21 Jul Manufacturing 4.0
Since the last decade, industries have seen a transition of using automated machines. Intelligent work has taken over manual labor. But what the future holds is far more tantalizing than robotic arms working on a magnetic belt. Today, the world is set to experience another wave of revolution, the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Let us rewind and trace back to where it all started: ²
- The 1st Industrial Revolution in 1784 began with the production of a mechanical loom powered by steam and water.
- The 2nd Industrial Revolution took place in 1870, where electricity came into existence and changed the picture of manufacturing industries.
- The 3rd Industrial Revolution almost a century later in 1969, was another step into the future with the introduction of electronics and IT in the industrial ecosystem.
- The 4th and the latest Industrial Revolution that started in the 21st century dwells deeper into the world of automation by connecting things via Internet using Big Data and Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS).
What exactly does the Manufacture 4.0 brings to the world?
First and foremost, with the Internet as its basis, the Manufacturing sector will see a transformation in the production line as products and their machines will communicate with each other offering all the information about the desired product without much manual input . Professor Dr. Detlef Zühlke of The German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), Germany, gave his insights on the topic. He said, “Factories will consist of modules that are intelligent. It can be compared to a world of ‘Lego’ bricks. In other words, we will have standardized modules that we can hopefully connect and combine quite easily. Each of these modules has a particular functionality and in the future we can combine them to form an internet within the factory.” ¹
The Radio -Frequency Identification (RFID) micro-chips within the objects will be wirelessly connected through Internet of Things (IoT). It will give the commands of the functions of processing, like which material to use, how much of it is to be used, which colour, texture, shape or size, etc. The transmission of these commands will take place from the object to the machines that produce them, thus, creating a communicative intelligence of things. Dr. Zühlke added,“ The vision is that we take the Internet down to the lowest level; in other words, every sensor, every actuator is a part of the Internet of Things. Each device thus has its own IP address so that it can be addressed in this network individually.” ¹
The machine-to-machine (M2M) communications will be brought about with the help of sensors and communications technology. Thus, the integration of computation, networking and physical processes with feedback processes is the core of CPS, where the computing effects the feedback and vice versa. In this way, the Cyber-physical systems will communicate and control each other cooperatively. Eckard Eberle, CEO of Industrial Automation Systems said, “Industries 4.0 is based on the logic of Cyber-physical systems. These are autocratic, independently operating systems which self-optimize and communicate with each other and ultimately, optimize production as a whole.” ¹
Using Big Data and its 3 Vs (Volume, Velocity and Variety) the futuristic Industrial Machines will predictively analyze their issues, failures, reboots, etc. Manufacturers will be able to boost quality and output while minimizing waste of resources, materials as well as time. There will be agility is problem solving and faster decision making for businesses. ³ With the introduction of cloud computing, this large volume of data will be flexible enough to be managed from anywhere, and to create an exchange of information for streamlined and uninterrupted processing. ⁴
What are the principles of Manufacture 4.0?
- Decentralization: With the augmentation of CPS, the decision-making will not be limited to a single machine. The M2M communications will ensure that suspected risks are identified in advanced and another machine is ready to take over while the previous one energies repairs.
- Modularity: There will be flexible coupling of modules possible which will enable customization as per the need of the hour.
- Real-time operations: The availability of Big Data and Cloud Computing, with its virtually instantaneous data processing, will enhance problem solving skills by the computer.
- Virtualization: With the addition of Augmented Reality (AR) to Simulations, traceability and remote processing of modules will be possible from any corner of the plant.
What will be the challenges faced while stepping into Industry 4.0?
- The advancement in technology usually predicts loss of jobs in manufacturing, but that is only partially true. While there maybe no requirement of manual labor, irreplaceable human skills such as creativity, critical thinking, design, innovation, engineering etc. will see a steep rise. It will become important for people to be educated in these high-paying, increasingly in-demand jobs, and forget the stereotype associated with working in manufacturing sector. 5
- Reliability and Security of the online cloud space will need strengthening as cyberspace and cybercrime would also be a threat that may see a surge in the coming years. The entire model must be as secure as possible to eliminate the dangers of misuse of the data and analytics collected by the machines. 6
- Technology continuously evolves, and so will this model of manufacturing too. Hence, it will become crucial to rapidly update and adapt to it. This will only be possible if there will be maximum integration of flexibility while making the current models.
What is the vision for the 4th Industrial Revolution?
Highly flexible, individualized and resource friendly mass production of customizable products are the primary aims for the future.
The customers will enjoy tailor-made products with relatively affordable prices, while the industries will enjoy flexible mass production that can be rapidly adapted to market change.
Manufacturing industry needs to start gearing up for the torrential change that will take over the markets in a few years. They can start with updating the staff with professionals of the IT industry, while also educating the existing staff about the relevant courses available to retain the adaptive ones. Also, researching about the new model of production and how the product offered by the company can be suitable customized with it is a good step forward.