We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. – Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum
Industry 4.0 is much more than just a flashy catchphrase or empty marketing buzzword. The term was first officially used in 2011 at Hannover Messe, the world's largest industrial technology event held annually in Germany. Industry 4.0, Industrie 4.0 or The Fourth Industrial Revolution (whatever you wish to call it, as they all refer to the same concept) was coined by the German government for an initiative promoting the computerization of manufacturing as part of their national high-technology strategy. Since then, it has taken off in both popularity and application across the industry, promoted as the vision for the future of manufacturing by industry experts, technology providers and academics alike. So, what is it all about?
According to Industry 4.0, we are living in a time of massive, rapid and disruptive technological innovation which has enabled major advancements in the manufacturing IT space, as a result ushering in a new wave of industrial automation and digitalization. How did we get here? Manufacturing has changed drastically over the centuries. The First Industrial Revolution transformed the manufacturing industry by harnessing water and steam power to mechanize production. A century later, The Second Industrial Revolution used electric power to create mass production and usher in the adoption of the assembly line in the factory. The Third Industrial Revolution followed in more recent decades as a result of the increasing use of electronics and information technology to automate production.
Industry 4.0 is distinctly different from the age of the computer which preceded it. Industry 4.0 is characterized by a fusion of new technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical and digital worlds of manufacturing. The increasing prevalence of Cyber-Physical Systems (CPSs), Internet of Things (IoT) and Cloud Computing has been the driving force behind the technological advancements in manufacturing that have triggered a new industrial revolution. Moreover, this trend towards industrial digitalization is evolving at a velocity, scope and systems impact never before experienced in the history of manufacturing. The basic premise of Industry 4.0 is that new technologies are enabling businesses to connect people, things, machines, and systems in order to create intelligent networks along the entire value chain. By merging the virtual and physical worlds of manufacturing, billions of machines, systems and sensors will communicate with each other, share information and control each other autonomously. This will not only enable companies to make production significantly more efficient, it will give them greater flexibility when it comes to tailoring production to meet consumer demands and market requirements.
By adopting these new technologies and leveraging them to bridge the gap between the physical and virtual world of manufacturing, businesses are moving towards the creation of autonomously decision-making and acting, self-organizing, smart factories. The Digital Enterprise is the future of manufacturing, and Industry 4.0 enthusiasts would say the only means by which a manufacturing business can hope to stay relevant and competitive in the increasingly complex and demanding global market of tomorrow.
Now you understand the basic principles of Industry 4.0. But what does it really mean for the business of manufacturing and what should manufacturers do to adapt and ensure that they are not left behind? Watch this video.