What is Industry 4.0?

Publication Date: Oct 11, 2021
 

What is Industry 4.0?

Article by Johann Mifsud Executive at eSkills Malta Foundation
 published on the Sunday Times of Malta on 10.10.2021

Industry 4.0 is termed to refer to the fourth industrial revolution brought about by the digital transformation enabled by collection of digital technologies, as applied primarily to manufacturing and industrial processes.

Industry 4.0 is Digital transformation of industrial processes and systems that is centred around information, related to various activities converted in digital format.  This in turn enables interconnected systems to process and analyse, this information to drive further intelligent action back in the physical world. Enabling industrial assets with sensors, tracking devices and other data generation devices, results in actionable insights that are conducive to process optimisation, innovation, and collaboration, thus enhancing value-added.
 
Key technology enablers the following Industry 4.0 can be summarised in the following non-exhaustive list; 
  • IoT: Internet of Things, this refers physical objects like sensors or machines enabled to connect to the Internet.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI): a computer’s ability to perform tasks and make decisions that would otherwise require human intervention.
  • M2M: Inter-machine communication via wireless or wired networks.
  • Cloud computing: Computing Power and Data storage that is usually procured without the dependence of acquiring ownership of hardware, and thus as a service.
  • RFID Technologies: wireless system comprised of two components: tags and readers.
  • Big data and Analytics: Data storage and business intelligence as applied to large volumes of data.  

Technology, especially analytical and visualisation technologies, can remove the need to manipulate data manually, this, in turn, lends itself to the optimisation of processes not only within the boundaries of the company but also towards the business’ extended network such as suppliers and other business partners.

Among the application areas where such technologies have not only proved themselves but also brought significant gain one may find supply chain and storage management, as well as fleet optimisation.

Supply chain monitoring and goods tracking can be very labour intensive in order to track and control large number if products spare parts etc. Introducing automation and tracking technologies such as RFID coupled with AI models and data visualisation can aid data analytics processes. process large data sets, while data visualisation tools enable businesses to comprehend the situation more easily. This in turn results in better decision making that significantly reduces exposure to instances of short supply or possibly losses due to goods that are either obsolete or expired. 

Fleet managers have to optimise the overall cost of transportation, in the face of changing situations such as route changes, seasonal variations as well as rising fuel costs, to improve fleet deployment and staff productivity. In addition to meeting increasingly stricter CO2 emission, requirements are also on top of the agenda.

Digital technology is the pathway to this data via connectivity technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things) devices providing real-time fleet visibility and monitoring. This combined with business intelligence software can extrapolate and evaluate data that accelerate decision-making, towards keeping the fleet moving without disruptions and most efficiently.

Industry 4.0 offers a myriad of opportunities optimize business operations.  Connecting systems that collect large volumes of data can inform about potential problems early before they have a significant impact on the business operation. Analysis of this data may also identify patterns and provide insights that would be impossible for a human to do in a reasonable timeframe. 

Leveraging these technologies, can in fact reap benefits such as enhanced resilience, agility and can significantly contribute towards the bottom line, not to mention contribute towards business that are more environmentally friendly.