You may have wondered what are the technologies driving Industry 4.0? We explain them here, and how manufacturers can get started.
Industry 4.0 is catapulting the manufacturing industry into a new realm. Also known as the “fourth industrial revolution”, Industry 4.0 refers to a world in which machines interact and respond intelligently to their surrounding physical environment. In short, it’s the digital transformation of the manufacturing industry. (For background, see how Industry 4.0 brings together the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence and data science in a digitalisation of industry.)
New technologies are emerging all the time. But there are also certain existing technologies that are accelerating Industry 4.0 — not only in terms of their advancing capabilities and power, but in their capacity for mass-market application as their cost and size have come down. Here are some technologies to watch…
So, here are three technologies driving Industry 4.0 to watch…
- Sensor technology
The Internet of Things (IoT) plays a huge role in Industry 4.0 due to the vast number of sensors with the potential to feed information into processors, drive predictive analytics and enable cognitive manufacturing. (You can find some basics on the IoT here and more information here on whether the IoT is the essential ingredient for Australian food & beverage manufacturers. I also spoke about the IoT at the National Technical Forum during Auspack.)
Sensors can be used to detect and measure physical characteristics or conditions, from resistivity to temperature, and can be easily integrated into or alongside production machinery. Sensor technology is constantly evolving, and now, “intelligent sensors” can perform other functions, such as processing, analysing and even reacting to the information, or transmitting the data across the network for use in a software application.
- Advanced manufacturing processes
Next generation robotics, 3D printing (additive manufacturing) and artificial intelligence (AI) are just a few examples of advanced manufacturing processes that are radically accelerating Industry 4.0. There is huge scope offered by 3D printing technology in terms of rapid prototyping, production and logistics processes, while AI and advanced robotics have the potential to increase individualisation and flexibility. AI can also help increase reliability in production and analyse big data, along with enhancing the co-operation between humans and machines on the production line.
- Media storage and processors
Data is the cornerstone of Industry 4.0. For decades, manufacturers have been collecting and storing data with the goal of improving operations. But as equipment has advanced, so too has the sheer volume of data to be collected.
Industry 4.0 relies on the fundamental ability to collect and analyse the right data to make better decisions around improved operations, quality and safety. This includes both structured data, stored in databases, and unstructured data, such as photos or video footage of production processes.
While the advancement of sensors has propelled the collection of data, it is the capability of media storage combined with IT processing power that has enhanced the ability to interrogate larger, more complex data sets in real-time production environments.
Bringing it all together
“Connected manufacturing” is the key idea behind Industry 4.0, so how do you bring it all together? There are two enablers:
- Developing open connectivity standards
- Bridging the gap between specialised industrial PLC programming with traditional software programming
What we’re talking about here is interoperability, or the electronic communication and management of data through the Internet of Things.
Factories often have a diverse range of automated manufacturing processes and equipment. These systems must be able to connect and communicate with an overarching, plant-wide control system, so that everything speaks the same language. Manufacturers now have access to the architecture that bridges these diverse automated systems and achieves true connectivity.
Where is the best place to start implementing Industry 4.0?
While Industry 4.0 makes sense for new sites or new production lines, it’s unlikely that most organisations will outlay significant capital to replace every part of their existing infrastructure.
However, nobody says that you have to. In fact, there will be an intermediary period of intelligent information-driven manufacturing (iDM), where existing devices will be connected across the entire value chain to deliver real-time improvement insights. We’re calling this “Industry 3.5”, because it’s the stepping-stone to realising the gaps while working towards Industry 4.0.
The first step of iDM is to gain visibility of your line. Identify every single machine or process, from raw materials to finished and packaged goods, that is not currently “connected” and understand what information is immediately accessible.
By taking steps towards information-driven manufacturing, you can identify where opportunities to optimise, change and improve truly lie. This will ensure you are deploying automated and connected solutions in those parts of the process where it makes sense to do so and where they will bring the greatest rewards.
By understanding and harnessing the technologies driving Industry 4.0, manufacturers can start reaping the benefits of a connected factory for their business — particularly in terms of better decision making. The best advice for manufacturers is to start small, but plan big. Industry 4.0 is real, so it’s critical that you begin your journey now.
Speak to Matthews Australasia about how to automate your labelling, coding, inspection processes, and integrate your coding and inspection equipment within your packaging line.
And make sure you check out Matthews’ vast resource library. It has a host of detailed information that’s all free to download! There are whitepapers, presentations we’ve done to industry bodies, infographics for manufacturing, case studies, articles from our thought leaders, vids showing solutions in action and more!
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