Industry 4.0 – The Future of Mfg. (I)

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Bosch Smart Manufacturing Conclave 2015

Thanks to my company, I had an opportunity to view the future of manufacturing unfold before my eyes at the Bosch Smart Manufacturing Conclave 2015 where they introduced me to a new jargon “Industry 4.0”.

The first & foremost question that comes to mind is, “What exactly is Industry 4.0?”

The word is coined to announce the Fourth Industrial Revolution which tries to connect the Hard Core Manufacturing with the Digital Revolution that has happened over the last two to three decades.

Industry 1.0 – Started in Great Britain – The foundation for 1.0 was laid in the year 1698 with the invention of machines that reduced human efforts. Thomas Savery with his invention of Steam Engine became the driving force behind the rise of mills and factories. Steam power helped in drastically reducing the human effort and at the same time tremendously increasing the production. Major improvements that were made in the areas of:

  • Transition from hand production methods / tools to machines
  • New chemical manufacturing & iron production processes
  • Transition from wood to coal for fuel

Industry 2.0 – A century later, the second industrial revolution took place with advantage of electrical power and moving assembly lines. Henry Ford’s Model T assembly line that used division of labour to the fullest was a major boost to the second industrial revolution. Mass production was the way ahead.

Industry 3.0 – The Third Industrial Revolution, that started around 1970, took advantage of developments in information technology & operations research to transform how we plan, control & automate production. NC & CNC machines; MRP, MRP II & ERP softwares; CAD/CAM/CAE softwares; automated material handling conveyors & robots were the innovations that gave a push to the new industrial age.

Very aptly said, if Industry 1.0 was about mechanizationIndustry 2.0 was about electrification then Industry 3.0 was about digitization.

Industry 4.0 – The Fourth Industrial Revolution takes you further in this journey of Manufacturing excellence. It involves 3 key parts:

  • Internet of Things (IoT) & cyber-physical systems such as sensors & actuators collect live data and combines it with historical data from ERP software, all devices & machines
  • This data is sorted & meaningful insights are drawn from it with help of Big Data & Advanced Analytics
  • Output of this Live Data Analysis is to be used across devices & machines to ensure better decision making & better productivity

In Industry 3.0, ERP systems and machines (like Robots, CNCs, PLCs, etc.) were distributed and separate entities. Industry 4.0 plans to integrate these two different worlds into one.

Just think of a world where machines continuously share information about problems and faults, changes in stock levels and changes in customer orders. Just think of a world wherein machines will identify the areas where maintenance is required, machines will change the cutting parameters and will be self-configured  with aim of improving throughput times, boosting efficiencies, improving quality and utilizing capacity.

The possibilities are unlimited and only those who dream will have an edge…

In the end, I would like to quote Malcolm X – “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today