Industry 4.0 applications and benefits

There are so many benefits which can be accrued from Industry 4.0 including lower costs, improved efficiency, increased innovation, and higher revenues. This chapter discusses numerous benefits of this new technology.

Paperless Digital Manufacturing Plant

One of the benefits accruing from Industry 4.0 is the ability of manufacturing organizations to operate in a paperless paradigm (Newgenapps, 2017). This technology involves the ultimate digitalization of all processes in the factory. All data is stored in the Cloud. Therefore, it has to be received in a digital format for it to be uploaded. There is no room for recording transactions or production on papers as it has been the norm for the previous industries (Industry 3.0, Industry 2.0, and Industry 1.0).

The emergence of paperless digital manufacturing has a host of benefits for businesses. First is the advantage of increased operational flexibility. In order to ensure that there is immediate response to business changes such as sudden high customer demands, disabled assets, material shortages among other factors, it is paramount that plant managers be provided with fast access to accurate information for better decision-making. In a paperless plant, access to such information in a timely manner is possible, leading to greater operational flexibility

The ease provided by a paperless system leads to free sharing of information and collaboration as opposed to the case of hard copies. As much as it may be difficult to quantify, having an environment in which staff have real-time access to data helps them become more innovative. They have sufficient time to focus on other important issues as opposed to having to sort through documents before passing them around. The paperless digital manufacturing plant is also environmental friendly. It not only ensures the workplace look neat but also reduces on the number of trees which would have had to be cut down just to make the paper. Thus, the implementation of Industry 4.0 in one way could be said to be a step towards following the UNEP efforts to protect the environment (Newgenapps, 2017).

Real-Time Machinery Monitoring and Control

Industry 4.0 is associated with better real-time technology which is required for instant capturing and processing of data. The integration of such a real-time technology into the manufacturing processes helps achieve high productivity and efficiency (Almada-Lobo, 2017).

Real-time machinery monitoring and control uses data to keep track of how machinery is operating across the assembly line and also take note of the production efficiency. Data administrators involved in the process have access to visual insights that are obtained from different sources including database logs, network logs, Web server logs, and usage statistics for connected applications. Instant notifications are issued in the event a problem is detected, allowing for faster mitigation of the problem.

There are so many ways in which real-time machinery monitoring and control improves industrial automation,

To begin with, it maximizes the potential of factory machinery by making sure that there is proper integration and seamless operation. This is achieved via the exploitation of technologies like multi-core CPU, GPU, FPGA, and SIMD. When associated with relevant data places a curb on the amount to time taken to get to the market.

Secondly, real-time machinery monitoring and control reduces costs. The factory may be intimidated by the installation and running cost of technology. Furthermore, if the implementation strategies are poor, there may be unwarranted disasters in the organization. But real-time technology helps overcome such barriers. It is not only efficient and fast but also cost-effective. As the production process is improved, the operational costs reduces thereby yielding higher profit margins.

Also, flexibility and choice are realized thanks to real-time technology. Manufacturers are provided with flexible options and customizable software. The flexibility may be realized through the use of technologies like RTX64, Windows 10 IoT, and 640bit Windows 7+ that create room for the use of open-source tools in the manufacturing process.

Smart Machines and Processes

As Industry 4.0 gets adopted in various sectors of the economy, smart machines become a reality rather than science-fiction. They have found uses in the industrial processes and their applications continue to expand.

The new industrial revolution has forced manufacturers to change their modes of operation and how they prepare for the future. Manufacturers are under the pressure of reducing their production lifecycles so that they can achieve faster product delivery to the market. Such demands necessitate the implementation of flexible production systems and process – the smart machines. In so doing, the firms secure their place in future as they become more competitive and profitable. As Industry 4.0 progresses, plants and machines become more connected and smarter (Almada-Lobo, 2017).

The smartness of these machines has forced a complete change in the business processes and exploitation of new opportunities. Machine Learning, Speech Recognition, and And Artificial Intelligence work together to realize automation of knowledge-worker tasks which were initially regarded as impossible undertakings. Experts predict that smart machines and processes will have taken over the Industrial processes by 2020. Such optimistic estimates are motivated by the fact that technologies such smart advisers, intelligent personal assistants, and most-advanced global industrial systems have already been developed and integrated into smart machines.

The Internet of Things, Big Data, Cloud Computing, and robotics work together to facilitate expansion of smart machines. In fact, these are the technologies upon which smart machines are built to usher in a new era of competition. There are four main characteristics of a smart machine, namely: (1) Connected, (2) secure, (3) managed, and (4) intelligent. The intelligent aspect can be said to be the most important in that it provides a basis for autonomous operation. Connection makes sure that machines can interact with each and the whole system while self-managed entails learning and anticipation of future events (Newgenapps, 2017).

Enhanced Productivity Innovation

Industry 4.0 has the overall effect of enhancing productivity. It brings about tremendous transformations to the manufacturing sector by introducing smart machinery and processes as well as a whole connected system. Industry 4.0 connects the production process to the overall product and the manner in which customers use the product. That’s to say that manufacturers do not stop interacting with customers at any given point. By keeping in touch with how products are being used, it is possible to spot anomalies and develop strategies for mitigating such thus better products are yielded.

