The term “Industry 4.0” refers to a manufacturing concept, developed by German industrial engineers, considered to be an extension of digitalisation. The initiative was introduced in Europe to promote a technological revolution in factories, which they believed would do for manufacturing what computerisation did for offices and factory floors 20 years ago: make them faster, more efficient, and more responsive to customers’ needs.
Industry 4.0 encompasses all advanced manufacturing technologies, including those within IIoT, such as robotics, predictive maintenance, smart wearable technology, and computer vision.
Also known as the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 is already upon us and the benefits will be huge. The aim is to fundamentally change the way manufacturing plants operate. So, what is this new industrial revolution? And, what does it look like in practice? Read on to explore some of the applications of Industry 4.0 that have transformed the manufacturing workplace!
Robotics is a branch of engineering focused on designing, building, and programming robots for various purposes, from manufacturing to medical applications. In recent years, advances in hardware and software have given rise to a new category of robot: soft manipulators that can move things gently without damaging them, as well as being able to replicate human movements with speed and precision.
A soft manipulator is a mechanical arm made of fabric or rubber rather than metal parts. Advantages of using these robots over traditional industrial robots include that they are lightweight and inexpensive to build. Another key feature of soft manipulators is their flexibility so they can be used to pick up objects without damaging them, which makes them useful for medical procedures, like surgery, and delicate assembly tasks.
Predictive maintenance uses machine learning to predict when machines will break before they do. This allows maintenance engineers to schedule repairs and replacements before problems arise, improving overall production capabilities.
One of the greatest values that predictive maintenance can add is that it can help optimise production capabilities. By forecasting and preventing failures, predictive maintenance engineers can increase machine uptime. As a result, more time can be spent running instead of fixing broken machines. Plus, by alerting operators early on when a machine is about to fail, you can avoid potential production stops completely.
The ability to extract information about an asset's mechanical health is not new. However, in recent years, advances in data analytics have made it much easier to use predictive maintenance technology. Real-time analytics programs that perform predictive maintenance can rely on data from sensors that monitor temperature, pressure, vibration and other key indicators of equipment health.
With innovative wearable devices in Industry 4.0, an organisation can improve on employee efficiency and boost employee morale. Hence, monitoring by collecting data from a workforce becomes a great utility for every manager in a business.
With reality smart glasses, users can interact with high definition 3D content projected into their world around them. A physical environment that provides relevant information to companies in an industrial setting could be beneficial to their operations. For example, users might be working on a machine that requires specific maintenance instructions, and these instructions could appear when they point their heads towards the machine. As with remote work or visiting clients at their premises, smart glasses can help workers to collaborate more easily as they can seamlessly share their workspace or real-time virtual environment with coworkers regardless of their physical location.
Wearable smart vests are form-fitting garments, made of rubberised materials, designed to collect data points regarding employee movements and location, all while being discreet enough that no one will even notice they are wearing it. This helps gain a greater understanding of where breakdowns happen in productivity, so that you can deploy staff more effectively throughout the day and reduce errors on production lines. Not only that, but these vests can also be used for safety, especially for higher risk sections of industrial manufacturing.
Today's businesses operate in a highly competitive and fast-paced environment that necessitates the use of innovative solutions to stay ahead and remain profitable in the long run. To remain relevant in today's business environment, companies need to look beyond just physical logistics and understand how digital technologies, such as mobile communications, big data analytics, and predictive analytics can be used to manage their shipments in an efficient manner.
As labour shortages in logistics continue to mount, many companies are turning to automated warehouse solutions in order to ensure that they have enough workers available when they need them most. Robotic loaders and unloaders can be used in conjunction with a pallet-based system or a goods-to-person system to improve operation speed, increase worker safety, and allow inventory to be updated more efficiently.
A growing number of companies are starting to utilise Warehouse Execution Systems (WES) technologies, which help to streamline processes in an automated warehouse setting, with smart picking and smart palletising both being popular features. Automated storage and retrieval systems can also help you store and pick orders in a highly organised and efficient manner.
Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is a transformative approach to industrial production that enables the manufacturers to produce spare parts on demand.
Put simply, additive manufacturing is a method for making 3D parts from a digital file. In contrast to conventional methods, which remove material from a solid starting piece of material (subtractive manufacturing), additive manufacturing adds material to create objects in layers. It allows engineers and designers complete freedom in designing parts for any application.
Computer vision is a branch of artificial intelligence and machine learning that develops methods and technologies that allow computers to analyse visual content.
In manufacturing, computer vision has made visual search possible, allowing customers and technicians to take pictures of the part they need and get results instantly. It can be almost impossible to track down the right part when your manufacturing machine breaks, especially if you aren't even sure what brand or model it's from. When parts are missing or need replacing, there's no time to waste; every second counts if you want your machines up and running again.