The term Industry 4.0, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, encompasses the opportunities provided by the new industrial revolution to boost productivity and scalability. It combines advanced and intelligent manufacturing techniques with IoT (Internet of Things), aimed at creating interconnected systems that analyze, communicate, and use relevant information to drive actions intelligently.
In short, the Fourth Industrial Revolution refers to the automation of traditional industrial and manufacturing processes through the use of modern-day smart technologies, like intelligence, connectivity, and automation.
To create a cyber-physical environment, Industry 4.0 converges Information technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) by employing the latest technological trends, including:
- Big Data
- Internet of Things (IoT)
- Industrial IoT (IIoT)
- Advanced Robotics
- Additive Manufacturing (AM)
- Digital Twins
- 3D Printing
- AR/VR (Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality)
- Cognitive Computing
- Smart Factory
- Predictive Maintenance
- Smart Sensors
Image Source: INDUSTRY 4.0 : The Digital Technology Transformation
These technologies are continuously driving the digital transformation of the modern industrial and manufacturing sectors. Meanwhile, the interconnected computer systems involved in Industry 4.0 are designed to add more value and scalability to the entire supply chain.
Let us explain further about industry 4.0 and its smart uses, who should adopt Industry 4.0 solutions? benefits of switching to an Industry 4.0 model? how can Industry 4.0 reduce your costs? and things to consider before implementing Industry 4.0.
Industry 4.0 and Its Smart Uses
The practical applications of Industry 4.0 and its popular use cases include:
1. Supply chain management and optimization
You can have greater insight, data visibility, and control over your day-to-day business processes and supply chain. By adopting an Industry 4.0 business model, you can deliver your products and services faster and at more affordable rates, while maintaining product quality. It gives you a more competitive edge in today’s dynamic market.
2. Predictive analysis and/or maintenance
By switching to Industry 4.0 technologies, manufacturers can predict before a potential problem arises. Hence, can prevent them before happening. In the previous revolutionary eras, preventive maintenance was a manual task. Moreover, it was depended on your time availability and routine.
However, with IoT systems incorporated within your workflows, you can analyze, detect, and prevent any issues on time before they turn into bigger problems. For instance, you will have the ability to have practical answers to questions like “what is going to happen?”, “why would it happen?”, “How to prevent it?”, etc.
3. Asset tracking and optimization
The solutions offered by the 4th Industrial Revolution are designed to enable manufacturers to manage their assets more efficiently at every stage of their supply chain. Furthermore, it allows them to track their inventory better while maintaining quality and exploring various optimization opportunities associated with logistics.
WATCH: How the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution work
Who Should Adopt Industry 4.0 Solutions?
To find out whether Industry 4.0 is the right solution for your business, check off the items that you are willing to have or require from the following list:
- Facing difficulty in hiring to fill up vacant positions
- Being in a competitive industry surrounded by tech-savvy candidates
- Looking for better visibility across the supply chain
- Identifying and addressing problems on time before they grow critical
- Willing to upgrade to real-time analytics
- Improving product quality and maintaining consistency
- Enhancing customer experience and customer satisfaction rates
- Digitizing your workflows and getting the most out of your valuable information
- Wanting to get real-time data-driven insights to make informed decisions for your business faster
- Tailoring your core business operations to meet the specific requirements of your modern customers
- Opting for a solution having an integrated ERP system that monitors and manages your inventory, planning, customer relationships, finances, along with manufacturing execution and supply chain management.
Benefits of Switching to an Industry 4.0 Model?
Adopting Industry 4.0 can be advantageous for your business in numerous ways, including:
- makes you a stronger team, allowing you to collaborate better.
- enables you to solve potential issues even before they arise and turn into critical problems.
- helps to cut down costs, maximize your profits, and boost business growth.
- makes you more competitive in the face of your rivals and the severe market competition.
- increases your knowledge-sharing opportunities within your team.
- enhances flexibility and agility in your manufacturing firm.
- accelerates the productivity and efficiency of your team players by getting more work done within less time.
- helps to automate key business processes, starting from tracking, monitoring to reporting.
- makes compliance easier by allowing companies to adhere to the industry-specific regulations.
