Industry 4.0: what it is and how it will help your business

What is Industry 4.0?  

Industry 4.0 is the fourth industrial revolution. It refers to the continued automation of manufacturing and industrial practices using technological advances.  
Understanding the Industrial Revolutions 
When understanding Industry 4.0, it’s really important to understand the context with regards to the other Industrial Revolutions. We break down the developments that came with each industrial revolution.  
  • Industrial Revolution 1: This is when steam power and the use of mechanisation truly revolutionised manufacturing capacity. By replacing manpower, production capacity could increase tenfold.  
  • Industrial Revolution 2: In the 19th century the use of electricity and assembly lines made processes faster and cheaper to do.  
  • Industrial Revolution 3: In the 1970s computing and automation have meant that entire processes can run with very little human intervention.  
  • Industrial Revolution 4: This is where we find ourselves now. Often known as Industry 4.0 it builds on the third industrial revolution with the digitisation of manufacturing and smart factories.  
Industry 4.0 glossary of terms 
Industry 4.0 doesn’t just represent one area of development. You’ll hear a lot of phrases that are all part of Industry 4.0.  
Here’s what they all mean:  
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) – physical objects with software attached that are able to exchange real-time data with other connected devices and systems over networks  
  • Cyber-physical systems (CPS) – a computer system in which a mechanism is controlled or monitored by computer-based algorithms. 
  • Smart manufacture – employs computer-integrated manufacturing, high levels of adaptability and rapid design changes, digital information technology, and more flexible technical workforce training 
  • Smart factories – a highly digitised shop floor that continuously collects and shares data through connected machines, devices, and production systems. 
  • Cloud computing – allows remote access to data via the Internet, rather than having to log in to a specific device or server. This data is shared across the supply chain, from supplier to customer, for a more efficient end-to-end process. 
  • Mobile – Digitise paper-based processes and make required information and actions available on mobile devices at the point of action. 
  • Wearables – Make data capture transparent to the users and encourage easier adoption of the technology. 
  • Analytics – Predictive and prescriptive analytics to help decision making and optimise cost vs benefit. 
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) – permeates the entire principle of Industry 4.0. AI algorithms can optimise the supply chain and manufacturing operations  
The manufacturing industry before Industry 4.0  
For businesses that are still adapting to Industry 4.0, and falling behind their competitors, a lot of processes are still paper-based and disconnected.  
Take a production line in a factory, once an important production machine shows signs of failure e.g., noise, vibration, etc. companies rely on an operator to report the issue to a central team. The central team will usually raise an issue in a system and from there it is allocated to a technician to have a look. The technician will pick up this work when he visits the central IT office in the factory and prints the work order. The technician will then need to have a look at the machine and make visits to the spare parts warehouse to put in a formal request (again paper-based) for the parts required. All these updates are noted down on a piece of paper that is handed over to the central admin for data punching.  
When you break it down like this, you’ll see how slow this process is, and how much room for human error there is. Additionally, with paper-based systems, paperwork can be lost or damaged. There are lots of areas where this slow process can go wrong.  
How can businesses adapt?  
Forward thinking and growth minded business leaders cannot ignore Industry 4.0. As you bring in smart technology and enterprise mobility, you’ll need to consider how you adapt the skills of your employees.  
Upskilling is going to be something that is a key part of implementing industry 4.0. 
Why should businesses adapt?  
When reflecting on pre-Industry 4.0 in manufacturing, warehouse, and factory settings it is clear that this was a slow process that had room for error.  
How can On Device Solutions help your business?  
If you are an SAP customer, there are four key areas where On Device Solutions can help you apply Industry 4.0 to your business. 
  • Digital Asset management including IoT. Watch this video below for a real example 
  • Paperless warehouse management 
  • Digital production and process orders 
  • Paper-free inspections and quality management 

With Industry 4.0, businesses will: 

Mobilise their workforce by using mobile apps on a range of devices. 

Solve issues that arise in real-time, such as broken or missing equipment. 

Improve reliability and cut down on any human error. 

As experts in Enterprise Mobility, we have a range of services available for businesses. As well as out-of-the-box solutions such as myJobCard, myWarehouse, and myAsset, we are also able to create bespoke solutions. 

Adapting to Industry 4.0 does not have to mean vast changes to your business but can mean vast improvements in your output, profitability, and productivity. 

Contact us today. 

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