What is Industry 4.0? This is a very good question, and it’s one that many business owners are currently asking. But to understand what Industry 4.0 is, it’s important to first understand the industries that preceded it. There have been three previous industrial revolutions – the first industrial revolution (also known simply as the industrial revolution), the second industrial revolution, and the third industrial revolution. Each of these revolutions has played a part in leading up to the current Industry 4.0, so it makes sense to examine these in a little more detail before looking at Industry 4.0.
The First Industrial Revolution
Beginning around 250 years ago, the first industrial revolution marked the first time in history where humans were replaced by machines. This was made possible with the technological advancements that came as a result of steam power being used.
The Second Industrial Revolution
The second industrial revolution was characterised by great advancements in a number of areas such as electricity. This revolution saw the introduction of the mass production assembly line in factories.
The Third Industrial Revolution
The third industrial revolution saw the arrival of complicated computer technology and sophisticated electronics. Humans were replaced on production lies by machines capable of performing automated production tasks.
It’s clear to see that as each industry progresses, humans are being replaced by machines as jobs become automated. This is both a good and a bad thing simultaneously. Nobody wants to lose their job or see others without work, but at the same time, technology will continue to advance no matter what – and new jobs in other areas will be created as a result of advancements.
Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution as it is also known, is the industrial revolution we are currently in the midst of. It is essentially the era where computers and automation are coming together in a way that’s never been seen before. Industry 4.0 incorporates the internet of things, digital technologies, big data cloud computing and artificial intelligence into factory systems, meaning intelligent production will soon become a reality.
One of the main things to come out of Industry 4.0 will be the ‘smart factory’. A smart factory is in essence a place where cyber physical systems will monitor physical processes, meaning that the factory’s computer system will have the ability to make intelligent and informed decentralised decisions with minimal input. An Industry 4.0 factory will possess a number of qualities, including the ability to make informed decentralised decisions, solve problems and support humans in decision making processes, communicate with people, machines, sensors, actuators and other devices, and also incorporate the internet of things.
While Industry 4.0 presents its own set of challenges, just like the industrial revolutions that came before it, it’s clearly a logical progression that will bring with it a wide range of benefits. By utilising cloud computing, the internet of things, artificial intelligence and big data, intelligent production may one day become a reality.