4 Design Principles for Industry 4.0 Technology

By: Shannon Bennett

Friday, November 18th 2016

Industry 4.0

What is Industry 4.0 ? Revolutions typically bring to mind powerful social movements where an existing form of government is overthrown, in favor of something more desirable. Think about the American Revolution for a moment, and you’ll soon understand how this is closely related to Manufacturing and Industry 4.0. During the last half of the 18th century, a cluster of newly formed colonies desired a change. They had a vision for a new country free from British rule, triggering a painful and deadly confrontation. Born from this conflict was a new country… The United States. Revolutions mean change and change brings risk, difficulty, and sacrifice but it is needed to prepare for a new future. We are in the midst of another revolution. One in which the most important economic force in the world, Manufacturing, will experience massive change that stands to impact not just the methods and technology used to make things, but the people involved as well.

If you are interested to learn more about the Industry 4.0 read Industry 4.0 is the future

Just for a little history and perspective, let’s start with the (1st) Industrial Revolution. Beginning in the second half of the 18th century, manufacturing processes experienced an incredible modernization. Prior to this time, manufacturing was essentially human powered, meaning completely manual. However, beginning in Great Britain in (or about) 1760 the use of machine and chemical manufacturing processes began to revolutionize how things were made. This mechanization impacted lives in the 1700’s and 1800’s dramatically by improving the standard of living for much of the modern world.Next came the Second Industrial Revolution which saw the build out of a large rail network, massive steel, and iron production, and most importantly, the beginning of electrification. Many of today’s most relied upon technologies saw their birth during this period of time which began during the last part of the 19th century through the early 20th century, including the internal combustion engine, assembly line and mass production techniques.

Today, we’re again at a transitional point in the industry. Firmly planted within the third industrial revolution, where automation, PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers), robotics and other computer controlled systems have removed humans all-together from many manufacturing processes, but on the cusp of yet another revolution - Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 is really the birth of the smart factory where machine automation becomes highly integrated with data, and involves 3 key technologies:

Citation - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industry_4.0

Cyber-Physical Systems

A mechanism controlled or monitored by computer based algorithms, tightly integrated with the internet and it’s users. In a CPS environment, physical and software components are deeply intertwined.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The internetworking of physical devices like vehicles, appliances, and buildings using embedded electronics, sensors and software to enable data collection and sharing across physical devices.

Cloud Computing

Internet-based computing that provides shared computer processing resources and data on demand.

Although this leap is too much too soon for many manufacturers, there are 4 key benefits that should convince leaders to begin the transition.

Read also our blog article on Why SaaS may be right for you

Citation - Hermann, Pentek, Otto, 2016:Design Principles for Industrie 4.0 Scenarios, accessed on 4 May 2016

  • Interoperability - The ability of machines, devices, sensors, and people to connect and communicate with each other via the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Information Transparency - The ability of information systems to create a virtual copy of the physical world by enriching digital plant models with sensor data. This requires the aggregation of raw sensor data to higher-value context information.
  • Technical Assistance - First, the ability of assistance systems to support humans by aggregating and visualizing information comprehensibly for making informed decisions and solving urgent problems on short notice. Second, the ability of cyber-physical systems to physically support humans by conducting a range of tasks that are unpleasant, too exhausting, or unsafe for their human co-workers.
  • Decentralized Decisions - The ability of cyber-physical systems to make decisions on their own and to perform their tasks as autonomous as possible. Only in case of exceptions, interferences, or conflicting goals, tasks are delegated to a higher level.

Revolutions can be some of the most disruptive change mechanisms, but without them, where would we be? As with all other revolutions, Industry 4.0 will disrupt manufacturing, and likely much much more but if we use history as our guide, we should all be better off for it.