Today’s manufacturers are revolutionizing the industry’s processes through automation and data exchange. From the Internet of Things (IoT) to smart factories to artificial intelligence (AI), the latest technologies integrate people and systems, forming a digital ecosystem that leverages data to optimize manufacturing operations in real-time.
The fourth industrial revolution is here, and it’s called Industry 4.0.
Let’s explore how Industry 4.0 is defining the future of automation in manufacturing and how businesses can adapt to and adopt these exciting changes.
What Is Industry 4.0?
Broadly speaking, Industry 4.0 is a term that encompasses the manufacturing industry’s shift toward automation and data exchange to improve the manufacture, iteration, and distribution of products.
Specific technologies include:
- Artificial intelligence (AI)
- Cloud computing
- Cognitive computing
- Cyber-physical systems (CPS)
- Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
- Internet of Things (IoT)
- Smart factories
- Smart manufacturing
These automation technologies wirelessly enable manufacturing machines to monitor production, visualize results, and form autonomous decisions to increase productivity, improve efficiency, and ensure exceptional customer experiences.
Industry 4.0: The fourth industrial revolution
- The first industrial revolution brought us factories with mechanization, steam power, and water power.
- Next came the second industrial revolution, with electricity and Henry Ford’s assembly line which empowered mass production.
- The third revolutionary wave hit when the manufacturing industry leveraged electronics and IT systems to develop CNC machining and automate processes that were previously highly complex and often dangerous.
- And now, we’ve arrived at the industrial revolution’s fourth iteration. Defined by cyber-physical systems, Industry 4.0 tackles productivity and efficiency in new ways, celebrating nimble business structures and Agile thinking.
Set the Stage for Industry 4.0
There’s no “Easy” button for increasing productivity and efficiency. Before making a move to Industry 4.0, it’s important to establish the proper infrastructure.
In a manufacturing line where everything is automated and software-driven, extensive data is constantly being generated. With the right infrastructure in place, you can leverage that data to drive productivity and efficiency enhancements throughout your business.
Go data diving
Now is a great time to fully integrate your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to perform data fusion that can be applied within a bigger data model. You’ll quickly see how robotics and process automation enable significantly improved repeatability compared to traditional manufacturing processes.
Let’s evaluate a welding system that performs automated tacking, welding, and part handling. The value of adding automation to precision machining extends far beyond mere labor assistance; an automated welding system offers outstanding repeatability. Every weld will be the same.
Now, the monotonous work of perfect repetition can be redesignated away from your people and to machines that don’t get tired or sick or hungry or grumpy or distracted. With fewer repetitive tasks, your team can focus on improving quality for your customers, such as dialing in part tolerances and overseeing inspection processes.
The simple act of bringing robotics systems integration to your welding services does more than fill a job opening. It marks the start of your journey toward revolutionizing the entire approach to manufacturing.
Where to Begin: Minimizing Human Intervention
Industry 4.0 is here—but you have to opt in. The easiest way to begin is by minimizing human intervention. Ask yourself, What part of this process can we easily automate? Look to the jobs that pose the most risk: the dull, dirty, and dangerous jobs.
Even the slightest increase in automation will quickly reveal improved efficiency. Processes that once absorbed five hours of labor can now be completed in 45 minutes. With cobot integration, work that previously required three people can be managed by one person.
Now you can reserve human talent for roles robots can’t adequately perform. Only people can creatively solve problems, discern minor tweaks, inspect for improvement opportunities, deburr parts, and navigate unfamiliar tasks.
When we, as people, wash our hands of dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks, our work life improves—and that, in turn, improves the products we produce. The entire industry benefits from healthier workers and happier customers.
Start Small to Grow Big
There’s no need to “go big or go home.” In fact, most companies thrive by starting small and working toward larger, more comprehensive automation goals. If you try to do everything at once, you may find yourself frustrated by the complexity of the project—not to mention the cost and time required.
Here’s what we recommend instead:
Do ONE thing.
Business advisor and author Jim Collins developed Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs, a concept outlined in his book Great by Choice.
First, fire bullets—low-cost, low-risk rounds that reveal what does and doesn’t work. Think of it as calibrating your aim.
Next, review your data. Once you achieve statistical validation, it’s time to fire a cannonball, concentrating your resources into a single, significant effort.
Get in the Game with Help from Kinetic Technologies
Starting small may feel underwhelming at first, but if you reset and Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs over and over again, you’ll quickly see the impact of your efforts. Make the mistake of starting with a misguided cannonball, and you’ll waste your resources and set yourself further back than you already were.
Remember that if you aren’t actively moving toward Industry 4.0, the competitors who are will leave you in their dust.
So start small.
Fire a few “bullets.”
Gather your data.
Research project opportunities that provide grants to companies that are actively implementing Industry 4.0 technology.
And embrace the future of automation in manufacturing.
When you find your starting line, and you’re ready to run the race, Kinetic Technologies is here to help you design, build, and fire that first cannonball.