We have all heard mention of Industry 4.0; its concepts being the building blocks of an important change in the industrial world. But what is it exactly? Our initial reflex is usually to associate the notion of 4.0 to technology, but that is just the tip of the organizational iceberg.
Industry 4.0 is known as the 4th industrial revolution. Developed in Germany in 2011, industry 4.0 is both evolutionary and revolutionary. It is evolutionary from a technological standpoint and revolutionary due to its radical impact on the way we understand and organize the chain of production and its impact on the economy.
Today, current technology is inundated with data and the effort needed to analyze this data is colossal. Data generated by sensors and process control systems combined with the use of robotic equipment has paved the way for a considerable increase in productivity and a need for increased resources to process that data. The value of this data increases dramatically when it is combined and analyzed from different angles. Therefore, the main challenge resides in an organization’s capacity to analyze this enormous volume of data that is so remarkable that it has been given its own name: Big Data.
The solution to this challenge is known as Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI can process a great quantity of data or complex data, which is quite significant as it has enabled considerable advancements in such things as image processing for example. It has also enabled real-time processing of production data enabling changes to the chain of production and, in certain cases, the instantaneous implementation of these changes, in as long as the manufacturing process is set up to adapt easily to such changes.
Industry 4.0 also comes with an organizational revolution that completely shakes up known business models yet also provides lots of flexibility, better performance and an increase in efficiency. These changes occur using innovative equipment that can adapt to a change in production command in real time, or a variation in component characteristics that are part of a finished product’s manufacturing process.
Harley Davidson is an excellent example. They managed to increase their productivity by 25% while decreasing their labor costs by 30%. This is a real example that demonstrates the advantages of implementing concepts inherent to industry 4.0.
In a context of constant change to work methods and technology, it becomes difficult to identify the human competencies needed within an organization. That is why the new competencies favored by the market are inherently related to the fields of problem-solving, self-learning and creativity. The greatest schools worldwide are preparing the workforce of tomorrow by adapting their programs in order to train people with a great capacity for adaptation and resilience to change.
The two key points to remember about industry 4.0 are that it is a necessary transformation and the only way to ensure our future is to simply accept it. For instance, it recently played an important role in reviving the manufacturing industry in Canada by decreasing production costs and increasing efficiency. Not only does it apply to the assembly line, but it also applies to most functions found in an organization. It is important to note that industry 4.0 also affects a field that is inextricably linked to the manufacturing process: Maintenance 4.0, a topic that will be covered in an upcoming article.