How industry 4.0 is revolutionising manufacturing
Industry 4.0 is rapidly transforming the manufacturing industry; driven by the intelligence of machines and their inter-connectivity. It also hails the introduction of cyber-physical systems and IIoT (industrial internet of things) on the factory floor.
Modern methods of manufacturing are driving the major advancements in industry 4.0; which in turn brings improved efficiency, sustainability and quality.
In 2015, robots performed a global average of 10% of factory tasks. By 2025, it’s predicted that the number will increase to over 25% and up to 40% in certain sectors.
Automation will enable individuals to perform more engaging tasks. This will also see the common usage of co-bots to work alongside individuals to perform the repetitive or dangerous elements.
To have a sustainable, smart factory of the future, these six key technologies are the key to success:
- Machine-to-Machine Connections – A major element of unlocking the factory of the future is machine to machine (M2M) communication. It’s a real opportunity to have a fully automated manufacturing environment that will provide real-time data analytics and for predictive maintenance work to be carried out, prior to machine failure.
- Additive Manufacturing /3D Printing – The advent of this technology has rapidly transformed the product development life-cycle. No longer are there days or weeks lost waiting for completed and fully functional prototypes. This is now available at a fraction of the time and the cost. Visualising your future product isn’t the only advantage of additive manufacturing. It also allows for easily customise products based on individual requirements. Additive manufacturing also reduces lead times and the necessity to carry large amounts of inventory items and makes supply chain management far easier.
- Augmented/Virtual Reality – This has seen a major uptake in recent years with over 200 large scale multinational companies, operating across a broad scope of industries. Usage of AR/ VR has now gone beyond the traditional boundaries of gaming and has entered ‘real world’ usage. The opportunity it provides is massive and can help organisations to optimise their operations. AR has already been implemented with companies using remote assistance along with Microsoft Hololens to speed up the repair or operational process. The advent of technology also allows for an expert to be based anywhere in the world.
- Cloud – Two key elements needed to introduce IoT on to the factory floor are connectivity and an ongoing source of data. Cloud computing allows us to store and analyse the information that we have extracted from the production line. Connected machines are more able to provide valuable insights and self-report issues; therefore, they are more proficient and of a higher quality. Insights captured by smart robotics can be used to predict any issues in the machinery and preempt the solutions needed. Computing environments must have room for rapid expansion in order to cope with the demand of the high volumes of data that can be mined from smart robotics, augmented reality and machine-to-machine communications.
- Enhanced Visualisation and Advanced Simulation – Time, resources and money are wasted when manufacturing lines are not simulated. Simulation technology can be used to test and observe operations before physically performing them. During the design phase, advanced simulation creates a ‘digital twin’ of the physical object or a digital replica of the physical asset. This stage is usually before a manufacturing complex is fully in operation and allows a company to monitor each stage of the process throughout the duration of its life cycle, including; downtime, scheduling and maintenance. Simulation of the actual environment allows software on your computer to provide the best solution to challenges that may arise in the physical environment. This creates a closed loop cyber-physical system.
- Smart Automation – A term used to describe the blend of technologies used to automate the manufacturing industry. In this rapidly evolving era, we have moved on from a robotic arm that’s only ability is to assemble products. With enhanced intelligence, robotics can now provide essential data and insights to enhance your processes.
It doesn’t stop there though; the next cohort of robotics will be smarter and much more efficient. Sensors will become the accepted standard in automation in order to allow robots to exceed in their tasks. Businesses will also become more confident in achieving greater manufacturing results.
Collaborative robots, or “co-bots”, can assess their surroundings and see if a human is working beside them; which creates a safer and more productive working environment.
Industry 4.0 is changing the face of manufacturing in many interesting ways. The six key technologies mentioned continuing to develop, innovate and improve the way in which the manufacturing industry functions. Without a workforce to lead technology implementation, they risk being left behind.