Industry 4.0 or a New Wave in an Industrial Environment

6 May, 2018 | Blog

MICHEL RUEL, P.Eng.

Expert, Process Control

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This article appeared in the Ressources Mines et Industrie magazine in May 2018.

The concept of Industry 4.0, or industry of the future, is a new way of using innovative technologies to optimize production. It is about using new technologies wisely, either inside or outside the plant. The main technologies are:

  • The Industrial Internet of Things
  • Big Data
  • Cloud computing technologies

The purpose is to have so-called smart factories that are more flexible: production adaptability, more efficient allocation of resources and relevant data use. Before presenting this fourth industrial revolution, let’s take a look at what the other three are.

Production mechanization

The first industrial revolution started around 1765, mainly in the United Kingdom. As a result, instead of using animal and human strength to carry out tasks, steam power was used by focusing on massive coal extraction. The invention of the steam engine led to mechanizing and creating railroad networks. Inventive genius also led to creating mechanized looms, improving metallurgical processes and so on.

Other major inventions, like the loom or new metallurgical know-how, gradually led to the first factories and towns as we know them today.

Electricity and mass production

The second industrial revolution started about a century later with the invention of electricity and oil extraction. The automobile sector was born with the creation of the internal combustion engine, mainly in Europe and a few states in the eastern United States. At the same time, chemicals, the steel industry and the manufacturing industry were developing. Many inventions were shaking up means of communication and transportation: the telegraph, telephone, automobiles and planes. The third industrial revolution was in the 1960s in the 20th century.

Production automation

About another century later, in the second half of the 20th century, the third revolution caused the advent of electronics—with the arrival of the transistor and the microprocessor—but also, telecommunications and information technologies. This third revolution was mainly rooted on information technologies, robots and control systems: programmable logic controllers (PLC) and distributed control systems (DCS).

Digitalization of the production line

Industry 4.0 is the digitalization of factories and the production line. By using new technologies, the smart plant progresses by interconnecting all stages of the production line and procurement. The concept was developed mainly in Germany in 2011.

By using communicating sensors (IoT), the production tool obtained self-diagnostic abilities enabling remote control and better integration into the overall production system.

Today’s industry and especially tomorrow’s connects all means of production and allows for real-time interaction. The 4.0 plant therefore makes communication possible among all stakeholders and objects that are connected within a production line thanks to Cloud technologies, Big Data Analytics, Industrial Internet of Things, etc.

There are already numerous applications for the industrial sector, namely: predictive and corrective maintenance, improved real-time decision-making, real-time optimization, stock anticipation based on production progress, better coordination between trades, etc.

It’s a digital transformation that’s shaking up manufacturing companies by making radical changes to management methods, business models and the workforce.

Some examples of changes in plants are:

  • Autonomous and interconnected vehicles
  • 3D models
  • Drones with cameras for inspections, metering, etc.
  • Equipment with multiple sensors for diagnostics
  • Modelling a physical object in the virtual world and using data to improve performance, testing and training
  • Big data or megadata analyses
  • Virtual, augmented and mixed reality
  • Artificial intelligence, deep learning

Where to start?

This may all seem cumbersome and complex, so we strongly recommend getting comfortable with these new technologies by choosing a sector to prove the benefits of this approach. We must first assess company technologies and determine the steps to take. It’s essential to start now; your competitors already have. Good luck!

This content is for general information purposes only. All rights reserved ©BBA

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