In this article we look at perhaps the most popular industrial term recently: Industry 4.0. Firstly, we discuss: "What is industry 4.0?". Then an overview is given of the opportunities and threats that this development brings with it.

What is industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is also called "Smart Industry". The fourth step in the industrial revolution. This step is characterized by the blurring of boundaries between physical devices, digital environments and ultimately biological components. The emphasis is put on obtaining data from the production process and make automated decisions based on this one. 

But to properly understand chapter 4 of the industrial revolution, let's first briefly refer to the previous chapters. It started with James Watt's steam engine, Chapter 1. Chapter 2 of the Industrial Revolution (Industry 2.0) was the implementation of mass production using conveyor belts and assembly work. In chapter 3 the step is taken to automate processes using robots, sensors and actuators.

Industry 4.0 is the further automation and technological development of the steps taken in the third revolution. For sensors in a production environment, this means that the data to and from the sensor must be transparent. But also that sensors are needed in more places— they are the eyes and ears in the process. More and more new IOT sensors are being developed for this. These sensors support wireless connections to complete systems. An example is the battery-powered sensor from Staal Instruments, with remote monitoring possibilities.

The WLR05-2G/001 radar level sensor from Staal Instruments

The opportunities of industry 4.0

These new developments provide a myriad of opportunities. Industry 4.0 brings a number of growth opportunities for companies and industries that want to be pioneers in it. Here are a few examples:

Higher productivity

By leaving the planning to AI and converting the eyes and ears of the machines to sensors, higher productivity is achieved. People will cooperate with the machine and check and adjust it where necessary.

Higher (resource) efficiency

The planning of using resources and making these ready, such as raw materials, personnel and time can be done by an algorithm that learns what the best decisions are. This provides an optimal efficiency based on data from the machines. This way, it prevents waste of resources and makes processes, production and the totality of the company more sustainable.

Higher yield

By using a smarter system that can use resources more efficiently and in turn produce more it automatically results in a higher yield for companies. On one hand less costs are made while on the other hand more profits are possible.

In this matter, we make use of two important concepts: predictive maintenance en preventive maintenance. The first one includes the identification of vulnerabilities which could lead to problems in a later stadium. Preventive maintenance implies that regular checks are carried out for necessary maintenance to optimise the life-span of machines and components 

By managing these two forms of maintenance through the use of a smart algorithm with AI, the maintenance process is also automated. Technology such as IO-Link makes it possible to categorize each sensor and actuators under one network. Hereby, it functions as one whole, the same as a human body. Therefore IO-Link can be carried out in that way with AI as the brain.

Remote monitoring

With the rise of wireless components and networks, it is no longer a fantasy to monitor and adjust business processes from another building or even another city.

Meer mogelijkheden voor procesmanagement op afstand industrie 4.0

Threaths of industry 4.0

Beside opportunities, this development also has some issues. Below are given some of the most important issues for the industry.

Limited regulation

Not all existing standards are fully updated, causing that it becomes hard to have a certified industry 4.0 network with support of existing standards. It is also often the case that the legislation and regulation of some countries are lagging behind. The developments still need to proceed for a period of time before industry 4.0 will become the new world standard.

Gaps between companies

The differences between companies will become bigger when some have installed the industry 4.0 systems and others have not. On the one hand, this creates competitive opportunities, but on the other hand it becomes harder to establish a market standard or to align every company in the market.

Privacy en security

It is not possible to talk about IoT or in this case IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) and remain silent about privacy and security. A better connectivity and the possibility to monitor or manage a production facility without physical presence has its risks. Companies have to consider these things and take precautions where necessary.

The radar sensors from Staal Instruments work for example with a secured cloud environment in which all measuring data is stored and can be monitored by the user.

Industry 5.0 arround the corner?

There are signals for a fifth revolution, that are issued by the technological developments concerning the personalization of machines. This involves a cooperation between human and machine on an intellectual level. There are already NFC chips, which humans can implant under the skin. Furthermore, there are developments concerning the implantation of electronics, to be able to establish a connection to the brain tissue of people, causing that the augmented digitalization and experience for people is a step closer.

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