INDUSRTY 4.0: Future of Manufacturing Technology

Manufacturing Technology

We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society. The First Industrial Revolution (1.0) used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second (2.0) used electric power to create mass production. The Third (3.0) used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution (4.0) is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century.

It is a term that originated in Germany around 2011. It describes the next generation of industrial production based on cyber-physical systems. What exactly does factory 4.0 promise us? Imagine not only fully robotized production lines, but also very connected. In these so-called “smart factories”, the production will be flexible enough to manufacture each part differently according to the need, and thus to adapt the production in real time according to the demand. In the 21st century, Industry 4.0 connects the internet of things (IOT) with manufacturing techniques to enable systems to share information, analyze it and use it to guide intelligent actions. It also incorporates cutting-edge technologies including additive manufacturing (3D Printing), robotics, artificial intelligence and other cognitive technologies, advanced materials, and augmented reality.

Make no mistake: the manufacturing sector is in the midst of a sea change, though its final outcome is far from certain. Right now, there are still more questions than answers: What is Industry 4.0 has to do with Manufacturing Industry?  What’s the difference between a “smart” factory and a dumb one?  Is the fourth industrial revolution only for large original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), or can small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) also benefit?  How will this affect the skills gap?  And, most important of all: When does the revolution begin? The smart factory, also sometimes called “the factory of the future” is the keystone of the fourth industrial revolution. Indeed, it’s often represented as the aggregate of all the Industry 4.0 technologies: cyber-physical systems—physical assets connected to digital twins—the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), data analytics, additive manufacturing and artificial intelligence. But what does that actually look like? How will the smart factories of Industry 4.0 differ from the “Currently Smart” factories of Industry 3.0? Coming to the question of what differentiates smart factories from “current Smart” ones, the answer on a case-by-base basis seems to be, “Not much.” That’s because the biggest difference between the current smart factories of today and the smart factories of tomorrow isn’t what’s inside them, but rather the network that connects them. If a factory is producing a quality product, the processes are tuned, the supplier channel is correctly monitored and everything is running like a well-oiled machine. I think that factory today and the factory of the future are, quite frankly, going to look very similar. This goes back to the point about Industry 4.0 being more about optimization than invention. Hence, Optimization is the watchword for Industry 4.0, emphasizing the role that big data analytics will play. If you think about it in the medical industry,a doctor gets really skilled by seeing many patients over a long time. That enables them to build a strong mental model about what symptoms lead to what medical condition. And that’s what we’re doing: trying to increase the number of patients we’re seeing. However, rather than increasing instrumentation inside individual facilities, the key is to improve the interconnections between separate facilities.

We have pretty significant instrumentation already, given the first wave of technology that was introduced with digital control systems, but the problem was that the data was always encapsulated within the four walls of a plant. Allowing that data to come to a central repository—in a cloud environment, for instance—where it can be shared across many plants is what gives us an advantage. That, to me, is what Industry 4.0 is all about.
New Developments in Manufacturing Nothing defines an industrial revolution better than the technology involved, so it’s worth considering what to expect from the machinery and software of Industry 4.0. Given the sheer scope of technological change entailed by an industrial revolution, covering every new development in a single article is impossible. Instead, let’s focus on two areas in particular: additive manufacturing and the IIoT. Once again, the fourth industrial revolution proves to be more about optimization than innovation. In the case of additive manufacturing, it’s a matter of improving production and post-production processes—like heat treatments—and materials, or more accurately, material selection.

Challenges and opportunities Like the revolutions that preceded it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world. To date, those who have gained the most from it have been consumers able to afford and access the digital world; technology has made possible new products and services that increase the efficiency and pleasure of our personal lives. Ordering a cab, booking a flight, buying a product, making a payment, listening to music, watching a film, or playing a game—any of these can now be done remotely. In the future, technological innovation will also lead to a supply-side miracle, with long-term gains in efficiency and productivity. Transportation and communication costs will drop, logistics and global supply chains will become more effective, and the cost of trade will diminish, all of which will open new markets and drive economic growth.

So, when does the revolution 4.0 begin? Unfortunately, if you’re hoping for something like a date to plug into your calendar, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. It helps to remember that the dates for previous industrial revolutions are merely approximations—it’s not as though on Jan. 1, 1760, there was some official declaration that the industrial revolution had begun. Revolutions on this scale are never so simple. Rather than worrying about when Industry 4.0 begins, consider asking yourself a different question: If the fourth industrial revolution begins tomorrow, will I be ready? And as you read this article, we already would be at horizon of Industry 4.0 waiting for big picture to unfold and experience.

Regards, Charudatta M Bodhe Director, PARAMETRIC TECHNOSOFT

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