Industry 4.0: Fourth Ripple in a Great Wave!
Posted on: March 13, 2019.

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Stone Age man created a spark probably either by striking together, stones or dry sticks, and discovered fire. However fire could have been introduced to ancient man even by nature, in the conservative form of dry bushes rubbing together and catching flames, or a great, dramatic, forest fire—more than a million years ago! Subsequently, Copper Age man invented the rudimentary wheel sometime in 3,500 BC, for pottery, but it was only 300 years later that he realized that wheels could be bored, coupled by axles, and used to drive chariots.

Only in 1698 AD—about 5,000 years after the chariot wheel was invented—did man combine fire and the wheel—steam generated from a heat source (or fire) to conduct power that operated jointed wheels—resulting in the invention of the steam engine. Forests were chopped down for wood to feed the insatiable fires of the steel industry. This was the First Industrial Revolution, that brought forth the first wave of transformation around the world in the 18th century, laying the foundation for the Industrial Age. Subsequently, the world witnessed three more major waves of industrial revolutions.

Following the discovery of electricity in 1752 by Benjamin Franklin and its potential ramifications like the electric light bulb by Thomas Alva Edison in 1879, the commercialization of electricity paved way for the establishment of assembly lines. This was the Second Industrial Revolution that modernized factories that girdled the globe, in the early 20th century.

The invention of the rudimentary analytical engine by Charles Babbage during the mid-19th century, and its subsequent evolution and commercialization, enabled computerized automation to program machines and robots to complete tasks. This was the Third Industrial Revolution that established the Information Age (a.k.a. Computer Age, Digital Age, New Media Age) in the late 20th century—during the 1970’s.

Today, there is a fourth revolution that is quickly changing the landscape of industries, with machines empowered by artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR)—a move towards manufacturing with a focus on connectivity. This fourth major industrial wave, the Fourth Industrial Revolution “Industry 4.0.” is about integration of autonomous robots and machinery, and other “smart technologies”, presently underway in the 21st century.

This revolution in technology—a combination of physical and digital variants—establishes connections within and across organizations and in people’s daily lives. Let’s look at this with an interesting example of a yogurt company as an example of how smart technology could increase productivity and reduce waste in the food industry.

Traditionally, a machine will fill and label yogurt containers at a remarkable rate. In essence, however, the machine is “dumb.” It will not know if it is labelling the yogurt container correctly or not. It may, for example, put a chocolate packaging on a hazelnut yogurt container. This mistake would cost the yogurt manufacturer time and money. “Product loss”, which accounts for 8% of food production, collectively translates to a financial loss of 50 billion dollars each year. With “smart technology”, such financially critical errors can be prevented. Each piece of equipment would have a digital replica, or a “digital twin”, of what the item should look like, as a “Good Manufacturing Practice” (GMP). The “digital twin” would detect a jar being mislabelled, thereby saving money and frustration for the production company.

Augmented Reality, a relatively new technology, is currently used for critical operations like, say for example, selecting parts in a warehouse through robotics. Engineers look forward to using augmented reality to help employees in both repairing and operating complicated machinery. Let us understand this with the example of a fallen helicopter in a remote area. A person with no experience in helicopter repair could fix it in a matter of minutes with Augmented Reality technology, wearing AR glasses connected to a central computer that knew every detail about helicopter repair. In real time, AR—an overlay of the real world—would communicate to that person the necessary process to repair the helicopter, such as where to place their tools and how to repair a specific spot.

How “Industry 4.0” benefits companies…

Though for some reason industries at present hesitate to fully launch into “Industry 4.0”, its benefits outweigh its concerns.
Identify new opportunities: Using analytics and data, companies can better identify new opportunities, find ways to expand their businesses, and tap into new markets.
Efficiency: The manufacturing process becomes quicker and more efficient, especially with robots and automation using smart technology.
Saves Money: Lowers the risk of high-cost mistakes, and consequently decreases waste.
Better Customer Experience: Customers can sooner be provided what they want, through analytics, customization, and speed.
Increased Revenue: Has the potential to bring companies a great deal more revenue, despite the high initial investment, by virtue of higher efficiency, less product waste, new opportunities, and better customer satisfaction.
Job Creation: While Industry 4.0 may likely replace jobs with automation, it will parallelly create many new jobs, too.


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