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What is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is the latest stage in construction process development, often thought of as the new industrial revolution.

What Does Industry 4.0 Mean?

Industry 4.0 is the latest stage in construction process development, often thought of as the new industrial revolution. Generally, the idea refers to the inclusion of smart technology, the Internet of Things, computerisation and robotics to previously manual or non-automated processes in factories. Think of the jump from mobile phones to smart phones, and you won’t be far off.


What Came Before Industry 4.0?

Considered the 4th industrial revolution, the previous industry shakeups were considered to be driven by advances at the time. But what came before this?

The first revolution was based around steam and water power and allowed for a move away from just manual labour and working on farms to the operation of large factories. This is the well known “Industrial Revolution” that is taught in schools.

The second revolution centred around electricity and improving previous mechanical tasks with better, faster machines – also known as Mass Production, commonly associated with Ford’s car factories.

The third revolution, which is almost a blurred line with the fourth, is the use of robotics and machinery which has been programmed to perform certain tasks.

What is a Smart Factory?

Smart factories are the outcome of industry 4.0, offering improved efficiency, cost benefits and better analysis and improvement opportunities through automation. Older factory concepts are not ‘stupid’, but the idea of smart factories is an evolution, not a complete change, of past technology to improve processes. Smart factories include use of big data, a new concept.

By utilising improved automation systems, cloud-based computing controls, and intelligent cyber systems, human presence is not required making difficult, dangerous or slow tasks faster and safer. The idea of factories being ‘smart’ basically focusses on low human requirement.

So, What Does a Smart Factory Need?

There are a few key concepts a factory must encompass to be considered smart. These all center around areas of automation and use of computerisation to replace and improve human ability, and use Big Data to improve and analysse.

  1. Connectivity and communication between all types of machines and humans
  2. Technology to assist in processes, from providing support and problem solving, to completing tasks
  3. Autonomous computerised decision making
  4. Machines able to add context through analysis of the environment, settings or control system.

How Big Data is Used in Industry 4.0

Big Data allows for highly in depth analysis and evolution, helping to improve efficiency, processes, quality and general output.

The main elements of Big Data included in smart factories and Industry 4.0 focus on the connectivity of all elements, from machines to humans, and the use of cloud computing and information sharing to provide complicated algorithyms and analysis tools to improve.

Big Data Analysis is linked to 6 C’s which help to make sense of the data:

  • Connectivity (machines, sensors, humans)
  • Collaboration (information sharing)
  • Cloud Computing (on demand)
  • Content and Context
  • Customisation
  • ‘Cyber’ (memory)

Overcoming Challenges in Industry 4.0

As with any change, there are challenges that will need to be analysed and solved – teething problems, if you will. Some of the biggest potential issues include:

  • Loss of human jobs to lower cost machinery
  • Skills gap for operation of automation machinery
  • Cyber security and data protection issues – especially around guarded information and processes
  • Quality control and integrity without human input
  • Technical problems and machinery failure causing greater impact on factory
  • Reluctance to change – from management to staff
  • Lag in regulations to catch up with new processes and standards

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