The growth of disruptive technology and disruptive business models is helping achieve what was once thought to be beyond possibility – smart manufacturing. It is shaping entire industries in the process, yet organizations are only beginning to realize that these changes cannot be stopped and they must adapt to thrive. Many SMEs harboring hopes of becoming legitimate players in the industry have already been left behind as they have failed to adapt to inevitable progress in the form of Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT) are key elements of the digital revolution occurring in the business sector. IoT simply refers to the network of physical objects that are connected over the internet through an IP address. Industry 4.0 or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), on the other hand, refers to a subset of the IoT which is concerned with industrial applications.  Industry 4.0 is a pioneering change in business operations right through production to delivery. The application of sensors to industrial machinery and the provision of smart technologies to streamline operations across the entire business organization is a consequence of Industry 4.0. The amalgamation of data available helps provide first-time-fixes.  When technology majors such as IBM, Microsoft, and Cisco to name a few, are already capitalizing on the availability of artificially intelligent systems and analytics in their respective fields, it is no wonder that SMEs who fail to do so are getting left behind.

What does industry 4.0 consist of and what does it mean?
  • The Cloud – The availability of superior computing resources at cheaper prices means that companies can and should no longer be able to sustainably invest their resources on computer infrastructure and maintenance, but should rather be reallocating their resources towards core expertise.
  • Sensors and Associated Devices – In the circumstance that machinery can be operated through digital technologies from remote locations, physical switches, and adapters become redundant and obsolete. Industry 4.0 is moving towards increased digitization of entire production processes. Initiatives taken by BMW to capitalize on digitalization in production serve as an example of the importance of such tools.
  • Artificial Intelligence – The availability of machinery that’s aware of its surroundings and can act accordingly is drastically increasing. Although this has been prevalent in the food industry for some time now, the growth in their functionality has led to them being used across a variety of spaces across the industrial sector. The capacity to identify good parts and bad parts means that the number of defected parts manufactured and errors arising from the manufacturing process are minimal.
  • Big data – A lot of the data involved in production processes tend to be large and complex. The sheer volume and velocity of the data available means that traditional methods of data processing and analysis are no longer viable. Business analytics tackles the challenges of sourcing, capturing, storing, processing, and the analysis of data.
  • Digital Twin and Digital Scanning – It is easy to digitally represent and manipulate physical assets. Data twins in combination with AI can be used to easily identify changes that occur in them along with physical parts. Real-time changes can be tracked effectively using data twinning. Digital scanning, on the other hand, allows for quick manufacturing of prototypes. This drastically improves the speed of product development, allowing enterprises to improve their product offerings as and when required.  

Benefits of Industry 4.0
  • Quality and Productivity – Companies have realized nearly 30% growth in productivity and improvement in the quality of their products and services since the movement from paper instructions.
  • Simplified Training – The potential for simplified training, especially in the line of smart production, is enormous. Through the use of virtual reality and augmented reality, physical objects can be represented digitally. This improves the retention of memory and allows for experimentation leading to faster and more effective learning.
  • Real-time Monitoring – Real-time data made available through Industry 4.0 means that failure of equipment, defected machinery, etc. can all be identified and rectified much faster. This saves the costs of reactive maintenance and helps prevent the mass manufacture of defected products.
  • Demand Forecasting – The availability of big data and business analysts means that vast amounts of data can be used to accurately estimate future demand.  This can assist with the pricing of goods and services on the market, reviewing inventory, valuation, and improving overall profit margins.

To conclude, the extent of benefits offered by Industry 4.0 simply means that it cannot be disregarded by any enterprise. The impact that it can have on increasing productivity, quality, while simultaneously saving costs on repairing and replacing depreciation in machinery and equipment means that it can be nothing short of a vital component in any thriving business.