What Is Industry 4.0? The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Image showing yellow cogs and gears on a bright yellow background. Industry 4.0 guide.
Image showing yellow cogs and gears on a bright yellow background. Industry 4.0 guide.

Our modern society has developed over several industrial revolutions. And according to experts and current trends, we might be close to another one — the fourth industrial revolution.

The first industrial revolution dates back to 1760, when we first started using steam power to maximize production. The second came more than 100 years later and took productivity to new heights with improved transportation, mass production, and standardization.

Both of these examples helped to move modern society forward, allowing us to do more with our resources and change the fabric of our way of life.

Experts peg the third industrial revolution as "manufacturing goes digital." Computers, automation, and the widespread adoption of the internet have given us even more improvements to how we work and live.

Now, experts believe we’re on the cusp of yet another revolution that will once again change work and life as we currently know it. Dubbed Industry 4.0, this revolution builds on the previous one by making computers, automation, and digital technologies more of a core focus in our economy and daily lives.

Here’s how Industry 4.0 is poised to shape manufacturing and technology and why brands should take notice.

Table of Contents:

Definition: What is Industry 4.0?

Industry infographic.

Let’s get some clarity first — what is Industry 4.0? The Industry 4.0 definition encapsulates a number of different innovations and technological advances businesses are using today to improve efficiency and better serve their employees and customers.

Industry 4.0 is characterized by a fusion of technologies that blur the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

You might also hear it called Industrie 4.0, I4.0, or the 4th industrial revolution.

Some of the key technologies that are driving Industry 4.0 are:

  • The Internet of Things (IoT): This refers to the growing network of cyber-physical systems and internet-connected devices that can communicate with each other.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI): This technology is being used to create smart machines that can learn and work independently.
  • Advanced analytics: This involves using big data and sophisticated algorithms to gain insights that can help improve decision-making.
In short, Industry 4.0 brings digital transformation into manufacturing on a large scale. Companies stand to gain real-time insights into their operations and performance, better decision-making, and greater flexibility and agility to stay ahead of competitors.

What Are Industry 4.0 Technologies?

Industry 4.0 is still in its early stages, but it is already having a significant impact on manufacturing. Manufacturers are using a range of new technologies to increase productivity, reduce costs, and improve quality.

These innovations include the following:

3D Printing

3D printer

3D printing makes three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file. Creating a 3D printed object uses additive manufacturing, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes. 3D printing is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing, which involves cutting out or hollowing out an object from a piece of material.

3D printing technology has been around since the 1980s, but it was not until the early 21st century that the technology became widely known and used by people outside the industrial sector. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the use of 3D printers for medical, commercial, and personal use.

There are many benefits to using 3D printing technology. One benefit is that it allows users to create complex objects that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to create using traditional manufacturing methods.

Robotics

Robotics is the study of autonomous robots and their design. Robots can be programmed to carry out certain tasks. They are often used in manufacturing and assembly tasks, but industries like restaurants are also exploring their benefits. Robotics has become increasingly popular in recent years, as technology has advanced and made robots more affordable.

Robots have the ability to improve productivity in a number of ways. For example, they can work faster than humans, they can work for longer hours without getting tired, and they can carry out tasks that are too dangerous for humans to do.

In addition, robots can be equipped with sensors that allow them to detect potential problems and make corrections before an issue arises.

Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality

Virtual reality example.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have become prominent in popular culture. These two technologies allow users to immerse themselves in digital worlds or augment their real-world surroundings with digital content.

VR is a completely immersive experience where users don a headset that blocks out the real world and transports them to a computer-generated environment. On the other hand, AR overlays digital content on the real world, allowing users to interact with it.

Despite their differences, VR and AR are often used interchangeably because they both provide unique and powerful experiences. These technologies are rapidly evolving and are being used in a variety of fields, from gaming and entertainment to education and training.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the process of programming a computer to make decisions for itself, usually through the use of algorithms. Algorithms are a set of rules that can be followed to solve a problem or accomplish a task.

AI’s biggest opportunity is to automate decision-making. For example, if you were developing a budget for your manufacturing business, you could use an AI-powered tool to help you identify cost savings or justify spending more in certain areas.

Overall, AI helps to make human processes easier and faster. It also has the potential to transform many different industries.

Machine Learning

Machine learning is a subfield of artificial intelligence (AI) that deals with the design and development of algorithms. To put it another way, machine learning enables AI to learn and make predictions from data.

Machine learning algorithms can support a variety of tasks, such as image recognition, speech recognition, machine translation, and more.

The main goal of machine learning is to automatically learn from data and improve the performance of predictive models. Machine learning is a powerful tool that can be used to solve many real-world problems.

There are two main types of machine learning:

  1. Supervised machine learning: Supervised learning algorithms are trained on a labeled dataset, which contains the correct answers for each example.
  2. Unsupervised machine learning: Unsupervised learning algorithms are trained on an unlabeled dataset that does not contain the correct answers for each example.

Smart Devices

Adjusting a smart device

Smart devices are becoming increasingly popular as people look for ways to simplify and automate their lives. Some examples of smart devices include smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches. Each of these can make your life easier by helping you stay connected, stay organized, and even do hands-free tasks.

