Industry 4.0: the fourth industrial revolution

Industry 4.0 is the automation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the digitisation in manufacturing with machine-to-machine and human-to-machine communication.  It includes the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and cyber-physical systems.

Industry_4.0_NoText (1)A ‘smart factory’ works by the cyber-physical systems monitoring physical processes, creating a virtual copy to make decentralised decisions.  Via the IoT, the cyber-physical systems ‘talk’ to each other and humans, in real time.  This trend is now affecting almost every industry across the world and how businesses are run.

By 2022, Industry 4.0 will be worth U.S. $152 billion and industrial robots will hold the largest size of the industry 4.0 market.

Improving the industrial process

With Industry 4.0, there are four major drivers, including:

  1. Rising data volumes, computational power & connectivity
  2. The emergence of analytics and business-intelligence capabilities
  3. New forms of human-machine interaction, such as touch interfaces & augmented-reality systems
  4. Improvements in transferring digital instructions to the physical world, such as robotics and 3D printing.

But like any major transition, seamless integration isn’t always the case and Industry 4.0 has challenges that need to be addressed.  Data security must be a focus, as new systems are introduced.  A high degree of reliability is needed, as well as maintaining integrity of the production process, with less human oversight.  The loss of high-paying jobs is also a concern… and who deals with technical problems?

Australia’s 4.0 taskforce

The Asia Pacific region is expected to hold the biggest share of the Industry 4.0 market between 2017 and 2022 so the Australian Government is getting ready for this.

In April 2017, the Prime Minister’s Industry 4.0 Taskforce signed a cooperation agreement with Plattform Industrie 4.0.  This partnership will serve as a platform for information sharing between our Australia and Germany – including the development of global Industry 4.0 standards.  Challenges that will be covered include reference architectures, standards and norms, support for SME’s, industry 4.0 testbeds, security of networked systems, and education and training.

To remain relevant, companies must embrace new models quickly and react to ongoing changes.  A two-speed data architecture can help teams deploy the latest technologies at the right speed, while still maintaining mission-critical applications.

Using big data & analytics for actionable insights

Data doesn’t account for much unless it’s used for the basis of transformation.  The challenge is to adopt a long-term perspective and invest in technology that enables data collection and ways to understand it.  Manufacturing is being re-defined with new IoT enabled devices.

The next step is to build partnerships focused on advancing a specific field or create end-to-end solutions which will result in an ecosystem that delivers a whole new layer of value.

Industry 4.0 in the automotive sector also has several advantages including self-monitoring capabilities, network flexibility, opportunity for customisation, and an agile supply chain.  Maintenance issues can easily be identified and auto manufacturers can customise vehicles.

And it’s not just manufacturing and automotive that can benefit from Industry 4.0. According to a recent survey pioneered by the German Engineering Association (VDMA), 90% of the small and medium-sized companies consider digital transformation an opportunity.

Training, or re-training, the workforce will be the biggest challenge to overcome with Industry 4.0.  As mundane tasks get taken over by robots, humans will take on new roles overseeing duties, rather than doing them, which demands a multi-disciplined person.

If you would like to know more about Industry 4.0 opportunities for your workforce, please contact Wendy Perry at wendy@workforceblueprint.com.au.

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