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What is Industry 4.0?

You may be hearing a lot of buzz around Industry 4.0 and wondering what all the noise is about. The concept arose from a project commissioned by the German government in 2011 through 2013. The term, which is sometimes written as Industry 4.0, refers to the fourth wave of the Industrial Revolution. Technologies leading to digital transformation include industrial automation and robotics, big data analytics, additive manufacturing, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, MES solutions, nanotechnology, machine learning and digital twins.

The Four Waves of The Industrial Revolution

  • The first wave of industrial transformation was driven by the widespread adoption of the steam engine, which was used to power machinery and equipment in factories.
  • The second wave was driven by the common availability of electricity, which helped to propel the move to mass production in factories.
  • The third wave was driven by the adoption of computerized systems such as MRP/ERP for inventory planning and costing.
  • The fourth wave, Industry 4.0, continues the digital transformation initiated in the third wave, but its technologies represent a near complete recasting of manufacturing models with a factory floor focus.

The Impact of Industry 4.0 on IoT

Connected devices that communicate about their status or service and maintenance requirements are everywhere. The Internet of Things (IoT) now consists of many billions of connected devices and every estimate of the future number of devices is quickly outpaced by the reality. Have a look at our white paper on Understanding the Internet of things for Manufacturing.

Cloud Computing

The cloud has enabled companies to adopt technology faster than they would have if they had to acquire and install new hardware and technology in house. Not only are business systems such as ERP available in the cloud, but Industry 4.0 infrastructure technologies such as IoT as a service and 3D printer farms for production are readily available. Learn more about factory floor solutions in the cloud.

Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing, the technical name for 3D printing, has reached the point where it is often competitive with traditional manufacturing for production quantities. New materials, including metals, biological materials and food have allowed the variety of products that can be 3D printed to burgeon and printers have increased in size to the point where they can effectively print modular housing.

Industrial Automation and Robotics

Manufacturing equipment and machinery now report production automatically to connected MES solutions, replenish materials as required and notify production supervisors or maintenance teams when the process approaches predefined quality parameter thresholds. Robots create parts with an unprecedented degree of consistency and they can perform operations safely in hazardous environments or conditions that are impossible for human workers.

As a result, scrap and rework…

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