Industry 4.0 and Next-Gen Manufacturing

The next generation of manufacturing is upon us. Whether it is being referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 or 4IR, its impact is undeniable. And as written at The Manufacturer, “Those manufacturers who are slow to adapt will find themselves losing business to competitors who are willing to push forward.” So, what is this phase we find ourselves in, and what shifts do we need to prepare for? Let’s break it down.

Defining Industry 4.0

Before jumping into what Industry 4.0 entails, it’s important to understand the types of demands leading to its prominence. From sustainability to economic digitalization, there are a variety of influences that have driven this era. Perhaps the most significant is the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the many challenges that came with the pandemic, adjusting to meet consumer needs amid major disruptions was just one of them. But unparalleled in relevance is the progression of technological innovation. In response to such factors, you get the fourth industrial revolution in which there is a reconfiguration of how businesses manufacture and distribute their products and services.

There are a few characteristics unique to this budding stage. Aspects include, but are not limited to, increased automation, use of robotics, 5G networks, AI, cloud computing and IoT devices. When implemented, these offer major advantages like enhanced efficiency. In turn, they also offer monetary advantages. It has been predicted that Industry 4.0 could lead to $3.7 trillion in value for global manufacturing by 2025.

Industry 4.0 In Action

This next gen of manufacturing is being put into play by many organizations across fields. From Unilin Group, a flooring manufacturer, turning its largest production facility in Belgium into an Industry 4.0 operation, to Spanish snack food company Leng-d’Or utilizing sensors and collaboration tools to reimagine research and development, there are countless examples. But its reach goes beyond those working directly in manufacturing.

The effects of Industry 4.0 are being felt by all of those with a stake in the supply chain. One such sector is the federal government. “These new capabilities enable agencies to collect real-time, real-world information on the status and location of their people, their assets, their equipment and their infrastructure and know exactly how ready they are for their next mission, whether it’s a military deployment or civilian disaster relief, “explains Peter Dunn in an article for FedTech Magazine.

This shift is also being experienced in sectors like healthcare, aviation and mining where Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) is being increasingly integrated.

Benefits and Priorities of Industry 4.0

As manufacturers and other industries progress further into the possibilities of Industry 4.0, there is still a lot to explore. But there are benefits sure to come. For one, predictive maintenance is likely to become easier. That means manufacturers will be able to streamline the process of identifying and addressing problems. Although these technical changes have stirred cybersecurity concerns, they also have the potential to improve cybersecurity since operators now have greater access to network data.

While adopting these benefits, it is important to ensure that they are evenly dispersed and handled ethically. Industry 4.0 is global, therefore it will take collaboration to “build roadmaps that re-skill the workforce in preparation,” as put by Revathi Advaithi, Blake Moret and Felipe Bezamat at World Economic Forum. The three priorities that they suggest we uplift in our 4IR journey are innovation, inclusion and sustainability. In other words, we must emphasize the obtainability and overall human and environmental impact as we continue into this next chapter.

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