How manufacturers can tackle current pressures and challenges with Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 is a term coined to describe the fourth revolution in the manufacturing industry. It represents the modern digitisation of processes, incorporating cloud computing, smart devices, big data and the Internet of Things.
The first revolution was of course the industrial revolution that began in the 18th century, and the second was the implementation of electricity-powered mass production and assembly lines beginning in the late 19th century. Computerisation and the early days of automation during the latter half of the 20th century represented the third revolution. Now the fourth revolution is building upon the third by enhancing it with smart technology and AI.
While there are some who consider Industry 4.0 to be something of a buzzword, the likes of autonomous systems, advanced data analysis and machine learning are certainly creating enough disruption to make a good case for a new revolution. Smart factories are not yet ubiquitous, but they are here and the technological innovations driving them are changing the game.
A computer no longer just controls a machine but is connected to and communicates with an entire network of devices via the Internet of Things. By accessing and analysing ever larger amounts of data, artificial intelligence and machine learning enable these systems to make decisions without any human involvement. Factories are becoming more efficient and more productive, while generating less waste.
There are challenges, of course, and the pressure mounts for those struggling to find solutions. Let’s look closer at these challenges and how Industry 4.0 can help the manufacturing industry.
Congested Supply Chains
Supply chain issues have been plaguing most industries since the pandemic struck, with certain materials becoming near impossible to acquire. Now Brexit is exacerbating the problem for British manufacturers, who are forced to innovate and adapt to these less than favourable conditions.
One of the ways in which manufacturers are adapting is by focusing on Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). This means maximising the efficiency and productivity of all manufacturing equipment, and the data analysis and advanced automation of Industry 4.0 makes it easier than it has ever been.
Another big challenge facing the manufacturing industry is recruitment. Both Millenials and Generation Z generally exhibit less commitment to a single career path, while technology plays a huge role in their ambitions and day-to-day life.
And it is understandable. Why work in a factory when you can earn a good living by letting people watch you play video games for a few hours a day? The younger generations’ tech-strewn upbringing primes them to be drawn to the tech sector once they realise dancing on TikTok is not as viable a career path as they once thought. They understand tech intuitively and it drives so many crucial aspects of their life, and that is the challenge: demonstrating that technology plays a huge role in modern manufacturing and that there are real opportunities for success and fulfilment.
Rising Energy Prices
Soaring energy costs present another big challenge that Industry 4.0 can help the manufacturing industry with. Once again, maximising the efficiency of operations through OEE is the key, with smart factories now able to massively reduce wastage by minimising unnecessary energy consumption.
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