Voice Assistants

Voice assistants are software programs that allow users to interact with a device using natural language voice commands. Voice assistants can perform a variety of tasks, such as playing music, setting alarms, retrieving information from the internet, and much more.

They’re becoming more and more popular as they offer a convenient way to perform tasks or access information hands-free. There are many different voice assistants available on the market, each with its own set of features and capabilities.

One of the most popular voice assistants is Amazon’s Alexa. Alexa is a cloud-based voice service that powers devices like the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot. With Alexa, you can ask questions, get weather updates, control your smart home devices, and more.

Big Data & Analytics

Big data refers to the large amount of data that organizations have to manage. This data can come from a variety of sources, including social media, transactions, and clickstreams. Data analytics is the process of analyzing this data to find patterns and insights.

Organizations use big data and analytics to understand their customers better, make better decisions, and improve their operations. Big data can answer questions such as who is buying your product, what they are saying about it online, and how you can reach them with your marketing messages. Analytics can help you understand what these patterns mean and how you can use them to your advantage.

In the future, Industry 4.0 solutions are expected to lead to even more technological innovation, including the development of new business models and the creation of entirely new industries.

Industry 4.0 Examples

Experts predict the above technologies will lead to more streamlined operations across multiple industries. Here are a few examples of some of these technologies at work:

Automotive

The automotive industry uses 3D printing to create prototypes and parts along with robotics to build vehicles. The result is faster production times, more cost-effective products, and fewer supply chain bottlenecks.

Automotive manufacturers (or any manufacturer making complex products) can also AR/VR to simulate the components of their products. Creating a digital twin of their machines and final products can help to train new staff and improve maintenance before performing these actions in real-time.

Food & Beverage

Robot server

The food and beverage industry is also fueling the growth of Industry 4.0. Food manufacturers are using sensors to track food quality, and robots for packaging and logistics.

This allows for a more efficient production process with less waste.

Healthcare

Hospitals are using data analytics to improve patient care, while pharmaceutical companies are using 3D printing to create customized drugs. Innovation in healthcare can have a ripple effect in populations around the world.

Manufacturing

Sensors placed on machines can continuously monitor and analyze usage to predict maintenance needs. The Big Data collected by the sensors can anticipate breakages before they occur, which can help companies avoid costly downtime and order delays.

Warehouses

Robots in a warehouse

Autonomous robots in warehouses are picking and packing orders. Robots can work around the clock and may work to a higher level of accuracy.

Office Facilities

Smart sensors connected to the internet (an example of IoT) can monitor things like room temperature, HVAC usage, and lighting. Machine learning can help building owners optimize these costly moving parts and automatically reduce usage when needed.

On-site building operators can use smart devices and voice assistants to log observations and notes, then share their findings at scale via cloud computing.

Industry 4.0 Benefits – What Do We Stand to Gain?

App on a phone.

The smart factory is just one example of the innovation that is shaping the fourth industrial revolution. Society at large stands to benefit from the industrial internet of things (IIoT) in a number of ways.

Here are just a few:

Greater product customization

3D printing and other advanced technologies allow manufacturers to create new products that are more closely tailored to the needs and preferences of individual customers.

In the past, manufacturers would have to choose between mass production or small-batch production. But with Industry 4.0, they can have the best of both worlds. By using data collected from sensors and other sources, manufacturers can quickly and easily adjust their production lines to accommodate changes in customer demand.

Reduced waste

With sensors and data analytics, businesses can track every stage of the production process and identify areas where waste occurs. This allows them to make changes to their processes and eliminate wastefulness.

Greener operations

The Internet of Things (IoT-enabled devices), big data analytics, and smart manufacturing can help factories to reduce energy consumption, water usage, and waste generation. Reducing waste and being more efficient with resources can lead to more environmentally friendly practices which reflect positively on corporate social responsibility.

Improved workplace safety

The increased use of sensors and data collection is one of the most important aspects of Industry 4.0. Real-time data can identify potential hazards and take steps to mitigate them before they result in accidents or injuries.

Companies can also create virtual environments where employees can safely practice hazardous tasks before doing them for real. This allows for a greater level of preparation and reduces the likelihood of mistakes in potentially dangerous situations.

Higher productivity

Manufacturers can collect data at every stage of production, from the raw materials all the way to the final product. In doing so, they gain a greater understanding of the manufacturing process and where inefficiencies may be occurring. With this information, companies can make data-driven adjustments to their processes to improve productivity.

Additionally, cutting-edge technologies allow manufacturers to better communicate with their machines. Machines can now send information back to operators about their status and performance, which helps reduce downtime due to issues that may otherwise have gone unnoticed.

What Meltwater Clients Should Know about Industry 4.0

For years, Meltwater has empowered brands to make better use of their data. As the world moves further into Industry 4.0, we’re continuing to shorten the learning curve for brands to expand their reach, make technological improvements, improve sentiment, and make better decisions based on their data.

Schedule a demo and see how Meltwater can help you capitalize on Industry 4.0 digitalization. The future is now!

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