- improves customer experience by resolving their problems and offering better services through advanced avant-garde technologies.
- makes you more attractive to new workers looking for a place to grow.
- creates opportunities to innovate and have a greater knowledge of supply chains, manufacturing processes, business performance, products, and distribution chains.
How Can Industry 4.0 Reduce Your Costs?
You cannot become a smart factory overnight. You need to invest in several systems, resources, technologies, and the like. However, using Industry 4.0 technologies, you can drastically save your upfront costs of manufacturing through the use of automation, smarter data management processes, systems integration, and more.
The key factors about Industry 4.0 that can help reduce your manufacturing costs are:
- Faster manufacturing
- Better use of various resources
- Lesser quality issues related to products
- Minimized production line and machine downtime
- Reduced resources, product, and material wastage
- Lower operating costs
Challenges Associated with Industry 4.0 Adoption
While implementing the solution offered by Industry 4.0, many businesses might face the following challenges, especially during the initial stages:
- Data ownership concerns while selecting third-party providers for hosting and maintaining company data.
- Lack of in-house talent and skillsets to take Industry 4.0 deployment and development initiatives.
- Not having an efficient team to maintain integrity within production processes.
- Lack of confidence to implement a modern digitization plan.
- Limited knowledge about the latest technologies and efficient IT outsourcing partners and vendors that could enable a company to adopt Industry 4.0 successfully.
- Lack of team collaboration or unified leadership, since every player would not be ready to adopt a new work environment.
- Difficulty integrating data from several sources to facilitate initial seamless connectivity.
- Loss of jobs due to increased IT-controlled processes and automation, primarily for blue-collar workers.
- Privacy concerns and lack of regulatory compliance.
- Unclear data security and legal issues.
- High initial costs involved in new business model adoption and investing in the latest Industry 4.0 technologies.
- Lack of enough visibility to identify and correct misconfigurations.
- Not securing the network against cyberattacks and other IT-related vulnerabilities.
What to Consider Before Implementing Industry 4.0
Before making the final switch, here are a few things you must consider:
1. Determine Your Budget
As already mentioned, implementing Industry 4.0 technologies will surely reduce your overall costs and boost your productivity in the long run. However, it may take some time to see the results, and you need to make some initial investment, such as upgrading to smarter machinery and computer systems.
If you are a startup or a small-sized enterprise with a limited budget, then upgrading to such costly solutions won’t be feasible for you. But, you should consider to upgrade soon when you have enough budget because it will be beneficial for your business in the future.
2. Hire the Right Talent
You need to have skilled human resources who would learn to adapt to the new environment and efficiently handle your digitized workflows. In short, you must ensure that your team players are able to operate and monitor the functioning of your automated systems, machinery, processes, and new technologies.
Therefore, train your staff on the correct ways to operate new machinery and technological processes. Also, help your players learn about collecting relevant data and interpreting it for making data-driven and informed decisions.
Whenever in doubt, try to answer questions like, “do we need to recruit new employees with different skill sets?”, “do we need to train our existing staff for adopting Industry 4.0 workflows?”, “how much do we need to invest for training, and for how long will we need it?”. Answers to these will guide you towards making the right decisions for your company.
3. Analyze Your Existing Infrastructure
- Is your existing infrastructure ready to be replaced entirely?
- Will you be able to maintain business continuity or the Industry 4.0 is compatible with your current business model ?
- Is it possible to upgrade some of your computers?
Well, a simple up-gradation might do the job if your existing systems are compatible with the latest solutions, such as communication systems, servers, databases, data storage systems, etc. Moreover, it will save your costs as you don’t have to replace the entire system.
4. Measure Your Benefits with Customer Needs
This is probably the most important of all factors mentioned above. Whatever you do, you should aim at enhancing your customers’ experience and benefit them the most. For example, some customers look for greater flexibility in production, facilitating custom orders, and introducing loyalty points to avail discounts during purchase. While, other customers will demand better visibility in the production systems, shipment processes and fast delivery.
Notably, Industry 4.0 promises to accelerate your profits and success in the years to come by automating your critical tasks and increasing your productivity.