The world of manufacturing is going through its fourth revolution, called Industry 4.0. This has made manufacturers upgrade their systems to keep up with the times. Thanks to these upgrades, the market for Industry 4.0 is expected to reach USD 165.5 billion by 2026. Behind this revolution are technology trends like IoT and AI. These rapidly developing technologies are changing the way the manufacturing industry operates, and are making the systems smarter.
What are Industry 4.0 and IoT?
Industry 4.0 is all about automation, interconnection, and data exchange between different systems in the factory. And how do factories achieve that? Using a range of modern technologies and processes like cyber-physical systems (CPS), IIoT, cloud computing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. CPS stands for automated systems that use algorithms to perform complex tasks and require minimum human interaction. CPS is the primary driver of manufacturing change with Industry 4.0.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) brings interconnectedness and data exchange capabilities to the factories. Different assets including machines, vehicles, and buildings have embedded sensors and processors that create the IIoT. A control system collects data and provides controlling power for various purposes across the system. And it doesn’t end there, as IIoT also opens the factory to AI, ML, cloud computing, and big data analytics which utilize the same infrastructure.
Influences of Industry 4.0 and IoT on The Future of Factories
In simple words, Industry 4.0 is the great technical revolution of today, and IoT is the leading technology behind it. This combination of Industry 4.0 and IoT has brought massive changes to the way modern factories function. Here are five ways they are influencing the future of factories.
1. Optimized Manufacturing
The central goal of any industrial revolution is improving efficiency, optimizing operations, and ultimately increasing profits. Industry 4.0 does this with smarter automation for factories using CPS and IoT with AI for continuous optimization. These systems take sensor data into account to make complex decisions without human interaction.
Smart automation minimizes human-machine interaction. Add to that IoT, real-time data monitoring, and data analytics using AI, and you have smart factories. These factories can predict maintenance, have transparent inventories, optimize logistics and make better decisions at all stages – from the factory floor to the highest level. Consequently, all operations are optimized, with reduced downtimes and improved efficiency. The effect of the optimization is increased profits, higher-quality products, and a better customer experience.
2. Improved Productivity and Safety
The manufacturing industry has improved worker safety with each revolution. Today, we know that the safety a worker feels at work directly impacts their productivity. With Industry 4.0, these changes are being led by IoT and smart robots.
Since IoT requires sensors on all assets on the factory floor – including workers – it creates a picture of the floor for the system to analyze. Whenever a worker is in an unsafe condition or closer to a machine, the system warns them or turns off the machine. Moreover, there are now robots that reduce repetitive tasks and avoid worker burnouts. These are called smart cobots and they help maximize the efficiency of a factory by working in tandem with workers.
3. Better Logistics Management
Factory logistics management is the lifeblood of any factory. Without a proper logistics management strategy and infrastructure, no factory can run efficiently. Industry 4.0 brings technologies like IIoT and AI to create resilient supply chains and logistics.
Industry 4.0 logistics management is a comprehensive approach towards optimization. Factories often begin by upgrading to a safer and faster material handling system for a larger effect. Better material handling – with automatic and semi-automatic systems – can improve the quality of the products and overall productivity. The next area of improvement is inventory management. With AI and IoT, a modern inventory management system improves information transparency and optimizes inventory levels. There are automation trends and lean warehousing practices which are becoming common as well.
The competitiveness of factories comes from making their logistics as optimized as possible – and IoT and Industry 4.0 make it possible. The management systems used today take advantage of AI and ML to make better-automated decisions based on numerous variables.
4. Smarter Maintenance
Poor maintenance is often behind unplanned downtime and high costs of maintenance. Interconnected factories provide the infrastructure required to change the old inefficient maintenance system. With help of IIoT and a smart CMMS, factories can implement predictive maintenance to achieve near-zero unplanned downtime.
Predictive maintenance entails the use of sensors to monitor asset conditions in real-time to predict maintenance needs. The system uses real-time algorithms that utilize all available information to create a picture of the asset’s health. Engineers get notifications through the CMMS to schedule maintenance only when the asset requires it. The information also reduces asset wear and improves efficiency.
According to a McKinsey report, predictive maintenance reduces maintenance costs by 10-40% and cuts downtime by 50%. Using AI, the CMMS learns from each failure and improves predictions for a future with near-zero unplanned downtime. Industries have already started adopting predictive maintenance and the market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 31% between 2021 and 2030.
5. Big Data and Cloud Computing for New Avenues of Progress
Big data analytics and cloud computing have a great influence on the future of factories. The infrastructure being created around IIoT has a great potential to generate large amounts of data and transfer it. With the rising data transfer speeds, due to optical fibers and 5G growth, factories are going to be able to transfer computing to the cloud and reduce costs.
Currently, factories utilize a small amount of data produced by systems due to limited computing and analytics power. To transfer the data to the cloud, systems will require IIoT first, which Industry 4.0 has already brought to the floor. Big data analytics with cloud computing can provide great insights into production and management for any industry. This information can help find opportunities for improving manufacturing and making impactful decisions.
Industry 4.0 is optimizing manufacturing by combining high worker productivity and automation instead of focusing on removing humans. The future of manufacturing is one with interconnected machines, automated systems, and workers connected through IIoT. As manufacturers adopt these new technologies, you can expect major shifts in the industry that will also impact ordinary lives in positive ways.