This revolutionary industry creates opportunities for real-time collection of data throughout the supply chain. The data is analyzed to provide insights that can be exploited to enhance operations, designs, and products. Instant feedback is a treasure for companies since they can be used to improve manufacturing productivity. When you have a better insight into your product, you are empowered to take it through modification so that it is more attractive to a potential buyer while at the same proving to be more useful to current customers. The ultimate effect of instant feedback is that manufacturers better serve customers so as to stay ahead of competition.

Companies are already taking strategies meant to help them better compete in Industry 4.0. They have built cyber-physical systems (CPS) which consists of IoT sensors, robotics, Big Data and predictive analytics, 3D printing, and AI and cognitive computing. The CPS help streamline manufacturing processes so that high productivity is achieved as collaboration across the supply chain is simplified. The business model has become the central point of reference for digital business transformation. With proper integration of the model into Industry 4.0, manufacturers are able to better define their customers and in return offer top quality services.

Real-Time Supply Chain in a Real-Time Economy

Supply chain organizations in Industry 4.0 have improved their responsiveness to customer demand. This evolution is largely characterized by integration of processes, elimination of inefficiencies, and manufacturing of products based on accurate insights regarding customer demands. Today’s supply chain has been improved to a state where it can sense changes and respond to them in real-time, using information that drives better decision-making. This feature has been achieved through the alignment of planning, execution, decision-making, and collaboration (Comerford, 2016).

Machine to machine communication, interoperability, supply chain management, quality control, and Cloud Computing are the key features which characterize Industry 4.0. Integration of these features has the effect of increasing supply chain visibility. Such kind of integration makes sure that human errors are mitigated when data collection systems, manufacturing processes, and machines connected to relate with each other.

Machine to Cloud interoperability paves the way for automation of inventory management. In order for production planners, customer service representatives, and supervisors to effectively carry out their duties, they need access to accurate data. The data is normally accessed via MRP systems. By making sure that changes to the supply chain reflect in real-time, all the involved stakeholders are able to take the best actions that foster growth in the organization (Comerford, 2016).

The nature of communication in companies that have thousands of employees and numerous production lines is normally complex. Accurate communication timing helps planners to figure out whether they have the components required for meeting production schedules. The fact that these planners have real-time inventory data reduces the risk of production lines stopping due to misinformation.

Industry 4.0 has initiated the construction of systems that factor in machine to IT communication, interoperability, and Cloud Computing. Processes that were once manual and reactive have been automated with real-time accuracy. The real-time supply chain has an immediate detection of demand and supply changes and then compares them to current business conditions like the availability of resources. Such a supply chain is highly responsive, flexible, and has better service delivery.

Sustainability

Sustainable development is a crucial part of economic progress for any given country. Most experts are always determined to ensuring a balance is maintained between the need to continue producing goods for human survival and the obligation of safeguarding the planet from destruction. The emergence of Industry 4.0 and the associated models and technologies has led to many asking questions such as whether it is sustainable. The one thing that appears to have been agreed on is the fact that Industry 4.0 holds a higher potential of being sustainable in comparison to previous industrial revolutions.

Even though advancement in industry 4.0 is bound to be countered by environmental challenges, new technologies keep on emerging to ensure successful and sustainable implementation. The new technologies will undoubtedly make it necessary to use more resources at the beginning, but then they also create room for future reuse of the same. Concerning energy consumption, highly efficient systems lead to a state where energy wastage is mitigated as the intelligent connected system determines when energy is required and when it should automatically switch itself off when not in use. Furthermore, automating failure detection results into better maintenance of machinery long before breakdown happens. Thus, the risk of having to throw away such equipment due complicated repairs gets minimized. The ability to detect faulty equipment long before it becomes faulty and fixing it on time is the essence of sustainable development. Industry 4.0 provides technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and simulation which are able to ascertain such capability.

As technology continues to advance, there is no doubt that Industry 4.0 is the secret towards achieving sustainable development. The nine elements of this industry: Big Data And Analytics, Augmented Reality, Additive Manufacturing, Cloud Technologies, Cybersecurity, Iiot And Robotics work together to ascertain sustainable development.

Improved Agility

Industry 4.0 tremendously boosts manufacturing agility. It has led to the emergence of digital technologies that are bound to impact manufacturing for years to come. To ensure that there is fast-reaction to changes, factories operating within Industry 4.0 paradigm have their customers, suppliers, and end-users connected via the Cloud and other platforms. This kind of ‘digital intimacy’ has the effect of improving agility.

Connected products ensure that goods can easily be traced while at the same time end users are provided with greater transparency. Connectivity optimizes the supply chain via a global vision of inventory as well as point of sale. Furthermore, this kind of connectivity is the most effective way of forging customer interaction via product/phone dialogue.

Deployment of highly flexible product lines is a feature which one cannot afford to ignore. As consumer needs change at such a rapid rate, it is convenient to easily switch from one line of production to another as a way of responding to the trends. Furthermore, customization of products is a direct benefit which emanates from improved agility in Industry 4.0.

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