The concept of Industry 4.0 or its counterpart, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, represents a new milestone in industrial development that furthers the digitization of production processes. This increases their efficiency, quality. and safety.
The introduction of digital technologies in industrial plants renews the way we operate and produce by transforming products, supply chain, and expectations with customers.
Four advances are the driving force for digital transformation in Industry 4.0:
- Digital information: Data collected in the physical world is processed, analyzed, and stored in a digital record. This improves forecasting and decision-making.
- Process Automation: Manual and repetitive work is replaced by systems that can work autonomously, thereby eliminating errors and reducing processes.
- Intelligent manufacturing: A fully integrated flow that synchronizes the pre-production, production, and post-production phases, achieving greater productivity, sustainability, and economic performance.
- Connected Customer: In Industry 4.0, the customer is highly informed and increasingly demands a more active role in elaborating products, presenting challenges to the suppliers, and generating new business opportunities
Industry 4.0 Smart Factories
Industry 4.0 automation and intercom are the basis for the optimization of design and production processes. They allow companies to manufacture their product in a way that is highly customized, flexible, and efficient.
New developments affect the entire product lifecycle ensuring its vertical and horizontal integration. Starting with research, design, prototyping, production, distribution, and customer management, as well as linked services. The technology used in Industry 4.0 interconnects the agents involved who can react in a more agile way to further the manufacturing process.
The scope of these significant advances makes has engendered great improvements in jobs, customized products for individual customers, and greater interaction with suppliers. These developments are making organizations more predictive. This leads to increased productivity and competitiveness and significant cost reductions.
In a Smart Factory, production control is absolute. Digital information integration provides real-time access to data, which will be examined and utilized for each line, interest, or user profile, in order to be relevant to the business and its goals and objectives.
Both operators who have screens with information that promote efficiency in their position, as well as data obtained in real-time by company managers or department managers, provide greater capacity to diagnose the overall situation of the factory and integration of effective decisions in the production system.
Generating a regular flow of information brings effective value to the whole system by impacting more efficient resource management, improving all processes, and increasing enterprise in profitability.
Key Technologies of Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 offers a new vision. It relies on technological bases that are currently under continuing development that will enable the transformation of the energy and manufacturing sectors. It will increasingly connect products to a fully integrated and transparent value chain.
Innovative tools in the fields of simulation and optimization, condition monitoring, alarm management, and quality prediction provide the industry with a human-machine interface (HMI) and a decision support system (DSS) that ensures outstanding user support.
Technological pillars of Industry 4.0:
- Internet of Things (IoT): Not only are computers connected to the network but everyday machines, devices, and objects provide us with information and data relevant to further analysis.
- Advanced robotics and artificial intelligence: Machines created for the purpose of automating tasks, decision making and even learning, trying to emulate the logical thinking of the human being.
- Systems for vertical and horizontal integration: Each company selects an internal implementation of a service or process (vertical) or integrates services or processes into cooperative or outsourcing mechanisms (horizontal)
- M2M (Machine to Machine) Communication: Thanks to various technologies, machines communicate by exchanging information. By doing so, they are able to perform efficient actions without human intervention.
- Cyber-physical Systems: Include devices that incorporate computational, storage, and communications competencies in order to direct and interact with a physical process or processes.
- Big Data: This is the massive analysis of data, which can be processed and stored for unknowns and issues that previously could not have been resolved in the company.
- Hyperconnectivity: As a model of society permanently connected to information through different devices modifying the traditional way of relating to everything around us.
- Cloud Computing: A new paradigm consisting of a new model of implementing ICT services connected over the Internet.
- Cybersecurity: It is the practice of protecting the computer systems of companies from malicious attacks that could jeopardize the proper activities of such systems by using them or disrupting their operation.
- Digital manufacturing (3D/4D printing): Digital manufacturing is an integrated approach to manufacturing that is centered around a computer system. The transition to digital manufacturing has become more popular with the rise in the quantity and quality of computer systems in manufacturing plants.
- Virtual and augmented reality (VR): VR is a technology takes us to a digital world with glasses and a screen in front of each eye. In augmented reality, we do not limit our view but increase the access to information by adding relevant knowledge in real-time.
Incorporating some or all of these elements into the company’s value chain facilitates the flow of information from the physical world to real-time business decisions.
Companies do not need to apply all the above-listed technologies to change factories to smart Industry 4.0 driven businesses. They only need to pick and use those that are deemed to be beneficial to them.
Connecting industrial devices to a network enables real-time data extraction and remote control. This is why Big Data can become one of the manufacturing companies’ great allies. Data analysis and management lead organizations to optimize different industrial and energy processes.
This is why the convergence between industrial process automation and Information Technologies improves operations (automation, flexibility, speed, and productivity), reduces costs, as well as improves process and product quality.
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