The Technologies Transforming Industries 4.0
1. Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or often referred to as Industry 4.0, is currently underway in all aspects of the global economy. Industry 4.0 represents the ongoing automation of both the traditional manufacturing processes and other industrial practices across non-manufacturing sectors of the economy.
But what exactly are the technologies driving this unprecedented movement? This article will outline and highlight some of the main technological trends that are catalysts in this Fourth Industrial Revolution. Included in this review will be a look at the Industry 4.0 technology trends foundational to this movement.
2. Industry 4.0 Technologies: 5G
5G digital networks are the latest in mobile connection technology and are an integral part of industry 4.0 manufacturing. 5G networks have already begun to have a noticeable impact on Industry 4.0.
Although 5G is relatively new on the scene, it is changing, and will continue to change, the traditional role of wireless communications within the manufacturing sector. Prior to 5G technology, front offices, their manufacturing facilities, and related warehouses had limited connectivity when it came to intelligent machinery and the idea of a fully “connected” manufacturing ecosystem. With 5G’s reliable and consistent connection capabilities, manufacturing plants, warehouses, and the front office can rely on autonomous machines to operate at full capacity uninterrupted.
5G comes with a great deal of technical capacity and network characteristics that are essential for manufacturing. 5G provides low latency, high reliability, greater bandwidth, and connection density to support various manufacturing applications.
In a 2020 article titled, “Smart Manufacturing Powered by 5G,” Wilson Chow, Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications Leader, Partner at PwC China noted that “the sheer richness of the 5G-enabled factory, which will have the capacity to maintain connections among far more sensors than either wired or previous wireless facilities, offers the potential to connect just about anything.”
It’s no wonder that these mobile 5G networks offer even greater flexibility at a lower cost. In addition, shorter lead times are providing manufacturers with the ability to quickly reconfigure or make alterations to factory floor production when necessary. And 5G technologies will enhance and continue to build out manufacturing’s acceptance of the Internet of Things (IoT) with its flexibility to connect machines and devices across locations.
3. Industry 4.0 Technologies: Robotics
When it comes to manufacturing, robots are not a new technological phenomenon, however, the continual advancements being made in robotics, automation, and machine learning are certainly new. One of the latest aspects of robotics has been the development of collaborative robots or “cobots,” which fill in the gaps between robots and human workers. Cobots are designed to assist humans in a manufacturing plant since they are equipped with sensors as well as power limiting features that make collaboration possible. Some of the distinct ways cobots work with humans includes:
Power & Force Limiting
Safety Monitor Stop
Speed & Separation Monitoring
Each of these features allow cobots to be easily programmed. They are user-friendly and don’t require engineering support to program. Cobots can be quickly set up. They are designed with short deployment times in mind and come with out-of-the-box functionality. Finally, cobots can have a positive impact on employees. Because cobots take on the task of highly repetitive processes, a human worker is freed up to do more complex processes, keeping them employed while having a more positive impact on their view of work.
For example, Ford Motor Company has been using robots in their German manufacturing plans since 2016 to fit and insert shock absorbers into their cars. This has freed up the workforce in that facility to do more complicated tasks as well as being more attuned to safety and security measures.
4. Industry 4.0 Technologies: Machine Learning
Machine learning is one of the most important technological factors for industry 4.0. This technology can do some of the following:
Make the gathering and storage of data simple and affordable.
Increase plant capacity by optimizing various production or factory processes.
Reduce costs associated with maintenance through predictive maintenance analysis.
Improve supply chain management with greater inventory management.
Provide actionable insights that can turn to actions that improve manufacturing quality and increase product quality.
Because of these benefits and more, major companies are investing in machine learning technology and solutions across their manufacturing processes as they continue to see positive results. They see decreases in labor costs, increased workforce productivity, and combined with robotics and automation, machine learning is opening the field of smart manufacturing and the connected factory.
5. Manufacturing Companies are Saying: Tech Yes!
There are many other contributing factors involved in Industry 4.0, but the three described above are some of the biggest technologies facilitating this new age for manufacturers.
With the introduction of 5G mobile networks, better collaboration between humans and robots via cobots, and the addition of machine learning as part of robotics and automation, it’s no wonder that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is surging forward.
If you want to learn more, be sure to check out the George Brown College blog to learn about Industry 4.0 trends and explore their online technical training programs if you’re interested in pursuing a career in robotics.