Industry in its many forms is constantly evolving to adapt to new technology and advancing techniques. One hundred years ago, automated assembly lines might have seemed like science fiction rather than the foundation of dozens of industries as it is today. Just 30 years ago, Industry 4.0 would have seemed like a pipe dream — utilizing big data and the internet of things in conjunction with established physical supply chains to optimize supply, production and delivery.
With any networked system, there is always the potential for security risks. What is Industry 4.0? What potential risk are involved with its technology? How can you identify Industry 4.0 benefits for your business? Keep reading to deterine your best course of action.
The New Revolution: Industry 4.0 Benefits
Industry 4.0 is a buzzword coined by the German government in response to the adaptation of the trend toward new technology and technological practices, but it’s become more than just a buzzword —it’s quickly shaping the world of industry and is hailed as the new industrial revolution. What changes is Industry 4.0 bringing to the world that could potentially benefit both new and established companies?
- Information Transparency: Information transparency is one of the biggest tools of this new industrial revolution. Essentially, information transparency is creating a digital copy of the physical world. When you’re dealing with IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) devices, this creates a cache of information that allows the connected devices to put the information they are collecting into context.
- Connectivity: The whole point of the IIoT is to enable separate devices to communicate with each other and work together as a whole. This, among other things, allows changes to the production line to be completed at a single workstation. If all the production machines are interconnected, one command can easily trickle down the system and complete any and all necessary changes.
- Reduced Costs: The IIoT is designed to make industries more efficient, and one of the ways it can do this is by lowering costs. By creating that foundation of information transparency and connectivity that we’ve already discussed, IIoT devices help increase efficiency and provide the information needed to improve labor planning. It is also an invaluable tool for inventory planning and reduction — big data can change the way companies order and store supplies. We’ll address that more in a moment.
IIoT also helps reduce maintenance cost. Most maintenance is done in a reactive manner — when something breaks, someone comes in to fix it. By integrating all the equipment through the Industrial Internet of Things, predictive algorithms can be applied to the data collected, creating a kind of prediction. By studying repair trends in the past, these algorithms can predict with relative accuracy the kind of repairs that are going to be needed in the future. The more information the system can collect, the more accurate these predictions are.
Big Data and Predictive Analytics
The connected industry is quickly becoming the industry of the future, and the application of big data is a large part of that. Big data is a buzzword used to describe the information that a company collects. In industry, this information generally includes things like sales trends, inventory information, loss reports and customer data.
Those same predictive algorithms that we mentioned before can be applied to this set of data to make predictions about the industry itself. With enough information, these big data systems can predict sales trends, necessary inventory levels and many other data points. Most companies order more supplies than they need, so that they don’t risk being caught without the necessary inventory when they do end up needing it. Big data could potentially eliminate the need for over-ordering by accurately predicting what a company will need for each given quarter.
Industry 4.0 Isn’t Without Risks
Every new technology has its risks, and the advances powering this new industrial revolution are no exception. The primary concerns seem to center on customer privacy and cybersecurity concerns. The use of cloud computing, for example, creates a security risk if the company hasn’t installed firewalls or other additional virtual security tools.
A study done in Switzerland found that while the risk of cyberattack isn’t necessarily higher for the new Industry 4.0 technologies, it does still present a risk if those technologies are implemented faster than the security protocols designed to protect them.
At the Cost of Jobs
The implementation of Industry 4.0 benefits operations and plant managers because it allows them to simplify their production process as jobs become easier and more cost-effective to fully automate. While it’s difficult to find comprehensive lists of industries that will be affected by this change, many jobs that could be lost to automation and IIoT devices include:
- Construction: Specialized tasks will still require a human touch, but manual tasks like laying bricks or foundations could easily be replaced by automation.
- Math-based fields: Insurance underwriters, bank tellers and financial analysts could all be at risk for being replaced by automation.
- Inventory management: With nearly every item being marked with barcodes or RFID tags, it’s becoming easier to automate inventory management.
- Taxi drivers: Self-driving cars are coming closer to reality every day, and it might not be long before your Uber drives itself.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The loss of jobs that are considered low-skilled will likely open the doors for many industries of the future that cannot be completed without a bit of human empathy. In addition, more high-skill jobs will be created. These machines won’t run themselves! Workers that understand their components will need to maintain them.
Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution, is upon us and there’s no going back. How do you think this move toward technological innovation will continue to shape global industry? Let us know in the comments!