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Industrial Revolution 4.0


Intelligent Automated Connectivity - The first Industrial Revolution is accredited to of started in the late 18th century with the move from service and an agricultural economy to the automation of production, with the introduction of such as looms in hosiery manufacture.


The next wave of industrial production at the start of the 20th century, commonly accepted as the start of the second Industrial Revolution welcomed mass consumer goods production that was affordable by wider populations previously only being available to the privileged few.  The late 1960’s saw the growth of the ‘digital age’ electronics and Information Technology, facilitated by new advanced in Industrial processes heralded a new era of automated production; the third Industrial Revolution. The pace of change and advance seeming to grow exponentially.


With the advent of micro engineering, RFID and sensors, the fourth Industrial Revolution is following fast in the age of IOT (Internet of Things) and Big Data; the connectivity of networks, devices and manufacturing. Connectivity where data is transmitted and translated seamlessly by almost every device, in all levels and processes.


The new age will see a shift from mass production to small and customised batches, the introduction of 3D printers, low cost and intelligent automation may even make it viable to produce individual units, in high volume lines or cells; such as in high value items such as cars are scheduled today.  Production in high labour cost economies will be competitive on price with low cost countries and people will work differently, potentially for a better work-life balance.


Germany is at the forefront of Industrial Revoution 4.0, the technology strategy is now part of their High-Tech Strategy 2020 Action Plan (November 2011). This involves the integration of cyber-physical systems into manufacturing and logistics and the use of the ‘Internet of Things and Services’ in industrial processes.  The ‘Internet of Things’ has varying definitions, but really means the wireless, smooth transfer of data between computers and electronic devices, cars, machines and other consumer and industrial equipment, for mutual collaboration.

Germanys industrial might focussed via organisations like the VDA or the Fraunhofer Institute encourages companies like Siemens, Bosch, VW ; large and medium-sized engineering and manufacturing companies; looking to link IT technologies needed for manufacturing and end users.  Technology convergence that includes, sensors, robots, communication, advanced manufacturing equipment and controls with intelligence; with capability such as 3D printers, Computing Advances, AI (Artificial Intelligence), Vision Systems and Virtual Reality Headsets.


Simplifying this revolutionary convergence of technology: Industry 4.0 will enable better business, via a system of effective communication between machines, business management and supply chain ICT (Information Computer Technology) platforms.


It is also an industrial system that involves higher levels of collaboration between technology vendors, customers, technology partners and suppliers through the entire supply chain. No islands of automation or golden links in the chain.


As with all emerging technologies there must be strong business case in industry 4.0, concerns must quantify the benefit especially in such a collaborative future, this suits Germanys industrial approach and others will follow.


The MTC (Manufacturing Technology Centre) whose material is referenced identified five key issues to solve by employing Industry 4.0.


First, better communication within supply chains by sharing data. ‘’The vision is for all partners in the supply chain to get access to the same information; OEMs, SMEs, customers, designers, external engineering companies, Rail, Aerospace as well as Manufacturing Supply Chains are moving forward in their adoption.


Industry 4.0 can create this connectivity across the whole network, delivered via a cloud or service platform.  Manufacturing and services – or ‘servitisation’ – is a big part of this agenda.  The National Academy of Science and Engineering in Germany, which formed the original ‘Industrie 4.0’ working group, has now implemented a Smart Services strategy within Industry 4.0 to establish robust cloud-based business networks that integrate with production systems.  One can see the evolution of servitisation and the fourth industrial revolution as being interdependent.


Second, there is a need for more autonomous advanced manufacturing systems that engage in autonomous decision-making, completely changing the labour component.


Third there is a perceived risk associated with expensive technologies, especially from SME’s. addressing the lack of understanding of the benefits of the technology.


Fourth, there is a challenge to bring advanced analytics to those businesses and supply chains in conjunction with more traditional information systems such as Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) or Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). The enhancement of the functionality of shop floor systems by providing intelligence on top of it. Moving some decisions that are made at the supply chain level that need to happen to the shop floor level, requiring intelligence embedded in the hardware level; this is akin to the physical adoption of MRP or ERP in software planning processes in the 1980’s.


Fifth the virtual factory; an environment that will test different solutions using modelling and simulation techniques; ICT, operational and analytics solutions are all being tested before they are actually implemented in real factories; this could be via trusted agnostic institutes, partners or vendors with appropriate technology.


Three key areas of focus - Three key areas to provide help for industry with Industry 4.0: standards, skills and interoperability. The typically standard approach taken by German industry and commerce prior to adoption, that is best practice.


Standards:  IT standards enabling hardware and software to communicate to other hardware and software platforms.  The ability to have coding structures, alignment in data standards etc.

In September 2014, the UK Government announced a funded programme over three-years as part of a push to co-develop advanced standards for the Internet of Things in Britain.


Multidisciplinary Skills:  Integration as a cohesive operation and processes of mechanical, electronic and electrical, software and ICT in the shape of Systems Engineering and Mechatronics a key to tomorrows automated factories and supply chains.


Interoperability:  Companies need to recognise the need to share data as Industry 4.0 progresses if they are to remain competitive and viable in the long term.  Information sharing to optimise performance in specific industries is best practice over many years, and mature outside the manufacturing sector, such as in the software industry and car service sector.

Momentum is gathering.


Industry 4.0 is gaining momentum.  A report by Deutsche Bank in April 2014 underlines its importance in Germany for global companies, the Mittelstand of smaller firms and even the general public.  While the term has imprecise definitions, the report says its mystery could be a deliberate ploy by marketeers to whip up interest and overblow expectations.  But it says this is a very big business and the future of manufacturing, indicated by two yardsticks: the devotion in 2014 of the world’s largest trade technology show, Hannover Messe, to it, and the German government’s support provided by a number of ministries, which includes grants totalling €200 million.


Automotive, Electronics industries and industrial giants like Siemens  see that the results could be transformational .  Early adopters may realise big competitive gains, intelligent automated processes could provide a permanent ‘steroid shot’ to even the most efficient systems, flexibility, visibility and ability to adapt.

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