There’s a buzz word that has been going around for quite a while now, and it’s Industry 4.0. But what does really Industry 4.0 mean?
The term is derived from the German Industrie 4.0 and is used to indicate the 4th industrial revolution that started in 2012 and that will drastically change, in the upcoming years, the way in which goods, including medicines and medical devices, will be produced.
Over the centuries mankind made several precious inventions that improved its way of living, eating and also of working. When talking about the manufacturing of goods some inventions were so profound and important that caused a massive change in the production processes world-wide: a revolution, in short.
This is exactly what happen at the end of the 18th century when steam was introduced on the production floor allowing to carry out operations that required a consistent amount of strength. The change was so important that impacted not only the industrial world, but many aspects of every day’s life such as transportation with the steam boat and the steam locomotive.
The second industrial revolution happened thanks to the idea of a man whose name you’ve heard for sure: Henry Ford. The introduction of his assembly line technique marked another milestone in history: the beginning of the mass production era. With mass production, manufacturing sites were able to produce more while reducing production costs.
If “more strength” and “more speed” were at the heart of the first two industrial revolutions, the innovations introduced with its third wave were related to “more control”. With the invention of computers, humans were now able to have an artificial intelligence performing some parts of the production process and even monitoring specific production steps or flows. In the 1960s Industrial automation opened a wealth of possibilities that allowed to implement more complex and delicate production processes as well as to monitor environmental conditions in which these processes were being carried out. SCADA, DCS and MES systems were developed in order to support these new production processes, providing means for interacting directly with machines.
So what is going to revolutionize the manufacturing landscape for the fourth time? Considering how our lives have been impacted by technology in the last 10 years, at least one answer should come quite easy to your mind: internet!
Industry 4.0 is a set of new technologies that have been identified in order to work towards creating the so called smart factory. Internet will be the basis upon which building additional features such as, for example, massive data collection, that can allow companies to perform specific analysis to improve efficiency or predict breakdowns. Production personnel will be able to leverage on new technologies as well, using virtual and augmented reality. Smart glasses will allow the operators to have relevant information presented in a simpler way directly before their eyes.
Robots will interact with human operators along production lines, helping them in performing repeated and low value added activities and enabling them to focus on where their input is really needed. Technology will allow us to create networks of intelligent machines and equipment that will autonomously interact and exchange information, adjusting the way in which they cooperate based on specific parameters sensed in real time.