz around Industry 4.0. But what, exactly, is it?
Well, first off, it’s very much an umbrella term. Under the umbrella are many dramatic changes that are happening across the manufacturing environment, leading us to the factory of the future.
Here is a rundown of seven (has to be the magic seven, right?) key themes:
- New and Improved Processing Technologies
The last twenty years has seen moves away from large scale centralized manufacturing to more localized, specialized and customized approaches. The poster child for this is the emergence of Additive Manufacturing, which is finally moving from the green plastic frog demos to real time products. There are plenty of other processing technologies that are emerging as well, (often tied in with improving sensor technology) including adaptive robotics, reduced weight construct designs, surface property enhancement, and nano-build approaches.
- Digital Manufacturing and Design (DMD)
Digital Manufacturing and Design is perhaps the core enabling technology of Industry 4.0; this is the full digitization of the design and manufacturing processes. Savings in both cost and time are enabled by defining products and the processes needed to produce them in an electronically transferable and compatible digital format.
- Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
Yes, your future fridge might tell your future oven to preheat to 400 °F as it has all the ingredients for a lasagna! In the manufacturing world, we are talking about the interconnection of devices across the factory floor and enabling the automated transfer of manufacturing data to a common location, and potentially up to the cloud, for future analysis.
- Data Analytics and Autonomous Decision Making on the Cloud
While the cloud has been mostly used as a depository of data enabling wider access across an organization, we are moving to a more proactive use of the data with customized, cloud-based, IoT analytical tools designed to find correlations, trends, and make key decisions on future production.
- Fog on the Edge
While the data analytics promised by cloud-based IoT systems shows great promise for future operational planning and strategic decision making, data transfer rates are likely to remain too slow (or expensive) in most cases to allow the cloud to actually “run the machines.” Particularly so as data sampling rates of sensors become more capable. Hence, this still needs to be done locally with PLC and IPC technology (known as Edge computing) with options to transfer the raw data to a more localized data station (known as Fog computing, low hanging cloud, get it?) via a LPWA network perhaps. Statistical summaries might then be generated and uploaded to the cloud for sharing across the organization and the entire value chain.
- Cyber Security and Blockchain
As production becomes more digitized and the connectivity of devices increases, it will be key to ensure that it is protected from cyber threats. An essential part of the developing IIoT cloud software will be its resistance to cyber intrusion. Another likely technology that can be adopted is blockchain which is a distributed, encrypted, electronic ledger, designed to ensure the integrity of each data block as it is added to the database. Blockchain appears to be ideal for ensuring confidence in data transmitted across enterprise boundaries, which bring us to…
- Vertical Integration of Operations Across the Value Chain
One of the key promises of Industry 4.0 will be the enhanced communication, both in detail and speed, of data used for decision making. Making better decisions faster than competing value or supply chains will ensure a competitive advantage that will be very difficult to overcome.
By Peter Miles, Technology Acceleration Manager, GENEDGE
For a deeper dive into Industry 4.0, join GENEDGE for an Introduction to Industry 4.0 lunch and learn on March 27 at the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) (opens new window). Attendees will learn about topics such as IIoT, the Digital Thread, DMD, and a Future Factory, plus tour CCAM and see what this premier advanced manufacturing research facility has to offer. Attendees will also have the opportunity to sign up for a free, on-site Industry 4.0 assessment.
This event is free, but registration is required. Click here to register.