What Is Industry 4.0 & Smart Factories
Industry 4.0 is a phrase that you will increasing hear in business manufacturing, but what exactly is it?
According to Wikipedia it is the following:-
“Industry 4.0 is the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things and cloud computing. Industry 4.0 creates what has been called a “smart factory”. (Source: Wikipedia.com)
Industry 4.0 is often described as the Forth Industrial Revolution, so it would be useful to explain what Industry 1,2 & 3 were.
Industry 1.0 refers to the first industrial revolution that started around 1780.
The first industrial revolution was powered by water and steam, and was very mechanical in nature.
In 1870 the first electrically powered assembly line was introduced, and as the distribution of electricity become widespread, it opened up further opportunities for manufacturing.
This was the start of the era of mass production.
From the late 1960s onwards , computerisation started to be introduced into industrial processes.
This started with the Modicon 084 , which was the first PLC, which is short for Programmable Logic Controller.
A PLC is basically an industrial computer, used to control production processes.
By using PLC control, factories were able to improve efficiency, and save time and money.
An example of how a PLC did (and still does) save money is that the program software can be easily changed and modified, to adapt to manufacturing requirements.
Prior to PLC control, you would need to redesign, and rewire large parts of your factory plant, to carry out the new process. This was both time consuming , and expensive to do.
The latest revolution in manufacturing involves minimal intervention & involvement by human beings.
Instead what is often described as ‘machine learning’ takes place, where algorithms make decisions based on live input data.